SPEARFISH — Black Hills State University’s colors have always been green and gold, but the school is doing its best to increase the green.
With the construction of the student union in 2009, the university became the first entity in South Dakota with a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified building. The school hasn’t stopped there.
In October 2013 BHSU hired Katie Greer as sustainability coordinator, a new position for the school. Since then she’s been very busy and is currently tracking the university’s green initiatives through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, or STARS.
“It’s not just what you do on campus, but also student and public engagement, openness of information, academics and research, everything,” Greer said.
One of Greer’s top priorities is increasing campus recycling efforts.
BHSU currently recycles cardboard, plastics, glass, aluminum, motor oil, batteries, and paper. Greer said she hopes to add newspapers and magazines to the list, but the university is currently limited on storage space for the recycled materials.
Greer said the university recycled 35 tons of materials in fiscal year 2012. The addition of a cardboard baler has increased the university’s recycling abilities. Greer said that she doesn’t have current totals yet, but it has grown.
The university utilizes student workers to gather recyclable materials at sporting events. During the recent State A girls’ basketball tournament at the Donald E. Young Center about 190 pounds of cardboard and plastic was gathered.
But it’s not just recyclable material being saved from the landfill.
In fiscal year 2012, 20,000 pounds of food scraps were chopped up, dehydrated, and taken to the Rapid City landfill’s compost area, where people can purchase compost for their gardens.
Greer would like to purchase the proper equipment to compost those food scraps on campus, but that’s in the future.
“It’s more than recycling,” Greer said. “Due to our location, recycling isn’t an easy thing to do. The fact that we do so much really says a lot to our dedication.”
BHSU also has two gardens on campus that grow produce for the student union. A small garden is located behind the student union and a larger garden is near the campus apartments.
In 2012 the university grew 1,300 pounds of produce. This season gardeners will give the large plot a bit of a rest and will grow much of the produce in container plots near the student union. Greer said the school is currently seeking a grant for an on-campus greenhouse.
Additionally, a 1.8-kilowatt windmill helps power the student union and one of the digital campus signs runs on solar energy — small steps like these amount to big change if they continue to expand over time, helping the school meet the goal its President, Kay Schallenkamp, set in 2008: carbon neutrality by 2050.
“All of us at Black Hills State University know that we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful and unique environment. It’s important for the university to take a leadership role in providing knowledge and encouragement for our students and our community to ensure future generations have the opportunity to have similar experiences,” Schallenkamp said. “It is gratifying to see the faculty, staff, and students embrace the sustainable initiatives to make BHSU a green campus.”
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