KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University has earned two new honors—one at the national level—that recognize its commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment.
In May, the maintenance unit in the Facilities Management department was notified it had won a national 2012 Effective and Innovative Practices Award for its steam trap management program. The program has allowed WMU to avoid $4.2 million in energy-related costs since its inception in 1988. The award comes with a $4,000 check that will be used to support the program.
One month later, Facilities Management's landscape services unit achieved certification in the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program, a nationally known statewide initiative designed to prevent pollution and reduce environmental risks on school grounds, in addition to golf and lawn care company properties, sports fields and parks.
"Being a steward of WMU's environmental and physical resources aligns with the University's strategic plan, mission and vision," says Peter Strazdas, associate vice president for Facilities Management. "As a department, we work every day to improve the environment for our region as well as to lower the University's operating costs and enhance customer service."
Effective and Innovative Practices Award
WMU was among five institutions selected to receive the 2012 Effective and Innovative Practices Award from the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers during events held July 18-19 at the association's annual conference and exhibition in Denver. The association's six-category awards program honors institutions and individuals for excellence in the educational facilities profession.
The University and its steam trap management program won in the effective and innovative practices category, which recognizes programs and processes that enhance service delivery, lower costs, increase productivity, improve customer service or otherwise benefit an educational institution. The other 2012 winners in this category are Purdue University and the universities of Iowa, Texas at Austin and North Carolina at Charlotte.
WMU's steam trap management program is considered a model for U.S. higher education institutions and is viewed as a best practice by universities and businesses across the country. It uses an extremely efficient central steam distribution system to lower the cost of energy distribution to WMU's large campus. The program has been highly successful in reducing the University's natural gas consumption and carbon emissions, as well as the campuswide steam trap failure rate.
Environmental stewardship certification
The second related accolade WMU recently earned—certification through the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program—recognizes the University's efforts to ensure environmental stewardship and enhance wildlife habitat.
"Western Michigan University's landscape services has gone above and beyond environmental compliance to prevent pollution, protect water resources and conserve energy that collectively benefits the environment," Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said in announcing WMU's certification.
The voluntary stewardship program began in 1998 and is a unique partnership between the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, Michigan State University, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Certification requires regulatory compliance and implementation of practices that prevent pollution, reduce energy and waste, and protect water resources. It encompasses environmental risks associated with pesticide and fertilizer handling, application and record keeping; wellheads; septic systems; fuel storage; irrigation and water use; and emergency response.
Tim Holysz, WMU director of landscape services, notes that as part of the certification requirements, the University developed an environmental action plan for a site visit by the stewardship program's staff. The plan serves as a management tool to prevent potential threats from negatively affecting natural resources, and it has a special focus on protecting ground water.
"It's an honor for landscape services to be recognized for helping to foster WMU's culture of sustainability," Holysz said. "We're dedicated to meeting and exceeding the requirements of environmental laws and wherever possible, strive to reduce waste, use natural products and educate the campus community about sustainability initiatives."