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Monday, November 6, 2017

Collaboration + Culture = Sustainability Success

On October 24 Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga Tech) hosted the first annual Facilities Sustainability Forum to an enthusiastic audience from the university and beyond.

Within his welcoming remarks, Ga Tech Vice-President Facilities Management Chuck Rhodes educated on Ga Tech's strong sustainability commitment and impressive accomplishments. Most importantly, Chuck expressed his support for Ga Tech's continued sustainability leadership by building on existing programs and introducing new endeavors.

Elemental Impact
Following Chuck, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore presented as the forum featured speaker. Within her opening remarks, Holly shared the long-term, powerful Ga Tech | Ei relationship dating back to the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009. Ga Tech Associate Director, Office of Solid Waste Management & Recycling Cindy Jackson attends the Annual Ei Partner Meetings and joined the 2014 Atlanta Ei Partner Tours.

In industry circles, Holly refers to Cindy as the AMAZING Cindy Jackson!

There are many layers to the AMAZING aspect of Cindy Jackson, each indicative of Ga Tech's profound sustainability commitment and award-winning accomplishments. Thus, in essence, the reference is to the AMAZING Ga Tech facilities department management.

Clean, student-separated
As a recycling industry pioneer, Ga Tech received early national awards: American Forest & Paper Association 2008 University Recycling Award and the National Recycling Coalition 2008 Best Overall Recycling, Outstanding College or University Program Award.

Most importantly from a recycling perspective, the Ga Tech Solid Waste & Recycling Department never succumbed to single-stream recycling. During her presentation, Holly explained single-stream recycling increases "diversion rates" yet decreases actual recycling due to contaminated material streams. Diversion rates most often refer to the first stop after collection versus the material's final destination.

Supported by in-depth research, industry reports state single-stream recycling generally results in 25%+  of collected material destined for the landfill | incinerator due to contamination. 

Under Cindy's oversight, Ga Tech boasts incredibly clean, source-separated streams; clean material equates to valuable material sold in local markets as manufacturing raw material. Ga Tech students take their recycling seriously and source-separate items in accordance with the clear bin signage.

In addition to Ga Tech's program, Holly shared other sustainability successes within the Southeast:
Throughout her presentation, Holly emphasized two keys to successful sustainability programs: 1> collaboration within the organization, the community and with purveyors and 2> a sustainability culture driven by top management. The themes were reinforced throughout the forum program.

In her closing remarks, Holly shared Ei's new primary focus is Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life. Recycling Refinement expertise gained over the years is available via HEC Zero Waste Consulting.

Ga Tech Building Services
GA Tech renewblel cleaning in action
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
Following Holly, Ga Tech Associate Director, Building Services Tommy Little educated on their impressive, award-winning renewable cleaning practices. Renewable cleaning is beyond green cleaning and the safest, healthiest way to maintain indoor environments.

Over the years, Ga Tech was recognized by The National Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers, Green Cleaning Award for American Schools & Universities, Princeton Review, and The National Wildlife Federation for their renewable green cleaning. In addition, Ga Tech achieved independent certification under the Green Seal GS-42 Green Cleaning Standard.

At the foundation of Ga Tech's renewable cleaning program is the GenEon cleaning system supported by SouthEast Link, a local custodial supply company dedicated to renewable cleaning programs and systems. 

Tommy during a cleaning demo
for President Peterson & Cabinet
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
After a two-year evaluation, Ga Tech transitioned cleaning and disinfecting | sanitizing solutions to GenEon Technologies ECA products. ECA (electrical chemical activation) combines salted water with an electrical charge. By varying the mineral catalysts, the GenEon system produces three distinct products: sanitizer | disinfectant | deodorizer, glass & general purpose cleaner, and heavy-duty cleaner | degreaser.

ECA cleaning products are generated on-site, Thus, transportation carbon footprints and cleaning supply packaging associated with mainstream janitorial systems are reduced. Supply inventory is drastically reduced and chemical-related injuries are eliminated.

Tommy and his team performed extensive, detailed testing on the ECA system effectiveness, at visual and microbial levels. The results were impressive!
Over nine years, Ga Tech reduced their on-campus cleaning chemicals by 90.7%! 
Beyond the tremendous cost-savings experienced with the ECA cleaning program, according to Tommy, "Best of all ...MY STAFF LOVES IT!!" Why does the Ga Tech building services staff love the program? Here a few reasons:
  • The cleaners work as well or better than prior cleaners.
  • Solutions do not dry out hands or cause respiratory problems.
  • Sanitizers | disinfectants actually eliminate odors.
  • The system portability - solutions may be made anywhere on campus.
Kudos to Tommy for taking the time and energy to implement a cleaning system that makes Ga Tech a healthier campus and improves the bottom line!

Solid Waste Management & Recycling
Ga Tech Recycling Logo
The AMAZING Cindy Jackson presented on Turning Trash into a Resource. To set the stage for her empowering presentation, Cindy shared the department's mission:
  • Encourage and expand recycling opportunities.
  • Develop waste diversion and reuse programs.
  • Promote efforts to decrease the amount of waste produced on campus. 
  • Encourage an environmentally conscious campus community. 
As established in Holly's session, a culture committed to sustainability driven by top management is key to program success. GA Tech President G.P. Bud Peterson endorses the recycling program with the following statement:
“We in the Carnegie building joined the AWARE program in 2009. It is a simple and effective waste minimization initiative that enables Georgia Tech to use our resources more efficiently. I support the campus-wide implementation of this program and encourage your active participation.”
The AWARE Program (Actively Working to Achieve Resource Efficiency) is an innovative waste minimization program implemented in ten campus buildings.

Tom, Tim & Tiny
In the AWARE buildings, each workstation is equipped with three interconnected waste | recycling receptacles. Custodians do not service these containers. It is each employee's responsibility to empty his or her containers into larger bins located within the building. To maintain a sense of humor, the bins are named Tom (big blue bin for paper only), Toni (side blue bin for aluminum & plastic), and Teeny (small side black bin for trash).

With top management support, Cindy uses clever, consistent communication to the students, administration and campus guests. The public relations | marketing plan consists of an active Ga Tech Recycling website page, program promotional tables at campus events, the Recycling Buzz, because we care monthly newsletter, and clear, consistent recycling signage.

Ga Tech Game Day Recycling celebrates ten years of success! Below are some 10-year program highlights:
  • 3 million football fans attended Ga Tech games.
  • 1,300+ volunteers supported the Game Day Recycling program.
  • 198+ tons of collected material.
  • 30% game day trash diversion achieved.
Student move-in and out are biannual events with tremendous opportunity for material recovery, including cardboard, clothing, non-perishable food, household items, and clothing. The Ga Tech recycling team harnesses the opportunity with an organized system including designated areas for the various materials.

A second theme established in Holly's session is collaboration is key for success. In 1998 Cindy founded the first annual Earth Day as a vehicle to educate students, faculty, and administration staff on recycling and other sustainability endeavors. Earth Day serves as a vehicle to develop community participation, especially among the students and alumni. Recently, the Student Alumni Association presented Campus Recycling with more than $20,000 through its Gift to Tech program. 

Recycling alcove in the
Klaus Building
As a class project, students designed and painted cool decor in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building recycling alcoves. The designs ranged from educational (Ecosystems - Ecodangers) to whimsical, clever (The Lorax by Dr. Seuss) to communicate the importance of recycling valuable materials.

Always striving to improve Ga Tech recycling, Cindy ended her presentation with an announcement of a composting pilot underway for building restroom paper towels.

Landscape Services
Klaus Building
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
In his How Tree Campus USA Program Accelerated Environmental Stewardship at Georgia Tech presentation, Ga Tech Associate Director, Landscape Services Hyacinth Ide continued with another forum theme: Ga Tech award-winning programs! 

In addition to the prestigious Tree Campus USA designation, Ga Tech Landscape Services received awards | recognition from the following organizations: GIS Tree Inventory, Professional Grounds Management Society, Georgia Urban Forest Council, Campus Arboretum, and Bee Campus USA.

The Landscape Services Department is charged with the maintenance of both the landscape and hardscape, including the 12,000 trees on campus. Department Mission: 
Enable Georgia Tech to achieve its goal of environmental sustainability by maintaining an integrated, ecologically-based landscape and open space system that serves as a beautiful, attractive and safe campus environment where students, faculty, staff, and visitors can enjoy, live, work and study in comfort.
Located on 426 acres, Ga Tech consists of  312.5 landscaped acres, 110 building acres, and 3.5 naturalized acres. 

In 2004, Ga Tech established The Campus Landscape Master Plan. Updated in 2006 and 2010, the Landscape Master Plan Objectives are:
  • To increase campus tree canopy to a minimum of 55%.
  • To increase campus woodland coverage to 22%.
  • To use predominately native plants or ecologically appropriate to this region for planting.
  • To increase biodiversity in the plant population.
  • To reduce stormwater discharge into the Atlanta sewer system.
In recognition of their excellent plan, Ga Tech’s 2009 Tree Care Plan is used as a sample within the Tree Campus USA application procedures. Within the Tree Campus USA criteria, an annual budget of $3 per student must be dedicated to campus trees. With 27,000 students, Ga Tech's requirement is $81,000; Ga Tech's current expenditure is $642,320.

2014 Ga Tech Campus
Tree Care Plan
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
On December 15, 2015, Ga Tech was recognized as the second university in the nation certified by the Bee Campus USA program. Supporting the certification, the GIS Tree Inventory identified campus pollinator species and issued a guide for future plantings.

In alignment with the Ga Tech recycling culture, the landscape department reuses cut trees where practical, grinds unusable debris into wood chips and composts campus leaves for maintenance and planting programs.

The Tree Campus Advisory Committee, required within the Tree Campus USA criteria, continues the forum themes of collaboration is key for success and the importance of campus culture. Bringing together university faculty from various departments, engaged students, and campus staff together, the committee fosters collaboration and instills a campus tree-oriented culture.

Panel Discussion
The forum concluded with an interactive panel discussion moderated by Ga Tech Campus Recycling Coordinator Maria Linderoth. Panelists included Associate Director, GA Tech Facilities Management Gary Jelin, Co-Chair, Facilities Sustainability Committee | Ga Tech Facilities Management Registered Architect II Maria Del Mar Celallos, Ga Tech Energy Manager Ben Mason and Holly. 

Gary is the lead on the Ga Tech Living Building design with strong support by Maria and his internal and external teams; the Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. With the launch around the corner, the Living Building design was the predominant panel topic. 

Ga Tech Living Building
design rendering
photo courtesy of Ga Tech
According to the International Future Living Institute site, living buildings give more than they take, creating a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them. The Living Building Challenge includes seven performance areas called petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Certification is based on actual performance over twelve consecutive months.

On November 2, the Ga Tech Living Building was launched in a ceremony where attendees spread seed packets on the ground. With the delicate design balance between living building criteria and functionality | practicality complete, the Miller Hull Partnership and Lord Aeck Sargent passed the baton to Skanska for the construction phase.

Within the panel discussion, the two common themes throughout the presentations were intertwined into dialogue: 1> collaboration is key to success and 2> culture is imperative for long-term, sustainable impact. 

Forum presenters were given a treasured gift: a slice of a Ga Tech branch with Buzz drawn on the wood. Ga Tech landscape associate Jean-Sebastian Camiul donated his exceptional talent for the gifts.

Congratulations to the Facilities Sustainability Committee for hosting a stellar forum!

The Forum PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

Ga Tech has the ingredients for incredible sustainability leadership: top management support, program diversity across university department boundaries, established award-winning programs, a commitment to student & community health, an unwavering enthusiasm by department management, and most importantly: a culture steeped with collaborative spirit!

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