UM thinks green

Published 5:19 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More than 90 University of Montevallo students identified ways to make their campus greener as part of an environmental studies think tank session on Tuesday.

Students split into several groups to suggest quick-fix solutions and cosmic goals, said Lee Rozelle, an assistant professor of English who led the session.

No one was shy about divulging ideas, which included using biodegradable dishware in the cafeteria instead of Styrofoam, planting a student-run community garden, turning out unneeded lights on campus and recycling competitions among student groups.

Faculty and staff also took part in the discussion. David Pritchett, director of the university’s Physical Plant, said his division has embarked on a $3 million energy savings project that involves heating and cooling utilities.

Pritchett said energy-efficient gas boilers will replace boilers installed in 1969. The Physical Plant will also revamp underground utility piping that provides air conditioning throughout campus.

“All of this is tied into a computerized energy management system that we have been using for a number of years that allows us to control heating and cooling in individual buildings,” said Pritchett, adding the new equipment will feature variable frequency drives that monitor energy output.

Pritchett also announced the university recently entered into an agreement with a company that provides paper towels and toilet paper made of recycled materials, which received loud applause from students.

Pritchett later mentioned the university underwent a lighting retrofit project 10 years ago, ridding the campus of florescent lights with magnetic ballasts. The project has saved the university $3.2 million since its completion.

When discussing long-term goals, students aspire to equip each campus building with motion sensors that shut out the lights when no one’s in the room. Pritchett said the goal isn’t too far out of reach.

“In a sense we’re halfway there with our energy management system, so it’s not too big a leap to control lighting,” Pritchett said. “It’s a pretty practical way to make a difference.”

Students also listed adding an environment awareness course to the academic curriculum, starting a bike-share program and enforcing a four-day driving week as long-term goals.

Rozelle said ideas generated during the session will be shared with students, faculty and administration. Additional ideas may e-mailed to