with urgent and increasing environmental challenges, our educational
institutions need to educate and graduate environmental problem
solvers, as well as take responsibility for the ecological impacts
of their physical plants. If environmental stewardship is the
goal, then auditing the campus environment is an excellent first
step toward reaching it."
~ April Smith, author, Campus Ecology
and universities around the world offer courses on environmentally
responsible policies and practices. However, relatively few have
applied their teachings to their own campuses and aggressively
implemented environmentally ethical measures. In 1994, at Yale
University, The Campus Earth Summit, sponsored by the Heinz Family
Foundation, brought together faculty, staff, and students from
all over the world to design what is now known as Blueprint for
a Green Campus. This set of recommendations was one of the first
to prescribe the means by which colleges and universities could
set the example for sustainability in their communities; a means
by which their own campuses could and should become living laboratories
for "walking the talk."
April Smith, author of Campus Ecology, says, conducting a campus
environmental audit is one of the first steps toward helping universities
develop an effective environmental policy targeting sustainability.
An environmental audit is designed to pinpoint the most significant
environmental impacts and their causes. Environmental audits can
result in cost savings for a university by identifying areas where
resources are overused and that warrant improvement. Also, auditing
can enhance a university's public image as a good community neighbor.
the fall of 1999, a campus environmental audit was conducted at
the University of Wisconsin River-Falls (UW-RF), a coeducational,
public university with an enrollment of approximately 5,800 students.
The UW-RF Campus Environmental Audit - the first to be conducted
by any of the 13 four-year comprehensive universities of the University
of Wisconsin System - began under the instruction and supervision
of Dr. Kelly Cain, a professor in the Department of Plant and
Earth Science. The audit structure was adapted from the recommendations
of April Smith in Campus Ecology. The UW-RF Campus Environmental
Audit is the first fully functional, up-to-date audit in the University
of Wisconsin System to benchmark resource consumption in order
to create a campus community that is aware of its resource consumption
habits. This project has resulted in an extensive database that
holds short- and long-term potential for achieving an environmentally
sustainable campus community - assuming faculty, staff, and students
are responsive both attitudinally and behaviorally to its revelations.
The first step toward creating the audit was to secure a Collaborative
Undergraduate Research Grant from the university. The research
goals were to: 1) identify what the trends are and have historically
been in resource consumption (i.e. water and electricity usage),
and waste generation (solid waste and recycling); 2) identify
buildings and/or systems where resource consumption and waste
generation can be decreased; 3) provide recognition where resource-conserving
initiatives are working; and 4) identify the economic costs and
benefits of the campus' consumptive habits. Over the past two
years, an overwhelming amount of data have been collected, disseminated,
collection of data for the audit was initially met with skepticism.
Facilities managers were hesitant to turn over data that showed
the campus' consumption habits to a student who was proposing
to conduct an "audit," a concept usually fraught with
negative connotation. To gain their support, it was necessary
to first focus on education. By helping facilities managers understand
the goals of the project, it became clear how the data would be
used and how it could help them do their jobs better in the future.
Over the course of several meetings, support increased as they
began to understand the purpose, usefulness, and intent of the
facilities managers warmed up to the idea of an environmental
audit, they started to share the data needed to get the audit
started. Months of investigating utility bill statements, recycling
reports and electrical meter log sheets from the 26 buildings
on campus were necessary to establish a baseline. Going back in
time to 1994, solid waste (recyclables), water consumption, and
electrical data were collected and analyzed. It was determined
that the most useful way to present the data to the campus community
was through total resource usage, total cost of resource usage,
average amount used per campus community member, and average cost
per campus community member. Additionally, water consumption data
was divided into resource use per campus building (electricity
consumption data is planned to be divided similarly).
the data was transformed into accessible tables, charts, and graphs,
facilities managers' hesitation blossomed into a symbiotic relationship
that has evolved to the point where they now automatically send
current data once it is compiled to be added to the audit's official
website. In fact, facilities managers are now using data displayed
on the audit website to track resource use and to evaluate whether
existing conservation efforts, such as recycling, are effective.
beginning a project like this, it is important to accurately estimate
the resources that must be committed to getting it off the ground,
particularly time and personnel. Although this project involved
only one student and a faculty advisor, it is strongly recommended
to involve a team in the effort. That way, responsibilities can
be divided and no one person is overwhelmed trying to set up meetings
with busy faculty and staff and sift through mounds of data. In
the future, this project will involve a team of students from
a proposed environmental studies class. This team will be able
to put their minds and skills together to think strategically
about how to foster environmental sustainability and communicate
the audit's goals to the entire campus community.
key strategy to ensuring the audit's success is carefully selecting
which systems to audit based on which would have the greatest
impact on the greatest number of people on campus. Initially,
for example, the plan was to audit hazardous waste materials found
in laboratories; however, after more thought and research, it
was decided that hazardous waste would not yield the results needed
to prove the validity of a campus-wide audit. Not all students,
faculty and staff use the labs on a day-to-day basis and likely
would not find a hazardous waste audit as meaningful as an audit
of a resource they use daily, such as materials, water or electricity.
Auditing these systems would enable individuals to quantify their
own resource consumption. By summarizing resource consumption
and cost per person, and showing where improvements can be made
or where improvements are working, the audit could become a vital
part of the campus community.
The data analysis yielded some eye-catching results. Here are
some of the preliminary observations based on collected data.
· In 1994-95 and 1995-96, UW-RF recycled approximately
130,000 pounds of office paper, magazines, and newsprint per year.
In 1996-97, paper recycling increased 10% to more than 143,000
pounds per year. Though it is still not clear why, paper recycling
dropped to a six-year low of 128,000 pounds in 1998-99.
The average amount of aluminum, glass, and plastic containers
used by the campus community over the past five years is seven
pounds per person. In 1994-95, four pounds were used per person,
and in 1998-99, nine pounds were used per person.
The increase in pounds of containers used per person from 1994-95
to 1998-99 signals the great success the campus recycling program
is having getting people to dispose of aluminum, glass, and plastic
· The data reveals an overall trend of reduced water
consumption. UW-RF went from using 10,768 gallons of water per
person in 1994-95, up to a high of 11,805 gallons per person in
1996-97, and then down to 10,581 gallons per person in 1998-99.
Taking into account a campus population increase of 6 percent
between 1994-95 (5,464 people) and 1998-99 (5,865 people), it
is notable that the potential impact of this increase was significantly
reduced by campus-wide water conservation practices.
The cost of water used by individuals fluctuated from $10.64 per
person in 1994-95 to $11.30 per person in 1998-99. Even though
the amount of water used per person was less in 1998-99 than in
1994-95 the price has gone up because of the increased demand
placed on the City of River Falls Water Works due to urban sprawl
and the increased need for infrastructure.
· In the 1997-98 academic year, the campus underwent a
major water fixture retrofitting which provided a drop in water
usage per person from 11,805 gallons in 1996-97 to 10,581 gallons
in 1998-99. This reduction per person was achieved despite the
6% rise in campus population from 1994-95.
· Unlike water consumption, electricity consumption
on campus per student, faculty, and staff has gone up consistently.
In 1994-95 the campus went from 11,694,097-kilowatt hours to 13,224,000-kilowatt
hours in 1998-99. In 1998-99 the total cost of electricity on
campus was more than half a million dollars.
Total kilowatts hours used per person have gone up in correlation
with population increases since 1994-95, going from 2,140-kilowatt
hours in 1994-95 to 2,255-kilowatt hours in 1998-99. This increase
can be attributed to more activities and classes taking place
on campus and the increasing number of students with personal
computers and other electronic devices.
tables and charts from which this data was taken are accessible
These types of documented observations, coupled with a proactive
campus administration that will work to improve resource consumption
habits, will lead UW-River Falls down a path toward sustainability.
OF THE UW-RF CAMPUS ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT
The ability of the audit to strengthen its role in campus decision-making
is dependent upon the infrastructure for its maintenance. Currently,
a new course proposal is being considered for teaching the combined
skill areas of environmental assessments and environmental audits.
The campus environmental audit was significant to the development
of this proposed course, which would be taken primarily by Environmental
Science majors and would provide direct and transferable skills
in seeking employment in corporate or consulting settings. The
course would actively engage students in collecting, disseminating,
and publishing resource consumption data on systems already audited,
but also enable them to audit campus systems that have not yet
yet to be audited provide an exciting opportunity for the audit
to be incorporated into other areas of the campus. These areas
include, but are not limited to:
Campus Design - is the university utilizing sustainability-based
planning principles when considering land-use, building, and landscaping
plans for the future?
Storm Water Runoff - what is the runoff contribution from
the campus in terms of chemical and thermal pollutants to the
local Kinnickinnic River, a Class I trout stream of national reputation?
Transportation and Parking - what is the impact of commuting
and parking on campus and the local community, what is being done
to make transportation to and from campus more efficient, and
what initiatives are there to minimize the impact of parking?
Paths (walking and biking) - are campus paths useful and
well used or are they troublesome and unaccommodating?
Composting - the campus already has an extensive composting
program that integrates animal manure from the farms with paper
and food wastes from the campus. What is the input and output
of this system and what are the cost-benefit efficiencies of the
Procurement Policies - is UW-River Falls purchasing recycled
content products and sensitive to the environmental and social
impacts of where its supplies come from?
Workplace Environment - what is the quality of the workplace
environment in terms of air, space, light, aesthetics, and ergonomic
design? Are there associated health and/or productivity issues
with their work and study environments?
Hazardous Materials and Waste - what are the historic and
current inputs and outputs of the current hazardous waste system?
How much is produced? How is it handled? Where does it go?
Pest Control - what is done to manage bats, rats, bugs,
and weeds, etc., and are the methods consistent with a commitment
Environmental Literacy - what efforts are being made to
educate the campus and local community? Are they working and how
do we know?
THE CAMPUS COMMUNITY ABOUT THE AUDIT
This audit is an attempt to bring attention to resource consumption
on campus and evaluate potential impacts. All the information
gathered during the auditing process is being updated yearly as
new data is obtained. The audit website is both accessible and
functional. It includes a section of e-mail links to contact people
working on the audit, provides websites for interested campus
community members to go and learn more about campus auditing,
and contains a section on frequently asked questions.
is easy to neglect a careful study of the impact of a campus on
local resources. It is easy to look at other people and say, "Well,
I'm not as wasteful as that person," or "I recycle,
what more can I do?" To be truly sustainable and make progress
toward sustainability, it is absolutely essential to establish
benchmarks on resource consumption. If benchmarking is not in
place for monitoring resource use, it is very difficult for an
institution to be accountable for its actions. If resource consumption
is not benchmarked and the campus community is unaware of its
consumption habits, it is impossible to work toward resource-conserving
 Smith, A. April and the Student Environmental Action Coalition.
Campus Ecology, 1993.
 Data referred to in this article can be viewed at UW-RF's
 Interview with Carl Gaulke, River Falls Utility Finance Director
 Interview with Tim Thum and Manny Kenney, University of Wisconsin-River
Falls, Department of Facilities Management
 Interview with Tim Thum and Manny Kenney, University of Wisconsin-River
Falls, Department of Facilities Management
Rusty Callier is a senior Land Use Planning major and Conservation
minor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. With help from
Environmental Science & Management Professor Dr. Kelly Cain,
Rusty has actively pursued auditing campus systems for two years.
He will be starting an MBA program with an environmental management
concentration this fall at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis,
MN. Any questions or comments can be sent to him at: RustyCallier@aol.com,
or can be mailed to him at: 409 North Clark St. Apt#3, River Falls,
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