East Tennessee State University is one of the largest recyclers in Johnson City, but also one of the biggest consumers of resources, said Kathleen Moore, the school’s grounds and maintenance director.
“We’re a small city when you think about it,” Moore said. “We have 15,000 students, 4,000-plus staff and faculty.”
One way to help balance that reality out a little is the student campus sustainability fee or “green fee.” Collected for several years now, the fee generates between $135,000 and $140,000 annually for the implementation of green initiatives on campus aimed at reducing the school’s environmental impact.
The most recent “green fee” project is the installation of six “hydration stations” across campus. These stations are located above water fountains inside campus buildings and allow users to conveniently fill up water bottles without spilling liquid all over the place.
More said the new stations are good for a couple reasons.
“One of them is to promote the use of water, just regular tap water, because we know that it’s just as healthy as bottled water,” Moore said. “And it is also to promote the use of reusable bottles so students and faculty and staff aren’t purchasing plastic bottles.”
Moore said most of the nation’s waste stream is made up of plastic bottles. Only about 30 percent of those bottles are recovered for recycling, Moore said.
“We do better actually than the general population, because we have over 400 recycling containers out all around campus,” Moore said. “It’s very convenient for people.”
The student “green fee” that was implemented a few years ago to fund sustainable projects on campus paid for the new stations. The fee generates between $135,000 and $140,000 annually. During the years the fee has allowed for the purchase of electric vehicles, the removal of the school’s recycling center from the power grid by the installation of solar panels, the installation of motion sensors in classrooms to cut down on power consumption, the upgrading of the school’s yellow bike rental program and the installation of skylights in some buildings to limit the usage of light bulbs during the day.
Moore said there are plans to create an outdoor classroom at the school’s University Woods using the “green fee.”