Sustainable State

Michael Thompson by Carolyn Richardson

Michael Thompson by Carolyn Richardson

GSU recognized for getting greener

Georgia State recently became a Silver Level member of the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia within Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources for its commitment to sustainability and environmental protection.

GSU is one of only two institutions in the University System of Georgia – the other being Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus – to achieve such a high ranking, said Michael Thompson, environmental programs manager in the Office of University Research Services and Administration.

“We have so much interest on campus from students, faculty and staff to go greener,” Thompson said.

The Silver Level is awarded to state entities that have put sustainability policies in place and are keeping track of environmental statistics such as trash generation, recycling, and energy and water usage.

“Within the next three years, we plan to move to Gold status and provide more community outreach and training,” Thompson said.

One of the goals is a 5 percent reduction in water and energy usage per year over the next five years, he said.

GSU’s sustainability program dates back to 2006, when it established baseline measurements for its environmental impact and then pushed forward with efforts to reduce waste, save water and energy, and increase recycling. GSU’s Environmental Programs Advisory Committee (EPAC) oversees the implementation of these policies.

GSU faces particular challenges as an urban campus with older buildings that were built before certain standards were established, Thompson said. But the university has forged ahead with its environmental efforts in the construction of newer facilities such as the Student Recreation Center and the most recent addition to campus, the Parker H. Petit Science Center.

Last year, GSU recycled nearly three miles of fluorescent bulbs and over five tons of ballasts, Thompson said. His immediate goals are to evaluate water pipes across campus for leaks and to explore the possibility of establishing charging stations for electric cars.

Recycling containers are now ubiquitous across campus, and low-flow toilets and sinks are being installed to replace less efficient models. Rainwater is being captured by water collection tanks, and the Petit Science Center collects and reuses water that has been used for cooling purposes.

“We have a good vision for the future,” Thompson said. “The administration sees the need for good sustainability programs, and we want to improve what we have.”