By MICHAEL O’NEAL
The University of Mary Washington has once again earned recognition for its on-campus green initiatives as a recipient of the 2014 Green Travel Leader Award. The award is given in recognition of several environmentally friendly programs enacted throughout the Fredericksburg, Stafford and Dahlgren campuses.
The Virginia Green Travel Star Award is the recognition program of the “Virginia Green program,” Virginia’s voluntary initiative to encourage green practices in the Commonwealth’s tourism industry.
The program is run through a partnership between the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association.
UMW was one of 16 organizations to win the award, and the only university to do so.
“I think Mary Washington is on the right track, but there are always ways to improve,” said senior English major Sean Stableford. “We should look into alternate forms of power. It would be cool to see solar panels on dorm roofs one day.”
This award caps off a strong year for sustainability initiatives at UMW.
In 2014, UMW obtained LEED silver certification for the new Information and Technology Convergence Center on the Fredericksburg campus. LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.
To receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification.
Arguably the most notable of UMW’s recent sustainability initiatives is its recycling program. Available on all three university campuses, the program provides recycling bins in all campus buildings and at all events.
This past year, UMW students custom-painted the lids of recycling bins to draw more attention to the program. UMW also ranked first in the 2014 RecycleMania “Per Capita Classic” competition, a nationwide, eight-week competition between colleges and universities.
UMW’s collection of 244,944 pounds of material during the RecycleMania competition was comparable to the result of removing 67 cars from the road, or the equivalent of the energy consumption of 30 households.
While these achievements in sustainability are representative of positive change, UMW still has areas in which it can improve.
“I one time saw a squirrel take a banana peel out of a recycling bin, and I don’t think banana peels are recyclable, so I don’t think the school is doing enough,” said senior Max Traubert.
A recent project of custom-painting the recycling bin lids on-campus is aimed at reducing misuse of the bins in the future.
Over the past several years, the UMW community has focused on maintaining an environment of responsibility and sustainability, and this mentality has fueled many initiatives such as RecycleMania and LEED certification of buildings, projects that are expected to be increased and expanded in 2015.