Changing What We Consume

Changing our consumption habits so that they minimize our environmental footprint is literally putting our money where our mouth is. In 1991 a student group set out to identify "green" cleaning products. In the process they surveyed custodians and found much to their (and our) surprise, that there were significant health complaints associated with the use of cleaners (over 90% of respondents). As a result of this study the UW administration moved quickly to biodegradable cleaning products and the reuse of containers.

Another group, using surveys and interviews, examined the purchasing habits of administrative staff in order to determine their sensitivity to buying recycled products. This study discovered that staff were extremely interested in purchasing recycled products but they did not know how to do it. One of the students undertook to produce a handbook for staff which is essentially a catalogue of recycled products which can be obtained through the university purchasing department.

Recently a group traced the 8.5 x 11 white paper used on campus back to trees. The majority of the paper used is mixed paper. Mixed paper is used to describe what is labeled as "recycled" paper. In fact, this paper is more than 90% virgin wood fibres and less than 10% post-consumer waste. The university's consumption of paper represents about 50,000 trees or 50 acres of forest, some of which is Brazilian rain forest.

One group has produced a set of guidelines to assist Plant Operations in the retrofit of existing buildings and the building of new buildings. They focused specifically on water use, lighting and interior design. They have identified and analysed various alternatives for lighting fixtures, dimmers, daylighting, on-off switches, toilets, shower heads, faucets, paint and flooring and made recommendations to the "best" alternatives. Two groups also examined energy and water consumption alternatives for the new Environmental Science and Engineering building

Projects are available either on the world wide web or in the Dana Porter (Arts) Library, Special Collections.

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Last updated: December 10, 2003 plc