October 19, 2010 — The University of Virginia's dining and housing operations were honored Monday for their environmental practices.
At a ceremony in Runk Dining Hall, Dining Services and the Housing Division were presented plaques by Amy Thatcher Owens, a regional director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, for attaining Exemplary Environmental Enterprise – or "E3" – status, which recognizes innovation and successful environmental initiatives.
Owens said 450 institutions are participating in the program. U.Va. is the first educational institution to earn the designation.
"You need grassroots involvement, hard work and the embrace of constituents and staff," Owens said. "You are a great team from the bottom up."
Leonard Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, congratulated the departments for their achievements and said their work in reducing their environmental impact is consistent with what is seen around Grounds. He cited the University's award-winning stormwater management system, which maintains a park-like atmosphere at the Dell; a recycling program that far exceeds state requirements; and the wide range of transportation alternatives U.Va. offers.
"These things did not happen because of a top-down mandate," Sandridge said, "These things happen because of grassroots movements and initiatives from employees and students who are willing to do the extra steps to make them happen."
Among Dining Services' achievements have been reducing its use of water and electricity, reducing food waste, employing reusable takeout containers, increasing emphasis on student education and instituting a composting program, which received the 2010 Governor's Environmental Excellence Award.
"We are pleased to have achieved this level of environmental excellence on behalf of the University," said Brent Beringer, director of U.Va. Dining Services. "And just as importantly, this also conveys internally that conservation efforts have been solidified as a top priority for our program."
The Housing Division was recognized for using of environmentally responsible cleaning materials, shifting from incandescent to fluorescent light bulbs, adopting strict environmental standards on carpet and furnishings, providing an extensive recycling program, establishing energy-use dashboards in its facilities and sponsoring competitions between dorms for recycling and energy savings. Housing maintenance crews have replaced their pickup trucks with hybrid and all-terrain vehicles, which get better gas mileage.
The Housing Division is also in the middle of multi-year program of demolishing 11 residence halls and replacing them with seven new ones, all of which will meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – or LEED – certification standards
"This is not an end point, but merely a milepost on a long journey," said Mark Doherty, U.Va.'s chief housing officer. "This is the culmination of several years' work within the division that moves us toward a culture that weaves environmental concern into the fabric of everything we do."
Beringer and Doherty recognized Jessica Wenger, environmental projects manager at the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, for her work with both departments to accomplish these goals.
"Not only are these departments contributing to sustainability by making a serious commitment to the environment in their daily operations, but they are also being honored for these achievements outside the University community," Wenger said.
Both departments were praised by Colin Hood, U.Va.'s Student Council president, who said they have a direct impact on the quality of students' lives. He said both have been eager to work with students and deal with their concerns.
"As they continue to reach out to students, and as they continue to excel, they set the bar high for educational institutions statewide," he said.
Student involvement is key for both departments.
"In the spirit of U.Va.'s student self-governance, sustainability is yet another program that truly was originally student-initiated," said Kendall Singleton, sustainability coordinator for Dining Services. "It is my hope that students can take pride in this latest achievement and recognize that their hard work not only made this possible, but will also help the University reach even further sustainability milestones."