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Memorial Union Sustainability Initiatives and Resources


In 2011, 44% of NDSU's recyclables were from the Memorial Union totaling more than 54 tons!

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"Sustainability" implies that the critical activities of a higher education institution are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable, and that they will continue to be so for future generations (University Leaders for a Sustainable Future). 

—  The Talloires Declaration was formed in 1990, advocating for higher education administrators to commit to sustainable practices. There are now over 350 universities that have signed on (University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 2008).

—  The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and calls for 37 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The United States did not sign this agreement (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, n.d.).

—  “Almost every decision an institution makes about running the campus—decisions about chemical spraying, building on natural lands, providing parking lots to facilitate the use of single-occupant motor vehicles, bringing various products to campus via external contractors—represents an opportunity to model for students the kind of thinking and behavior that  are talked about in the classroom” (Carroll, 1999, p.5).



Uses of Recycled Paper

 *Just over 48% of office paper is recovered for recycling. This becomes raw material for paperboard, tissue, and printing and writing papers. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006) 
 *Over 73% of all newspapers are recovered for recycling. Almost a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, and insulation, or exported. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006) 
 *Approximately 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper, flooring, padding and sound-absorbing materials. (American Forest and Paper Association, 2002) 
 *Recycled paper can also be made into paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products, as well as boxes, hydro-mulch, molded packaging, compost, and even kitty litter. (EPA, 2008) 


 *Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from raw materials. Energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum is equal to the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006) 
 *Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours. (EPA, 2008) 
 *Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material. Energy savings in 1993 alone were enough to light a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years. 
 *Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet. 
 *Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them. 
 *Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day. 
 *Americans throw out enough iron and steel to supply all the nation’s automakers on a continuous basis. 
 *A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution and mining wastes by about 70%. 
 *When you toss out one aluminum can you waste as much energy as if you’d filled the same can half-full of gasoline and poured it into the ground. 


 *More than 50% of a new aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum. 
 *The 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million. (Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the resources we've buried.) 


 *Americans throw away enough glass bottles and jars every two weeks to fill the 1.350-foot towers of the former World Trade Center. 
 *Most bottles and jars contain at least 25% recycled glass. 
 *Glass never wears out -- it can be recycled forever. We save over a ton of resources for every ton of glass recycled -- 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar. 
 *States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume. 
 *If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 94 were laid end to end, they'd reach the moon and half way back to earth. 


*Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas. 


*Americans go through 2.5 million plastic bottles every year. 


*26 recycled PET bottles equals a polyester suit. 5 recycled PET bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket. 


*In 1988 we used 2 billion pounds of HDPE just to make bottles for household products. That’s about the weight of 90,000 Honda Civics. 


*If every American household recycled just one out of every ten HDPE bottles they used, we’d keep 200 million pounds of the plastic out of landfills every year.

*Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. (EPA, 2008) 

 *More than 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. during 2007 was recovered for recycling — an all-time high. This impressive figure equals nearly 360 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child in America. (Paper Industry Association Council, 2007) 
 *More than 400 paper mills in the United States use at least some recovered materials in their manufacturing processes, and more than 200 of those mills use recovered fiber exclusively. (EPA, 2008)

 *Just over 48% of office paper is recovered for recycling. This becomes raw material for paperboard, tissue, and printing and writing papers. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006) 
 *Over 73% of all newspapers are recovered for recycling. Almost a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, and insulation, or exported. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006) 
 *Approximately 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper, flooring, padding and sound-absorbing materials. (American Forest and Paper Association, 2002) 
 *Recycled paper can also be made into paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products, as well as boxes, hydro-mulch, molded packaging, compost, and even kitty litter. (EPA, 2008)



 *If only 100,000 people stopped their junk, mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. If a million people did this, we could save up to a million and a half trees. 
 *The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes. 
 *The average American still spends 8 full months of his/her life opening junk mail. 



 *In 1865, an estimated 10,000 hogs roamed New York City, eating garbage. Now, one of every six U.S. trucks is a garbage truck. 
 * In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his/her adult weight in garbage. If you add it up, this means that a 150-lb. adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs of trash for his/her children. 
 *The average baby generates a ton of garbage every year. 
 *The landfill gas produced daily at Fresh Kills Landfill is enough fuel to heat 50,000 homes.



When to Turn Off Your Lights

The cost effectiveness of when to turn off lights depends on the type of lights and the price of electricity. The type of light is important for several reasons. All types of lights have a nominal or rated operating life, which is the total number of hours that they will provide a specified level or amount of light. However, the operating life of all types of light bulbs is affected by how many times they are turned on and off. The more often they are switched on and off, the lower their operating life. The exact number of hours that switching lights on and off reduces the total operating life depends on the type of light and how many times it is switched on and off.

Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent lights (or bulbs) should be turned off whenever they are not needed. Nearly all types of incandescent light bulbs are fairly inexpensive to produce and are relatively inefficient. Only about 10%–15% of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat. Turning the light(s) off will keep a room cooler, an extra benefit in the summer. Therefore, the value of the energy saved by not having the lights on will be far greater than the cost of having to replace the bulb.

Fluorescent Lighting

The cost effectiveness of turning fluorescent lights off to conserve energy is a bit more complicated. For most areas of the United States, a general rule-of-thumb for when to turn off a fluorescent light is if you leave a room for more than 15 minutes, it is probably more cost effective to turn the light off. Or in other words, if you leave the room for only up to 15 minutes, it will generally be more cost effective to leave the light(s) on. In areas where electric rates are high and/or during peak demand periods, this period may be as low as 5 minutes. 

Fluorescent lights are more expensive to buy, and their operating life is more affected by the number of times they are switched on and off, relative to incandescent lights. Therefore, it is a cost trade-off between saving energy and money by turning a light off "frequently" and having to replace the bulbs "more" frequently. This is because the reduction in usable lamp life due to frequent on/off switching will probably be greater than the benefit of extending the useful life of the bulb from reduced use. By frequent we mean turning the light off and on many times during the day.

It is a popularly held belief that fluorescent lights use a "lot" of energy to get started, and thus it is better not to turn them off for "short" periods. There is an increase in power demand when a light is switched on, and the exact amount of this increase depends on the type of ballast and lamp. The ballast provides an initial high voltage for starting the lamp and regulates the lamp current during operation. There are three basic types of ballasts: magnetic (of which there are energy-efficient and not so energy-efficient types), cathode-disconnect, and electronic. All types can operate two or more lamps simultaneously. There are three main methods that are used in a lamp's ballast to start the lamp: preheat, rapid-start, and instant-start.

In any case, the relatively higher "inrush" current required lasts for half a cycle, or 1/120th of a second. The amount of electricity consumed to supply the inrush current is equal to a few seconds or less of normal light operation. Turning off fluorescent lights for more than 5 seconds will save more energy than will be consumed in turning them back on again. Therefore, the real issue is the value of the electricity saved by turning the light off relative to the cost of relamping a fixture. This in turn determines the shortest cost-effective period for turning off a fluorescent light.

The value of the energy saved by turning a fluorescent light (or array of lights) off depends on several factors. The price an electric utility charges its customers depends on the customer "classes," which are typically residential, commercial, and industrial. There can be different rate schedules within each class. Some utilities may charge different rates for electricity consumption during different times of the day. It generally costs more for utilities to generate power during certain periods of high demand or consumption, called peaks. Some utilities can charge commercial and industrial customers more per kilowatt-hour (kWh) during peak periods than for consumption off-peak. Some utilities may also charge a base rate for a certain level of consumption and higher rates for increasing blocks of consumption. Often a utility adds miscellaneous service charges, a base charge, and/or taxes per billing period that could be averaged per kWh consumed, if these are not already factored into the rate.

Energy Savings

To calculate the exact value of energy savings by turning a light off, you need to first determine how much energy the light(s) consume when on. Every bulb has a Watt rating printed on it. For example, if the rating is 40 watts, and the bulb is on for one hour, it will consume 0.04 kWh, or if it is off for one hour, you will be saving 0.04 kWh. (Note that many fluorescent fixtures have two or more bulbs. Also, one switch may control several fixtures—an "array." Add the savings for each fixture to determine the total energy savings.)

Then you need to find out what you are paying for electricity per kWh (in general and during peak periods). You will need to look over your electricity bills and see what the utility charges per kWh. Multiply the rate per kWh by the amount of electricity saved, and this will give you the value of the savings. Continuing with the example above, let us say that your electric rate is 10 cents per kWh. The value of the energy savings would then be 0.4 cents ($ 0.004). The value of the savings will increase the higher the watt rating of the bulb, the greater the number of bulbs controlled by a single switch, and the higher the rate per kWh.

The most cost-effective length of time that a light (or array of lights) can be turned off before the value of the savings exceeds the cost of having to replace bulbs (due to their shortened operating life) will depend on the type and model of bulb and ballast. The cost of replacing a bulb (or ballast) depends on the cost of the bulb and the cost of labor to do it.

Lighting manufacturers should be able to supply information on the duty cycle of their products. In general, the more energy-efficient a bulb/light is, the longer you can keep a light on before it is cost effective to turn it off.


Water -

 "How to Conserve Water in the Bathroom"

Carroll's Ten Suggestions for Improved Sustainability

  1. Don’t let cosmetic efforts to achieve sustainability replace genuine, substantive efforts.
  3. Build support for an ethic of sustainability across the academic spectrum.
  5. Secure a reasonable degree of acceptance by faculty members themselves.
  7. Set up numerous work groups that involve a cross-section of students, student affairs staff, service personnel, faculty, and administrators.
  9. Build support among a broad cross-section of service personnel on campus, such as dining staff, groundskeepers, and cleaning and maintenance workers. 
  11. Convince administrators and supervisors of service personnel of the importance of the campus sustainability effort.
  13. Help students find ways to network with other students about environmental concerns.
  15. Information about the entire campus sustainability initiative and about all the workgroups, subgroups and initiatives should be communicated through email and those involved should maintain daily or near-daily contact. 
  17. Take every opportunity to encourage and support senior administrators such as deans, vice presidents, and presidents, even when it seems unnecessary.
  19. Keep trustees, key alumni, and, in the case of public institutions, state legislators appraised of potentially controversial decisions. 

Advantages of Sustainability

—  Universities utilize sustainable practices as a recruitment technique:

—  Engages students in campus

—  Sustainability can be seen as “giving back”

—  Costs are lower over time

—  “The universities are about branding themselves, and now sustainability is a way to brand your university” (Kelly as cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 2007).



—  Carroll, J.E. (1999). Greening the campus. About Campus, 3(6), p. 4-9.

—  Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

—  Lipka, S. (2006). Students call for action on campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(9), p. 11.

—  Strange, C.C., & Banning, J.H. (2001). Educating by design. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass. 

—  ‘Sustainability’ from A to Z: A roundtable discussion. (2007). The Chronicle of Higher Education53(25), p. B18-B20. 

—  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (n.d.). Kyoto Protocol. Retrieved January 26, 2009, from

—  University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. (2008). Talloires Declaration. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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North Dakota State University
Administration Phone: +1 (701) 231-8241
Campus address: Memorial Union
Physical/delivery address: 1401 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5340 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: Memorial Union

Last Updated: Monday, November 10, 2014 8:44:27 AM