Katherine Bemis’s recycling bin is always overflowing, and she rarely fills a full trash bag. She bikes to class, is an active member of UNH’s Organic Gardening Club and has a compost pile outside her house that she uses in her garden. Bemis ’17 is just one of hundreds of UNH students, faculty and staff who have committed to be more sustainable during Campus Sustainability Month, an international event held on college campuses every October.
UNH Sustainability Efforts: A Sampling
UNH is a national leader in sustainability, ranking in the top five percent for overall campus sustainability and holding a gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Here are just some of the university's major sustainability achievements.
- EcoLine, an innovative landfill gas-to-energy project that uses methane gas from a nearby landfill to fuel the UNH cogeneration plant, supplies up to 85 percent of campus energy.
- UNH's newest source of electricity is hydropower from three small New Hampshire dams.
- UNH Dining composts more than 200 tons of food waste ever year.
- Wildcat Transit runs mainly on alternative fuel.
- The Campus Carbon Calculator, created by UNH, is used globally by campuses that want to track their carbon footprints.
- In 2016, the Princeton Review named UNH to its Green College Honor Roll," and the Sierra Club ranked the university as the 36th greenest college in the nation.
- Since 2007, UNH has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent. The average campus reduction is five percent.
At University Day last month, the UNH Sustainability Institute asked community members what green lifestyle changes they planned to make to mark the event. Recycling more, walking or biking to class, reducing food waste and eating locally were among the commitments made.
Bemis, a civil engineering major, vowed to convince Albert’s Coffee Shop in Kingsbury Hall to start recycling. She has worked there for three years and is a student supervisor.
“We break down large, empty boxes of coffee and tea every day and probably use seven or eight gallons of milk. It pained me to throw them out. It takes the tiniest extra effort to recycle these items,” Bemis says.
She spoke with her managers about her passion to help Albert’s go green, and they agreed.
“We now have a recycling bin next to the trash,” Bemis says. “It’s been a huge success. I’m so happy about it.”
Not only is Bemis helping UNH become more sustainable, but she prides herself on her consistent daily efforts to be green.
“My car sits in the driveway unless I’m visiting my parents,” Bemis says. “Otherwise, I bike or walk everywhere. I also make almost all of my own food from my garden.”
Mary-Kate Visnic ’17, a nursing major, is also committed to becoming more sustainable. She has vowed not to use plastic water bottles.
“It’s an easy way to make a difference and cut down on unnecessary waste,” Visnic says. “I always keep my reusable water bottle on me now. I’ve also saved money.”
Visnic and her roommates have made several other lifestyle changes.
“We saw Campus Sustainability Month as a great opportunity to go green,” Visnic says. “We turn off the lights more often, use minimal water when washing the dishes, bring our own bags to the grocery store and use nontoxic cleaners.”
Megan Gordon ’18, a wildlife and conservation biology major, committed to reduce her consumption of packaged items.
“I'm more conscious of all the brands I buy and their social, environmental and economical impact,” Gordon says. “I now buy fresh produce that has no packaging, and I say no to plastic bags at any store.”
This commitment is attainable, Gordon says, “especially for people just starting out on their journey to sustainability.”
What's your commitment? Tell us here.