From Green Right Now Reports

Baylor University, the world’s largest Baptist-affiliated college, is known for its schools of business and law; classic, steepled campus and steadfast commitment to education with a Christian flavor.

Baylors Highers Athletics Complex, which includes the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center, is LEED Silver

Baylor’s Simpson Athletics and Academic Center, part of the Highers Athletics Complex, won LEED silver for its sustainable construction. (Photo: Baylor University)

Built in 1845 on the Texas prairie between Austin and Dallas, the university cherishes the traditions of church, scholarship and football (we did say Texas), but it is also embracing the latest technologies to reduce energy use and preserve nature for future generations.

Many schools call this going green. At Baylor, it’s known as “creation care.”

“As Christians it’s our mission to take care of one of the best gifts that God has given us,” says Smith Getterman, the sustainability coordinator for the campus of 16,000 students. Being a good steward is part of being a good Christian “regardless of your political affiliation,” he explained during a recent chat about the green changes taking place.

With that in mind, Baylor has dived in with a multi-pronged green game plan that’s got at least as many moves as its football team (8-5 last season with a victory over UCLA in the “Holiday Bowl”).

The school has constructed buildings to LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, notably the Alwin O. and Dorothy Highers Athletics Complex, built in 2009 on a closed landfill and designed to draw 70 percent of its power from wind and solar energy. The Highers complex and the adjacent Jay and Jenny Allison Indoor Football Practice Facility were awarded LEED Silver ratings by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

Baylor training on Creation Care, with Smith Getterman

Getterman conducts a creation care seminar.

Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary also achieved a LEED rating, for existing buildings, after an overhaul of its energy use and the addition of a recycling program.

Those were prominent sustainability commitments, but Baylor has adopted a flurry of subtler green practices that span many campus activities and buildings. It has declared itself Styrofoam-free, adopted food-conserving “trayless meals” in cafeterias and switched to paper to-go containers that are biodegradable. It has set student recycling records, added ZipCar services and bike lanes to encourage greener travel.

For its efforts, Baylor University will be listed for the first time next year in Princeton Review’s Green Guide to Colleges, said Director of Media Communications Lori Fogleman.

Many of these changes will save the university money over the long run, such as the recent installation of energy efficient “chillers” for certain buildings that will increase energy efficiency. That installation required a big upfront outlay, but it will be recoups in reduced energy use, Getterman said.

The administration sees the value of such changes, but students are leading the way on many green issues, he said.

Students and staff, for instance, immediately adopted recently installed filtered water stations that allow them to easily refill their reusable water bottles (squeezing out disposable plastic bottles).

Water Bottle Fill Station, Elkay

The Elkay water fill station makes it easy for people to refill their reusable water bottle with chilled, filtered water.

Getterman suspected the water stations would fit right in. Since arriving in 2009 as the first director of the newly formed sustainability office, he has noticed a cultural shift taking place. Students have been switching from disposable to reusable water bottles and more of them seem to be riding their bikes as well.

The new ELKAY water dispensers are attached to water fountains at two locations on campus and have been used more than 22,000 times since they were installed last summer, he said, keeping untold plastic water bottles from clogging up the landfill.

Getterman plans to order more water stations for other strategic locations, such as outside a gym and the Student Life Center.

Baylor students are becoming zealous about trash reduction, too. Last year,  the university came in No. 1 in the Big 12 Conference in the popular RecycleMania competition in which colleges across the U.S. compete to see who can compile the biggest mountain of recyclables. Recycle Mania credits Baylor’s collections with saving 25 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking five cars off the road.

“Recycling has exploded here on campus,” Getterman said. “In 2011 we set a new campus record of 414 tons recycled; for 2012 we beat that and set a new record of 440 tons recycled,” he said.

With recycling rates soaring, Baylor can now boast that it is diverting 23 percent of its trash away from the landfill, up significantly from the 10 percent diversion rate that was the campus baseline before the sustainability office was formed.

All these changes are helping Baylor reduce trash and electricity costs, while helping sustain and restore natural resources. And students are learning life lessons in environmental stewardship.

Baylor Green PROMO“People are taking on this task,” Getterman said. “They’re saying they can take care of the Earth and still be cool about it.”

“I think we’ve moved to a point where our campus culture has really embraced it. Everything from our football games to our computer labs has some green initiative.”

And come April, when the US observes Earth Week 2013, Baylor students will sound a note of gratitude.

“We call it Creation Week,” Getterman says. “We’ll have one chapel session dedicated to celebrating God’s creation.”

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