Fairmont State University receives grant for Campus Sustainability Projects

Fairmont State University’s Creative Sustainability Council (CSC), a campus organization focused on sustainability initiatives for the University and community, has been awarded a grant of $27,120 from the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation (ASF) to implement two sustainability initiatives on campus this summer. These initiatives have been designed in partnership with Aladdin Food Service and the Fairmont State Foundation.

The CSC, a group of students, faculty, and staff whose goal is to enrich and extend sustainability practices on campus, is guided by Dr. Erica Harvey, Abelina Suarez Professor of Chemistry at Fairmont State University. Harvey is using her Suarez professorship to support student-centered sustainability initiatives that are fun and community-building, in addition to being practical and impactful.

The first initiative, a glass recycling program, will introduce a glass crusher to campus. This equipment converts glass waste like pasta sauce jars and soda bottles into sand that can be used for a variety of applications. Glass waste generated on campus by employees and students will be converted to sand for use in campus landscaping projects, offsetting the expense of buying sand each year. Community members will be able to use the crusher to recycle their own glass waste into sand, which they can take home and use for personal projects.

“Facilities trade workers will spruce up the new glass crusher location on the first floor of the parking garage. This location should lend itself to a drop/pick-up and go operation,” Stephanie DeGroot, construction project manager, said. “The identified compost location was agreed to by all parties involved and will be located at the top of the stairs leading from Prichard Hall to Pence Hall. It was a great central location with easy access for all contributing groups.”

The second initiative will introduce a composting program on campus. With over 3,800 students, Fairmont State University’s dining hall generates around 100 pounds of total food waste per day. To reduce the amount of waste being hauled to landfills in half, two commercially available, in-vessel systems will be installed behind the Falcon Student Center. The combination of food waste and carbon source materials (yard and grounds waste) in the vessels are anticipated to generate 18 tons of compost and greenhouse gas reductions of approximately 7.5 metric tons per year. The University’s facilities department, the CSC and Aladdin Food Service will collaborate to design, test and refine the composting system. The final product will supplement the landscaping needs on campus and provide a template for future composting initiatives on campus.  

“This is sustainability for our customers and clients. It helps us educate them about waste. It’s all about waste control, we’ll set up a weigh station when we first set up the compost and show them actually how much they are wasting in a day,” Jeff Swaim, Aladdin Food Services Director, said. “We want to be a part of sustainability and that’s why we want to do this, also to decrease the waste and chemical input in our landfills.”

Both projects are underway, with construction and installation scheduled for this summer. As students return to campus in the fall, these programs will be operational, with opportunities for student engagement for data collection and analysis.

After implementation and analysis in the coming year, the CSC will host an environmental science and sustainability workshop for public school teachers and community leaders in the summer of 2021. The CSC will share the details of environmental and fiscal impact these programs have and encourage the investigation and adoption of these practices. 

Harvey and the CSC believe the proposed collection of creative sustainability initiatives will provide an opportunity to have approachable, ongoing campus and community conversations about collective energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. They look forward to identifying both economic and environmental benefits of these changes and sharing what is learned.

“Our CSC members are honored and excited to receive this support from ASF,” said Harvey.  “Three student members will undertake composting research this fall. Students will be calculating greenhouse gas emission reductions from the project, and we are all looking forward to crushing our glass!  The ASF grant projects will elevate the sustainability work at Fairmont State, nicely complementing our existing solar panel array and newly donated electric vehicle chargers from an anonymous donor.  Thanks to ASF, we have also initiated collaborations with the sustainability department at Marshall University, and hope to build a statewide sustainability network.”

The Appalachian Stewardship Foundation was created as a result of a settlement with Longview Power that set up a mitigation fund to correct the damage to the environment caused by the mining and burning of coal. To date, ASF has awarded more than 1.3 million dollars in funds to promote their mission.

This grant was made through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the Fairmont State University.