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Sustainability committee; Update to ThisMakesCents

11/13/2009

Every quarter, university communications provides updates on sustainability and resource-saving efforts at Miami. Perhaps the most exciting news in these areas this fall is that Miami now has a sustainability committee and sustainability coordinator.

David Prytherch, associate professor of geography, has taken on the role of promoting a greater focus on sustainability in both campus academics and operations to make Miami more efficient, environmentally responsible and competitive. The standing sustainability committee, with campuswide membership, aims to explore innovations in both campus academics and operations.

Departments and divisions are exploring new ways to incorporate sustainability into curricula and classroom learning.

A new endeavor started by the university is a revolving Green Fund, currently with $50,000, to support sustainability efforts on campus. The Green Fund is designed to encourage student-sponsored projects related to sustainability, encouraging collaboration among students, faculty and staff. Ideally, money saved by funded projects will replenish the fund for future projects. News on how to apply for Green funds will be announced shortly.

Twenty-three new suggestions came in to the ThisMakesCents Web site since July 15, and a few of them repeat previous suggestions. Below are some new ideas and answers.

One new suggestion is to transform the process of credit card reconciliation from being paper-based and time-consuming, to one that is electronic. In direct reply to this suggestion, Miami is already working with a new vendor, JP Morgan Chase, to provide a better procurement card program. We are finishing a revised process that will automate the reconciliation steps involved with monthly statements and replace the hand-processed packets with an online system that includes scanning receipts. We hope to be in a position to introduce these new processes this fall to the campus community. As a public institution, it is a challenge to achieve compliance with sound business and accounting standards that document our expenses, while at the same time not make such a process burdensome.

Another suggestion is to expand the type of plastic that can be recycled, as some municipalities have started to do. Greg Vaughn, director of building and special services, says what makes sense to recycle is largely determined by the available market in this area and currently that means plastic #1 and #2. Still, Vaughn and crew are working on a pilot to accept more types of plastic at the university’s MRF – materials recovery facility.

Other suggestions and responses regarding insurance, paper, staffing and more are at muohio.edu/ThisMakesCents.

In other areas of resource management, Miami’s ecology research center (ERC) north of campus, uses solar panels for its classroom building, putting electricity back onto the grid, and has introduced biodiesel at 2 percent into its fuel source (that’s the amount available from a vendor). Rodney Kolb, ERC station manager, hopes to increase the biodiesel portion to 12 percent.

A tasty new sustainable practice at Bell Tower Place through October was the introduction of pumpkin smoothies that started with locally grown pumpkins roasted, spiced and pureed in Miami’s Culinary Support Center.

While winter will reduce the amount of produce housing, dining and guest services can buy from local farmer and growers, dining halls are still featuring locally grown potatoes, and our apple supplier (for fruit sold at Bell Tower, Haines and MacCracken Market) hopes to supply Miami through the majority of the winter, says Jon Brubacher, manager of purchasing and operations analysis.

Among least obvious efforts may be what never happened: Miami was considering constructing a new building as a data center last year, but with new virtual server technology, the university was able to upgrade its servers in existing space, saving the costs of building and maintaining another structure.

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