About USEK

Sustainability Initiatives

The Committee views the following recommendations as the University’s commitment to act with greater deliberation toward sustainability and with greater transparency. An objective of this document is to provide an aspirational statement of broad goals, serving as a compass for future direction. However, this document is neither final nor complete, and it will continue to evolve along with the University’s lived commitment to sustainability. The Committee will also identify new opportunities for expansion and improvement, such as constructing Net Zero buildings, creating an academic major in Sustainability Studies, transitioning to fully renewable energy sources, and procuring only sustainable products.

The Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy recommendations focus on the University’s continued actions and aspirations in six areas:

Energy and Emissions
Energy consumption is an integral part of civilization—heating our buildings, lighting our way, fueling our travel, and fostering communication and convenience. But our appetite for energy has had a major impact on the Earth’s climate and resilience. While the University historically has relied heavily on nonrenewable fuels, we now understand better how their use negatively impacts the environment. The harvesting of these fuels and the emissions they produce contribute to climate change. Climate change increases the prevalence of rising sea levels and intensifies storms and drought, all of which add to human suffering. As a Catholic university, we strive to be responsible stewards of the Earth and its resources. We strive to respect all the people with whom we share the planet and to leave a legacy for generations far into the future.

In our endeavor to act as good stewards, the University intends to reduce its energy consumption through conservation and efficiency and by switching from diesel private energy generators into cleaner and renewable sources of energy, such as Photovoltaic Solar Electric Arrays and solar water heating system.

Although it is not economically or operationally feasible to immediately discontinue all fuel use, we can strive to lessen the negative impact of our energy use by reducing our energy demand, increasing our energy efficiency, and increasing the percentage of our energy fueled by renewable and sustainable energy sources. To this end, we have developed a number of energy and emission strategies.

USEK will gradually reduce its fuel consumption by relying more on the photovoltaic system.

Increase energy conservation and efficiency
Each building on campus consumes steam, chilled water, potable water, and electricity. However, few buildings are currently metered, so specific information on resource use and efficiency is unavailable. In order to further identify opportunities to reduce demand and increase efficiency, the University will explore the feasibility of implementing extensive metering across campus.

Decrease harmful emissions
Atmospheric emissions are unavoidable end products of modern life. Although we cannot expect to eliminate them all, we can work to reduce those most harmful to people and the planet. Carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions come from varied sources, large and small, such as power plants, dry cleaners, landfills, automobiles, trucks, airplanes, and lawn equipment. Much of the University’s current effort is directed toward reducing emissions originating from the power plant and energy production. In addition to this larger effort, the University can act to reduce emissions from smaller and mobile sources across campus and so the University is applying a Car-Free campus and using hybrid electric cars to commute its members, inside the campus.

Water is one of our most important natural resources and assets. The right to clean water is the basic of human rights. His Holiness Pope Francis, in Laudato Si’, echoes this view and also expresses concern about a number of other water issues, including drought, disparate access, “water poverty,” contamination, and commodification. His Holiness warns that problems with water are partly educational and cultural issues, noting that “water continues to be wasted” even where it is abundant. In his call to take care of our common home, Pope Francis emphasizes that caring for our water globally is an important step.

Water plays a vital role in University operations. We use it for heating and cooling, for food, drink, and hygiene, and for keeping our campus beautiful. Fortunately, the University’s geography and climate provide easy access to clean and abundant water.

Track water use by function and location
To become better stewards, the University must have a better understanding of how it uses water. The amount of water drawn on campus and the amount of wastewater sent for treatment are measured, but metering of specific facilities or uses is currently not available. To determine opportunities for better water conservation, the University should quantify and partition specific areas of use. New construction projects generally include building-specific water metering, but some retrofitting of older buildings to measure use is also necessary. As the campus continues to grow, with both new construction and renovations, the ability to measure use will become more refined and widespread. It will be feasible by installing flow meters in key representative buildings and facilities across campus, to track individual building use where practical, to track and measure all water usage, to track and measure all water used in green spaces and landscaping in greater detail, so as to partition distribution.
Building and Construction
University buildings and structures are long-lasting commitments to our educational mission. We design our buildings to serve many needs over many decades. They provide space for learning, living, and social interaction, but they also create spaces that reflect the University’s values and Catholic mission. The design and construction of University buildings, with their long-lasting energy and resource demands, can greatly impact sustainability. As good stewards of the Earth’s resources, the University has taken a number of actions to make its new and existing buildings functional, efficient, esthetically pleasing, and sustainable. Current University standards ensure that major renovations include increased building and energy efficiency, increased water conservation, and more sustainable design. However, additional steps can ensure the continued sustainability of all of our buildings and construction.

Ensure efficient space utilization before constructing new buildings
Our foremost consideration in this aspect of sustainable development is fully utilizing our existing space. Before tearing down structures, digging up land, and committing extensive natural and economic resources to creating brand-new facilities, we should fully consider whether our current facilities meet our demands.
Waste creates a number of problems for people and the environment, including contributing to ground and water pollution, increased space demands for landfills, potential leaching of toxins, and increased greenhouse gases.

The University’s current goals are to divert 50% of all waste by the end of 2017 and 95% by 2022; we should continue to work toward these goals. Although the University has been actively combating waste on a number of fronts, there is much opportunity for improvement, including moving toward setting an informed goal.

Improve campus-wide single-stream recycling
Single-stream recycling is a system in which all recyclables, including cardboard, plastic, aluminum, junk mail, etc., are placed in a single bin or cart for recycling. These recyclables are collected by a single truck and taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to be sorted into various commodity streams for sale to markets, where it is processed into feedstock which can be used in the manufacture of new products.

The simpler it is to recycle, the more likely a person is to participate. The University attempts to make recycling as simple as possible for its community by, among other things, providing single-stream recycling for most of its waste products. Single-stream recycling relieves users from having to separate their recyclable waste into categories. Rather, all recyclables can be commingled in the same containers (Blue bag for all recyclable materials and Black bag for all organic materials). Even with the more simplified system, the on-campus single-stream recycling rate is less than the national average. Adding to the problem is our lack of knowledge of more specific recycling practices.
  • Increased single-stream recycling rate to approach the overall University objectives.
  • Mapped and tracked current recycling signs and containers in campus buildings and facilities.
  • Standardizing signage and containers for ease of use.
  • Conducted routine and standardized waste and recycling audits in more specific areas.
  • Increased recycling and diversion at all events by creating a data baseline, working on packaging and service ware options, and improving messaging.
  • Tracked and reported single-stream diversion rates by more specific type and user group.
  • Increased accountability and responsibility of all campus divisions for measurable increased recycling, decreased waste production, and decreased waste sourcing.

Waste is not a one-source or one-person problem. Nor is it merely an “end-of-product-life-time” problem. Our choice in products we bring onto campus has an impact on our volume of waste, and we all play a role in choosing what to use and how to dispose of it. To ensure the success of the University’s waste sustainability goals, all divisions should have responsibility for meeting the University’s goals and reducing waste in individual operations. And that means thinking beyond the amount of waste transported away; we must look to actions earlier in the process if we want to more aggressively reduce the University’s overall waste.
Procurement, Licensing, and Food Sourcing
There is an important connection between purchasing and sourcing decisions and enhancing sustainability. Each sourcing decision we make presents an opportunity to choose environmentally and socially preferable products and services and to support companies with strong commitments to sustainability. Pope Francis instructs that “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach.” The University should ensure that its vendors align with University goals and values, including its commitment to sustainability. By thoughtfully using its purchasing power, the University has the ability to impact not only the growth of sustainability on campus but the greater growth of a sustainable economy. To make the most of this power, the University should incorporate more robust sustainability considerations in its purchasing and sourcing decisions.
Education, Research, and Community Outreach
Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. . . . A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.

As His Holiness Pope Francis instructs, to change, we must educate—and education and research are the lifeblood of a university. Scholarly activity impacts more than the University’s current carbon footprint—it impacts global actions and outcomes for generations to come. Research that is conducted by a university reflects university values and priorities, and that is equally true when striving to be good stewards of the environment. By highlighting the sustainability-related education and research conducted at USEK, the University confirms its commitment to sustainability and its commitment to Catholic values. By enhancing the number of courses and research projects that expand the knowledge, understanding, and advancement of sustainability and by increasing community engagement in sustainability, the University continues to act in conjunction with its Catholic mission, an integral component of all our education and research initiatives.

The key to success in increasing sustainability is individual action. The University can set goals and devise initiatives, but without individual involvement, there is little hope for success. The University must inspire its students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to work toward these goals and plans through greater engagement and outreach.
Holy Spirit University of Kaslik
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