U.Va. Housing and Dining Operations Win Environmental Award

April 25, 2007 -- The University of Virginia's divisions of Dining Services and Housing have been accepted into the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program in recognition of dozens of environmental measures already taken and initiatives planned. They are the second and third divisions of U.Va. to be accepted into the VEEP program, joining Parking and Transportation, and making U.Va. the first and only college in Virginia to have multiple departments recognized for environmental excellence, said Sharon Baxter, director of pollution prevention for the Department of Environmental Quality, who oversees acceptance into VEEP. “U.Va. is definitely a leader,” she said, noting that only three other colleges in the state have been accepted into VEEP in any capacity.

The DEQ will formally induct the Dining and Housing divisions into VEEP, at the Environmental Enterprise level (E2), in a ceremony on April 26, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Lower West Oval Room of the Rotunda. The E2 certification is earned when the DEQ approves an organization’s environmental management system, an action plan to prevent pollution before it occurs, with regular review and revision to achieve continual improvement.

Amy Owens, director of the DEQ’s Valley Regional Office, will present the award at tomorrow’s ceremony, and Yoke San Reynolds, U.Va. vice president and chief financial officer, will share a few words about the University's continuing commitment to the environment. Other U.Va. participants will include Brent Beringer, director of Dining Services, Mark Doherty, chief housing officer, Richard Kovatch, associate vice president for business operations, Jeff Sitler, environmental compliance manager, and Jess Wenger, environmental management systems coordinator. Media and the public are invited to attend.

Dining Services administers 26 different facilities – cafeterias, cafés, snack bars, sports concessions, coffee shops and a bakery. The list of environmentally friendly changes already implemented by Dining Services includes efforts to measure and reduce food waste, an “Eat Local” initiative to buy more produce and other food items locally, a cooking oil recycling program and installing high-efficiency dishwashers and a pulper, rather than an industrial garbage disposal, which uses less water and removes food waste solids from the sewer system.

The Housing Division maintains 43 units that house more than 7,000 students and faculty each year. Housing has reduced water consumption by installing low-flow washers and shower heads; improved water quality by minimizing fertilizer usage on lawns; replaced regular carpeting with recyclable carpet squares that allow replacement of single two-foot-square sections; increased participation in the “Chuck It For Charity” program, which collects unwanted furniture and household items that would otherwise be trashed during move-outs; and reduced energy consumption by installing energy efficient dryers and air conditioning units, converting halogen lights to fluorescents, prohibiting AC units in drafty, older dormitories, and retrofitting older dormitory radiators with thermostat controls so rooms are not excessively heated.

Future energy-saving plans at U.Va., explained Jess Wenger, U.Va.'s environmental management systems coordinator, call for replacing an existing industrial chiller with one that uses a more eco-friendly refrigerant, continuing to purchase hybrids, golf carts, and other vehicles that consume less fuel than traditional vehicles, and augmenting the already award-winning U.Va. recycling program by creating a printer toner recycling program for staff and student computers.