Green Committee Minutes of December 8, 2008
In attendance: Ray Bailey (MA), Nancy Wyatt (MA), Barbara Saperstone (AN), Miguel Garcia, Dan Wells, Callan Bentley (AN), Diego Hernandorena, Ruth Stanton (MEC), Kathleen Odige (MEC), Denny May (AL), Doug Boe (WO), Les Krogh (WO), Bill Chamberlin, and Victor Zabielski (AL). Ron Davis, guest.
The meeting began at 3:38pm, with introductions of new members who were not at the previous meeting: Diego Hernandorena, Les Krogh, Barbara Saperstone, and Miguel Garcia.
The minutes from the previous meeting were approved without corrections or additions.
Ray contacted local speakers who might be willing to talk at the February 5 Climate Change Symposium / Teach-In. He brought up the possibility of: Lestern Brown (normal fee of ~$15,000) [ Denny knows him]; Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network [Denny knows him too!]; Alisa Gravitz of Co-op America, and Julian Keniry of the National Wildlife Foundation. Ray pointed out that we are lucky to live in a place with such a large number of outstanding, dynamic speakers. He pointed out that while we don’t necessarily have a budget, we could offer some of these speakers the opportunity to sell their books.
The issue of funding was discussed. The Lyceum and Science Seminar both have some money which could be allotted to this project. Barbara pointed out that campuses have community and cultural moneys which might be allotted for this, too.
Nancy suggested sponsorship by the bookstore; it was suggested that perhaps they have a booksignings budget. Additionally, professional development money may be available, or may already be allotted.
Ray discussed how he has joined the local network of sustainability coordinators (a paid position at many colleges and universities) to better coordinate our strategy with other local efforts and learn from them.
Ray noted that Dr. Templin had forwarded him the latest copy of the AACC journal, featuring a cover story on greening campuses. Ray also mentioned that the Organization for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has a scoring guide online for the evaluation and ranking of colleges’ sustainability efforts.
Ray said he would circulate a memo to the committee via e-mail over the winter break to determine future directions and projects for the committee.
The committee then moved on to the subject of recycling. Ray reviewed the two models for recycling at NOVA, as determined at the previous meeting.
Denny asked about the status of the College-wide agreement with AAA. It was stated that it will expire at the end of December. Bill Chamberlin said that Fairfax County will take over for NOVA’s Annandale and Medical Education campuses. The other campuses will need a new contract provider, and Ron Davis is handling that.
Ron said that to get a new contractor, we would have to put a new IP out, and that may take a couple of months. Most recycling strategies nowadays utilized comingled recycling. Bill listed the recycling coordinators for the various local municipalities:
Tom Smith, Prince William County
Rick Weber, Loudoun County
Jane Tatum, Loudoun County
Davis McCoy, City of Alexandria
Denny spoke to Styles Peabody at Alexandria, who is in charge of business recycling. Denny reported that Mr. Peabody told him that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is stricter than the City of Alexandria in terms of recycling requirements. He offered a quote from the State Agency Recycling Legislation:
“10.1-1425.6 Recycling duties of state agencies:
- “It shall be the duty of each state university and state agency of the Commonwealth, including the General Assembly, to establish programs for the use of recycled materials and for the collection, to the extent feasible, of all recyclable materials used or generated by such entities, including, at a minimum, used motor oil, glass, aluminum, office paper and corrugated paper. Such programs shall be in accordance with the programs and plans developed by the Department of Waste Management, which shall serve as the lead agency for the Commonwealth's recycling efforts. The Department shall develop such programs and plans by July 1, 1991.
- “In fulfilling its duties under this section, each agency of the Commonwealth shall implement procedures for (i) the collection and storage of recyclable materials generated by such agency, (ii) the disposal of such materials to buyers, and (iii) the reduction of waste materials generated by such agency.” [source]
Denny asked for clarification on who picks up the white office paper for recycling: is it AAA? Bill replied that it was VHI, not AAA.
On the subject of local municipal contacts, Nancy said that Tom Smith referred her to Scott McDonald, who reported to her that “NOVA campuses have to recycle the one greatest recycling quantity.” She learned that mixed paper can include everything, not just white paper. Cardboard should be kept separate, however.
Ray pointed out that the county could take this, and asked whether we have a contract at the campus end to get it there without it ending up in the trash. Nancy pointed out the “chicken or egg” nature of the problem: does it fall to the county or to the contractor?
Ron responded that his team had tried to write terminology that would suggest we want to specify where it ends up.
Nancy made a recommendation not to enter into any long-term contracts at this point, seeing as how the market for recycled materials just crashed. Bill noted that the price for corrugated cardboard had just gone from $100/ton to $0 in about four weeks. Ron confirmed that any contracts signed at this point would be for the duration of one year only.
Ray pointed out that the recycling market was doing what all commodities markets are doing during an economic downturn: collapsing. He asked Ron to confirm that we had new contracts being cultivated. Ron said yes, that the IVB would go out in the second week of January.
Ray then asked Bill for a status update on the Annandale and Medical Education campuses. Bill replied that he should be getting the memorandum of understanding (MOU) from Fairfax County this week. Barbara, provost of the Annandale campus, asked Bill for some clarifications: who’s going to do this?
Bill replied that Fairfax County would be running the pickup. Denny asked who is responsible. Bill replied that it was not Facilities. Denny pressed the matter: are the faculty then responsible for organizing a recycling program? He pointed out that no one is officially responsible. Ray asked for clarification. Ron responded that the carrier takes it from the toters to the recycling center; the cleaning staff gets it to the toter in the first places; everything else is ad hoc.
Nancy pointed out that the Facilities Supervisor oversees contracts. No one is responsible, however, for getting out the word or coordinating the strategy between all parties. Maybe we (the committee) need to make some recommendations on that front, she suggested.
Ron pointed out that recycling language is in the current contract for Sanitors (the current janitorial contractor). The new RFP includes recycling language also, that leaves it to the contractor to determine the “best methods” and then we negotiate from there. He also noted that we need to be the ones to purchase containers, and that we have ‘distributed freebies’ in the past. Ron noted that the bill for our College’s waste removal needs (both trash and recycling, with pickups 3-4 times a week) was about $86,000 for the year. He noted that this is less waste than you might expect for an institution this large.
Ray took heart at this number, because the new recycling strategies won’t add to this cost, but merely shift some of the cost away from trash and towards recycling.
Victor pointed out a persisting problem: we don’t have containers to put recycling in. No wonder we don’t generate much recycling, since we are so ineffective at collecting it!
Denny asked “How do other institutions do this? Who’s responsible there?” Ray answered that one of the reasons he joined the local network of sustainability coordinators was to answer just that question. Ray pointed out that he was recently made privy to an e-mail chain wherein a NOVA student complained to George Mason University about NOVA’s lack of recycling. At GMU, it is the Recycling Coordinator’s job to coordinate all this. Denny responded that this concerns him. Students are doing independent waste audits, he pointed out. “We are one disgruntled student away from a major press debacle.” He invoked the recent example where Nan Peck, organizer of January’s Pump Up Your Pedagogy conference emailed participants and asked them each to haul home the recycling from the event. Denny asked, “What’s going to happen when a Washington Post reporter takes a photo of that? We’re going to get nailed, PR-wise.” Denny concluded by estimating that 80% of the faculty is desperate for a recycling program they can participate in and believe in. He said that teachers are clamoring for classroom containers.
Ray pointed out that Ron and Bill have assured us that the necessary infrastructure is going to be there with the new contracts. Only the middle step is missing: whose responsibility it is to buy the containers.
Ron pointed out that Loudoun can serve as a model, and that if we buy containers in volume (i.e. at the College level, not the campus level), we will get a discount. But Nancy pointed out that these costs are not in anyone’s budget. Loudoun effectively “taxed” copies to generate the money.
Miguel said, put a number down, you might get it (referring to highest-level administration allotting funds for the purchase).
Victor recounted that the Alexandria campus has a “long, checkered history” with regards to recycling containers. He suggested that purchasing new containers was a one-time investment. Bill responded that actually the containers do need to be maintained over time, and there are costs associated with this.
Barbara pointed out that we need a College-wide strategy. There is no trust at all in the recycling system due to all this confusion.
Ray summarized that in the new year (2009), we will know about the contract, and then we will know about how many containers we will need, and we can survey and ask the College for money to buy those containers.
Miguel said that we need a real plan. Buying containers, he said, is the easy part of it. What’s going to support the program? In a previous job where he organized a recycling program, he pointed out that 50% of the containers were changed out on a yearly basis. Miguel stated that the container is a symbol of the program that stands behind it. He also suggested a contest or series of contests along the lines of: Which campus produces the most, or is most improved? He suggested we should offer rewards as an incentive, and send students to work on it, and then send those students to present at a national “green” conference.
Ray asked Miguel who should be in charge of organizing the recycling effort. Miguel responded that it should be the heads of offices. For instance, the chair of the Accounting Department should be tasked with the Accounting Department’s recycling efforts. Miguel cautioned against assigning the work to a single person; that takes away the moral responsibility from the community. Referring to his previous experience, he said “It was a whole-college thing.” He also recounted that Wal-Mart gave half a million dollars to support the effort with only 30 days’ notice. He encouraged the rest of the committee to get creative: “There’s money, even in a recession.” He also advised the committee to look at the examples offered by Rensellaer (largest green program in the country) and Warren Wilson College (Asheville, NC), which is a “completely green” campus.
Diego, the student representative, then offered the student perspective. In his efforts organizing the Annandale Green Club, he said that recycling was the biggest conversation topic. He wondered if the upcoming contracts were putting the “cart before the horse.” He asked, can we achieve our objectives without those contracts? He briefly recounted his group’s efforts at doing an environmental audit. The goal is to establish benchmarks by which they can measure their progress, and generate data with which to seek funds. Diego asked whether we should state our goals now, before we go signing any contracts.
Miguel reiterated that we need a program, and that “money is not the issue.”
Ray reminded the group that Bill and Ron have assured us that recycling is of prime importance in the RFP. Ron agreed, saying that the contractors would not just be chosen on the basis of their bottom line, but in terms of what programs they’re going to provide. “Which contract offers the best value overall?”
Victor suggested that what Diego was getting at was his concern that we’re putting ourselves in the position of having the contractors dictate to us what we recycle. Victor concurred with Diego on the need of making a master list of goals; we should have a document that says, “these are our goals,” he said. Ray responded that the committee had already expressed this, and that Bill has heard us. The Facilities team would pursue this with the new contracts. “We’re on the same page here,” he said.
Miguel interjected that publicity was important. For every step he took on the recycling program at his old job, he said, we notified the media, put out e-mails, and put out articles.
Victor asked Ron for a run-down on the upcoming important dates. Ron estimated the last week of February or the first week of March for the carrier to begin work. The custodial contract comes up on April 1. And Fairfax County will begin its work on the Annandale and Medical Education campuses on January 1, 2008.
Ray asked what we could do to publicize. An Intercom article was suggested. It occurred to the meeting secretary to do a video and post it on YouTube or the committee website, but the meeting secretary was very busy writing, and didn’t actually voice this idea. Oops.
Ray asked about the meeting date for January: should it be the 5th or the 12th? It was agreed that Mondays were best, or at least better than Fridays. It was suggested that those interested in helping to plan the February 5th Climate Change Teach-In please stick around after the meeting to help brainstorm and plan.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:03pm.