Dish It Out: Let SGA Know You Support Dish Reuse on Campus

Post contributed by Liz Stanbrough, Graduate Student in Civil Engineering.

Do you want your student organization to save money and reduce waste? Then please petition SGA for a dish reuse program through their Auburn Answers platform. When asked, choose DINING (first option), and copy the following text. Feel free to add/change/etc.

I would like to see Auburn University leadership take a more defined position on sustainability. I am excited about a community dish program that Tiger Dining is planning to implement for on-campus student meetings to help us reduce waste. I want to express my support for this initiative as well as challenge Auburn leaders to match and exceed the efforts of the students organizing the dish program. I also want to see SGA create a dedicated sustainability role to lead awareness events and implement real sustainability initiatives on campus in tandem with Auburn offices.

If you want more information or have questions please contact Liz Stanbrough.


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New AU Course on Personal Resilience & Sustainability

Post Contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Academic Sustainability Programs Director

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver, A Summer’s Day

Academic Sustainability Programs is offering this semester a new 1-credit course, SUST 4900 Personal Resilience and Sustainability. This course arose out of an understanding among our sustainability instructors that Auburn students would benefit from this type of course offering. In this course, students will interact with each other and an experienced instructor to develop and celebrate aspects of personal resilience in the face of major local to global-scale changes that are confronting human society now and in the near future.

This new course will meet for an hour each week, with the timing to be determined by the schedules of enrolled students. It will focus on What is Resilience?, and will offer training in taking care of ourselves and others on a changing planet, in building community around the intention to live sustainably, resourcing in nature, creativity, and ourselves, and in learning deep ecology and practical skills.

If you have space in your course schedule to take 1 more credit this spring, consider this unique course that will explore individual wellbeing at it relates to the sustainability compass. Sustainability Compass Poster

This course can be used as a free elective, or as elective credits toward the Minor in Sustainability Studies in the area of Environment. It could be combined as an elective with our other 1-credit courses listed at or, with study abroad or other types of credits, to create 3 minor elective credits.

We are excited about this new course offering. Contact the instructor Dr. Marilyn Vogel if you have questions, or to receive a copy of the draft syllabus.

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Plant Ahead Tree Project: Planting with Purpose

Contributed by Allison Foster, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

Coming into Auburn, I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I wasn’t completely sure. My freshman year I took a Conservation Biology Learning Community class and I was exposed to ideas I didn’t really know much about, but I was interested in learning about.

I ended up changing my major to Wildlife Ecology and Management because the people I had met in that major seemed so dedicated and cared about what they were doing. This past summer I was part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of South Florida, and it focused on Weather, Climate, and Society. We had a variety of guest speakers and one that stuck out to me was Dr. Kim Cobb, from Georgia Tech. Her presentation was about little ways that you, as an individual, can lessen your carbon footprint. She mentioned an organization called Trees Atlanta and I decided to look into it.

I found out that planting trees is one of the best things you can do for the environment. There are so many different ways to reduce your carbon footprint, from the way you travel, what you eat, and what you buy. These are little things that can add up to so much more. Planting trees affects carbon emissions by removing carbon that is already in the atmosphere.

I became inspired to put on something like this at Auburn. I’m so excited to announce that at Auburn, we are having an event called PlanT Ahead where the Auburn community will come together to plant trees. This event will not only impact us locally but will hopefully bring awareness and spread elsewhere.

Learning about climate change can be overwhelming, and it can often feel like there’s no way to help. Small things can do wonders, and that’s why I invite all of y’all to join us in this event and make a difference in your community! Plant Ahead: A Tree Planting Event is taking place at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest on January 22nd.

Register to receive pre-event safety details and to get pizza at the event.

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Constructing a Gold Standard on the Field & in the Future

Contributed by Auburn Athletics Student Communicator

Phelps Gambill ImageThe world is ever-changing as we advance with new technologies and the industries that support it. With this comes even more construction for renovations and new buildings.

How does that change co-exist with the world around us as we strive to keep the Earth green and sustainable for the future? Junior tight end Phelps Gambill is one of the many Auburn student-athletes who can help us understand our move forward into how these projects go green for a cleaner job site.

“My background is in the construction industry and I am a building science major here at Auburn,” he said. “I have had a couple classes on sustainable construction, and I have worked on multiple jobs in my career focused on different ways we can get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which is how you get the accolades to be a green company.

“One important thing could be something as simple as ordering local materials for your job site,” he said. “You would not order parts from California if you were doing a job in Florida. You order from the same local area where your building site is, not only helping out the local community but also not burning as much fuel to transport those materials.”

Gambill is hands-on with this material and knows the cost of wasteful sites that do not consider the proper procedures to be a green company. That is why he plans on moving into this business space, eventually run a green-certified company of his own.

“I want to start my own contracting and general building/development company,” he said. “I have already had a goal set that I want every single one of my jobs to be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified gold standard. That is my main goal and something I will always fight for as I move towards my future.”

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Spring Course Offerings in Sustainability

Contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Academic Sustainability Programs Director

A wide variety of courses related to sustainability will be offered on campus during the Spring 2020 semester. Twenty courses which span 8 colleges on campus will be offered as part of the Minor in Sustainability Studies. Many of these courses also can be used toward core curriculum requirements, majors, or as free electives. Our compilation of Spring 2020 courses includes the course meeting times and instructors, for student ease of scheduling and making inquiries about course content. The complete updated list may be found at the course list link on the Academic Sustainability News webpage.

In addition, Auburn offers an even larger group of courses that each have some type of sustainability content, in all colleges on campus. Auburn’s sustainability course inventory describes the type of sustainability content in each course, and shows the pattern of when each course has been offered over the past 3 years, for assistance with student curriculum planning. The complete inventory, including campus-wide patterns, is available at the Academic Sustainability Course Inventory page.

Faculty: if you teach a course that you think should be included in our next 3-year inventory, please let us know. And, if you would like to apply for your course to become an approved elective for the Minor in Sustainability Studies, you can submit an application on the Academic Sustainability Programs Forms page.

Best wishes for course planning and registration for Spring semester, from Academic Sustainability Programs.



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Considerations of Sustainability in Agriculture

Contributed by Kevin Burkett, Regional Extension Agent – Farm & Agribusiness Management

Sustainability is something that has received an increasing amount of attention. Any idea/product/business/practice can be great but if it cannot sustain over time, its ability to survive and make an impact is small. Production agriculture as a whole has to be sustainable otherwise, at some point, we as humans would cease to exist. Related to this, farmers typically want to continue what they are doing long term and we need them to be successful, so we continue to have food and fiber available. Something we stress in Extension programming is financial sustainability. Simply put, are the participants in a given industry/commodity market/farmable to receive enough financial return to continue operations into the future? When the answer is no, that farm will go out of business and affect not only the farmer, but everyone up and down the food supply chain. One thing to note, the overall economy has been positive but the agricultural sector does not always mirror that. Farmers can be subject to a multitude of factors and the last several years almost all sectors of agriculture have struggled.

In agriculture, as in most markets, consumers are affected by price. Hypothetically, if food was produced but no one could afford it, you could imagine what kind of reaction there would be. Much of the food supply chain is set up to produce a sufficient (even abundant) quantity of food at an affordable price. This is evident when a customer goes to the supermarket, can choose a number of products and has the ability to pay for the products they choose. There is recognition that simply finding the cheapest price may not be the best way to determine sustainability for both consumers and producers. In fact, sometimes paying more for higher quality products is better for both. Financial return is important but sometimes calculating that return can be complicated. We may not fully understand how something positively or negatively affects sustainability until a point later in time. It is important to look big picture and see that the system as a whole is sustainable. This means natural resources, financial resources, and human resources are all available long-term.

Two things almost everyone can do to understand more about agriculture sustainability (1) get to know and support your local agriculture and (2) grow your own food. Getting to know producers within your area allows you to understand how, what, and why something is produced. You can see their stewardship practices and can understand how sustainability is implemented on their farm. Being familiar and appreciating the work they put into the community, our willingness to pay for these products increases and adds financial sustainability into the system.

Secondly, if we ask the question why is production agriculture important or necessary, it is because people stopped producing their own food. There are a number of reasons for this but in an earlier time, people produced and consumed what they needed within their own property. As times progressed, a farm was producing for themselves and their neighbor down the road. Take it a step further and that farm is producing for themselves and ten other members of their community. It would be difficult to expect everyone nowadays to be able to do this; however, producing at least some of your own food can have numerous benefits. This includes cost savings, quality, variety selection, appreciation for producing something, exercise, and less reliance on a production chain. If it does not come from you, supporting local growers shortens the link between how food gets from a field to your plate and provides benefits to local business and your community. Contact your Alabama Cooperative Extension System to get information on developing your own plot and to understand more about agriculture in your area.

To contact Kevin Burkett, email him at or call 205-245-5365

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Protecting the Quarterback & Protecting our Earth

Contributed by Auburn Athletics Student Communicator

Harrell Marquel Offensive LinemanOffensive lineman Marquel Harrell knows he has an important job when he lines up on the field: protecting the quarterback. That’s a job he puts his heart and soul into, but there is another job he considers equally important off the field: protecting our earth.

“I do my part by taking care of the little things,” Harrell said. “I do not litter, and when I see trash on the ground, I pick it up and throw it away. I make sure I recycle what is supposed to be recycled and do the best I can to help the earth.”

Harrell is a defensive lineman’s worst nightmare as he protects the line with his 6-3, 309 lb. frame. He wants folks who throw their litter on the ground to feel that same size of his disappointment when they do.

“I just don’t understand the purpose of littering,” he said. “I go around and tell folks to clean up their mess, but I see people throwing trash out of their car and I just can’t believe it. You are going somewhere that has a trash can, or you can wait until one is nearby where you can throw everything away.”

Harrell wants to see folks do good for the planet because it is the right thing to do, but he also wants to know that his family has a bright future ahead, not trouble on the horizon.

“I want to see the place cleaner so that my kids and grandkids can grow up in a healthy environment and not be worried about the world being in a crisis so they can grow old,” he said. “The world is warming up and we see the ice caps melting, so we need to take better care of the planet. Let us start here in Auburn or you’ll have to deal with me.”


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How to Recycle and Repurpose University Property Instead of Sending it to Landfills

Contributed by Robert Griffith, Ag Land & Resource Management, College of Agriculture

ALRM Overhead Google Image
ALRM Overhead Google Image

Ag Land and Resource Management (ALRM) provides construction, earth preparation, irrigation systems, AG building repair, roads, and ponds in support of the College of Agriculture (COAG) and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES). In the fall of 2018, ALRM was directed to begin the process of moving to north Auburn to make way for the new East Alabama Medical Center Complex. Over the years, a large compilation of excess construction material and equipment from past projects had built up on the nine-acre property.

Robert Hensarling, ALRM Director, chose to try to recycle and repurpose as much of these supplies and equipment as possible rather than have it buried in a landfill. Through this effort, almost all of the excess was either recycled or repurposed. What follows is a list of the people and organizations that supported the recycling and repurposing effort.

Bill Capps at AU Surplus Property is an invaluable resource for repurposing excess property at Auburn University. They conducted over 60 individual auctions through These micro-auctions ranged from an Alumcraft Boat that sold for $255 to a lot of Cattle Gates that sold for $620 to a parts room cleanout that sold for $933.23. Most of the micro-auctions not only kept the excess out of the landfill, but the work to pick up and clean out the location was accomplished by the purchaser.

Pallets of blocks and bricks for donation
Pallets of blocks and bricks for donation

Bill also authorized donations to Chewaclca State Park and Lakepoint State Park, as well as the Alabama Highway Patrol. The donations included pallets of concrete pavers, blocks, landscape supplies, and items like an ice maker. ADECA – Alabama Surplus Property collected numerous vehicles and construction equipment, which they provided to other state agencies or sold through public auctions.

The Auburn University Library and Kreher Preserve/Nature Center also participated in the effort. Jennifer Lolley arranged to have workers collect pallets of excess building supplies to support the construction of their learning center. Tommy Brown at the AU Library Special Collections & Archives helped identify several historically significant items for the library archives. Finally, university vendors recycled several dumpsters of scrap metal and old tires.

ALRM’s recycling and repurposing effort resulted in:
1) micro-auctions making thousands of dollars for the COAG,
2) saving thousand dollars in landfill tipping fees for the COAG,
3) keeping hundreds of yards of excess out of the landfill.

If anyone has questions about how to get started, Bill Capps is a good place to start.

Figure 1. Google (n.d.). [Google Maps Imagery AG Land and Resource Mgt, 925 Camp Auburn Rd, Auburn, AL]. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from,-85.5020707,334m/data=!3m1!1e3

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Reducing The Environmental Footprint of Laboratory Operations

Contributed by Steve Nelson, Associate Director Environmental Health & Safety & Kevin Ives, Communicator, both in Risk Management & Safety

Laboratories performing chemical and biological research and teaching provide a critical service to society. However, these benefits come at a disproportional environmental cost in the form of energy and resource consumption, as well as waste generation. When most people think of laboratory waste we picture waste chemicals and biological materials, as well as solid waste or trash. Granted the chemical and biological waste generated by laboratory operations make up a significant portion of the regulated waste generated by a research university, but chemical and biological waste is not the only form of waste.

Compared to office and classroom space, laboratories require up to 10 times the amount of energy to operate and use 4 times the amount of water. A single laboratory has the energy footprint of five single-family homes! With regard to energy, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) make up about 60% of the energy demand for laboratories. This is because air from a lab is not recirculated as in an office building. Rather 100 % of the air from a lab is exhausted to the outside with air exchange rates of 6 – 10 times per hour. Imagine trying to cool your home with all of the windows and doors open in the middle of summer.

But are labs inherently wasteful or are there opportunities for waste minimization, such as reducing the demand for energy and water or the volume of solid or hazardous waste generated? In order to minimize the environmental impacts of laboratory operations, we must reevaluate how we operate our labs. For example, why use ethidium bromide, a highly toxic mutagenic chemical, when nonhazardous substitutes are available? Is there a reason that a heated water bath needs to run all night just so that it is hot when you arrive in the morning? Would you leave your oven running all day so that it is pre-heated for dinner when you get home?

Since the early 2000s many colleges and universities have introduced Green Labs programs to improve efficiency, protect human health, and reduce the environmental footprint of their laboratory facilities. Each school’s program is unique to the institution but all share some common themes and initiatives. These programs address four key areas of laboratory operations relative to environmental impacts: Chemical Use, Waste Generation, Water Consumption, and Energy Consumption.

With regard to waste generation, Green Labs addresses the three areas of waste minimization: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Many programs include opportunities for recycling of laboratory plastics and other materials, which can significantly reduce the volume of solid waste generated. Worldwide, labs generate about 12 billion pounds of plastics each year. Some materials such as Styrofoam coolers present a challenge, as there have been very few options for recycling. However, the options for recycling and reuse are growing. For example, used Styrofoam from the University of Alabama at Birmingham labs is sent to a facility, which melts and molds them into polystyrene products. Other options include reusing the coolers as packaging for other shipments or returning them to the supplier. Additional opportunities for recycling include latex and nitrile gloves, electronic waste, and even some solvents.

Implementing Green Chemistry practices presents opportunities for reducing hazards in the lab as well as making laboratory practices more sustainable. The principles of of Green Chemistry include reducing the hazards of chemical syntheses and designing safer chemicals as well as reducing resource consumption. For example, if we design our chemical syntheses using nonhazardous or less hazardous materials we make our labs safer and reduce the toxicity of the waste generated. MIT’s Green Chemistry Wizard provides a useful tool for identifying less hazardous or non-hazardous chemical substitutes.

An area, which has been relatively untapped but has huge potential, is the sharing of research space and equipment. Redistribution of unwanted glassware and plasticware to other labs in the institution or the local education authorities is an example. The University of Georgia collaborates with their Local Educational Agency to distribute unwanted lab glassware and other equipment to local school science programs. Some schools such as the University of Colorado Boulder allow researchers to rent space in an ultralow temperature freezer for sample storage. This allows a lab, which has limited needs for storage, to avoid the cost of purchasing one of these freezers and saves the institution on energy demands.

Energy Star LogoMany Green Labs programs target lab hoods and ultralow temperature freezers (AKA -80 Freezer). These two items typically represent the largest energy loads in a lab and present the greatest opportunity for reducing energy demand. For the past several years, the International Institute of Sustainable Labs (I2SL) and the My Green Lab organization have sponsored the “International Freezer Challenge”. Participants in the challenge reduced their energy consumption by over 6 million kWh or enough energy to power about 850 homes. The CDC in Atlanta achieved energy reduction of more than 320,000 kWh annually through clearing old samples, which allowed removal of 44 freezers; adjusting temperature set points on 60 freezers from -80 to -70; and defrosting/cleaning of 100 freezers. The CDC estimates cost savings from this program of more than $127,000 annually. In addition, “Shut the Sash” initiatives designed to reduce energy wasted through hoods being left open when not in use have been very successful for cutting energy demands. Leaving the sash open on a single fume hood for a day can waste as much energy as three single-family homes. In addition, replacing old equipment with modern energy efficient models can also cut waste and save energy. For example, replacing an old-style, -80 freezer with an Energy Star model can save 20 kWh per day or about the equivalent of a single-family home.

Cumulatively these types of changes can have substantial benefits in the form of reduced energy consumption and the associated emission of greenhouse gases, as well as cost savings. A pilot study at Harvard University found that shutting hood sashes in the 278 hoods operated by the Chemistry & Chemical Biology Department saved as much as $250,000 a year and prevented emissions of 350 tons of greenhouse gases. Going further, some schools have begun focusing on fine-tuning their laboratory buildings to optimize efficiency and reduce energy use. The University of California Irvine is an example of what can be accomplished with this Smart Labs approach. While most facilities have plateaued at 20 – 25% energy savings, UC Irvine is achieving 50% reductions in energy consumption in their lab buildings!

Recently, Auburn University formed a Green Labs working group to explore the potential for implementing a Green Labs program. The working group includes representatives from the Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management, Risk Management and Safety, and the Office of the Vice President of Research. If you are interested in participating in the Green Labs program or just want additional information, please feel free to email Steve Nelson in Risk Management and Safety or visit Auburn’s Green Labs webpage.

Green Lab Resources

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Recycling: It’s a Team Effort

Contributed by Hollie Lee, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine

Walmart founder, Sam Walton, said, “We’re all working together; that’s the secret.” Let me tell you about our little secret! At Auburn, we are making a difference in waste reduction at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) by working together. The CVM has partnered with AU Waste Reduction and Recycling Department (WRRD), AU Risk Management and Safety (RMS), AU Office of Sustainability (OS), as well as our scientific supply vendor, VWR™, to minimize our landfill waste. Our collaborative efforts are making a significant impact on waste reduction.

AU’s WRRD has a great program for taking care of our most recyclable products. At our desks, we have blue bins for mixed paper. In more common areas, we have receptacles for plastic containers, as well as aluminum and steel cans. Flattened cardboard is collected by our custodial contractors, ABM®. WRRD provides larger collection bins that are emptied periodically outside the buildings.

AU’s RMS and OS joined forces to provide battery recycling for the CVM. OS provides the receptacles for collection and RMS provides the management and pick up of recyclable batteries. Why wouldn’t we want batteries in our landfills? When batteries begin to degrade, the chemicals may leak into the ground which can lead to soil and water contamination. By recycling batteries, we are able to keep hazardous material from entering landfills as well as using the recycled materials to fabricate new products. Ultimately, we are conserving precious energy resources and the need to collect new, raw materials.

VWR Lab Bench to the Park BenchOur scientific supply vendor, VWR™, recently began “From the Lab Bench to the Park Bench,” a pipet tip box recycling program. This program offers a convenient opportunity to recycle an abundant source of waste found in every laboratory. With this program, we are diverting hard-to-recycle plastic (typically #5) from the waste stream. This easy-to-use recycling program provides boxes for waste collection, shipment, and recycling for used pipet tip boxes. All brands of plastic pipet tip boxes are accepted. The plastic waste is ground, melted, and pelletized through extrusion by TerraCycle™ to create recycled resin. The resin is then combined with other recycled plastics to make park benches and other eco-friendly products.

This concerted effort between departments and vendors at AU is phenomenal! It couldn’t happen without essential personnel combining knowledge, enthusiasm, and collegiality for a common purpose. Reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills conserves our natural resources, prevents pollution, and ultimately saves energy.

How do the numbers stack up?

TeamPounds of Recycled Materials (Jan-Jun 2019)
Waste Reduction and Recycling Department (all of AU)670,976
Risk Management and Safety (CVM only)100
VWR/Terracycle (CVM only)455

The following team members made this happen:

  • Joan Hicken, AU Waste Reduction & Recycling Department
  • Michael Freeman, AU Risk Management and Safety
  • Cassandra Kitchens, AU Department of Pathobiology. CVM
  • Hollie Lee, AU Department of Clinical Sciences
  • Julie Woods, VWR Sales Representative for AU

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