The Greening of PSR

February 8, 2010
Meighan Pritchard, MDiv 2010

photo credit: Donnel Miller-MutiaHow does PSR serve as a good steward of this good earth? With our “tradition of boldness,” how do we live into a theology of caring for creation? How green is PSR?

Perhaps greener than you think. No, we do not use solar panels or windmills to generate energy, and our buildings could use some updating, but there are a lot more ways to be green. Over the years, there have been efforts to improve the carbon footprint of this campus, and the results are so integrated into the whole that we may not even be aware of their contribution to the health of this community. Terry Dyonzak, the director of facilities, and Andy Maxon, chef/manager in d’Autremont Dining Hall, are both key players in efforts to make PSR a green place. The Facilities Task Force is looking at long-term green housing options. A campus group called the Theological Roundtable on Ecological Ethics and Spirituality (TREES) is also planning environmental education opportunities and working with PSR staff on greening projects.

Late last fall I spoke with Chef Andy Maxon, who gave me a tour of the kitchen, pointing out organic products: some of the cereals, milk (usually), mustard, tea, flour, sunflower seeds, olive oil, red wine vinegar, oats, and bear mush (like cream of wheat). The milk is not only organic but also local: Clover Farms is in the Bay Area. The eggs are not organic, but they are from cage-free chickens. The yogurt and ketchup used to be organic but came in such small containers that they were almost more packaging than product. Andy decided to go with larger containers and less packaging. Of the eight varieties of organic Numi Tea, five are fair trade, and the packaging of the boxes uses 100 percent recycled cardboard. Our coffee comes from Beneficio Coffee, which is a fair trade company and also invests a percentage of its profits in coffee-growing regions of Costa Rica. For those of us trying to eat lower on the food chain, there are always vegetarian entrée options available, and sometimes the kitchen staff also label items that are vegan or provide dairy-free versions of entrées.

Dining hall staff recycle aluminum, steel, cardboard, and plastic. Napkins are made of 100 percent recycled paper. Ceramic coffee mugs hanging on pegs by the coffee machine provide a sustainable option that is better than disposable cups.

According to Terry Dyonzak, PSR’s facilities director, most PSR buildings already have compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) or lower wattage halogens. In some places that do not need full lighting, light fixtures that have space for three or four florescent tubes only have two or three tubes installed. In 1999, lighting was redone in the Mudd building to use 13-watt plug-ins or T8 florescent tubes with electronic ballast instead of insulation; these cut down significantly on energy usage.

About five or six years ago, Terry renegotiated the contract with our laundry machine provider to give us front-load washers, which use less water then top-loading models and also take less gas to run. Pacific Gas and Electric gave PSR a big rebate for making this switch.

To encourage alternative commute modes, PSR provides bicycle racks in sheltered or semi-sheltered areas. The latest addition to the rack collection, in late fall 2009, is three rows of bike racks in the lower Arch parking garage, which is cleared of cars. These racks allow space for plenty of bicycles, and the area is accessible only to those who know the door code. The area is available both to campus residents and to commuters. Commuters and residents interested in storing their bikes there can see the main desk for the code.

Our old campus buildings require plenty of heat, but Terry runs the boilers as little as possible to minimize use of fuel. The boilers are on in the morning and in the evening until about midnight but run at reduced heat during midday.

PSR’s cleaning crew is moving toward greener cleaning products. Terry noted that green cleaning products were not very good at first but are becoming more effective.

PSR’s Facilities Task Force is looking at how to bring housing units up to modern standards. This is a long-term project, as our buildings are old and needy, while funding for repairs is tight. High on Terry’s wish list is double-paned windows for all buildings, as they would keep heat from escaping. More efficient heating systems are also on that list, as the current ones waste gas, but new systems would involve re-piping some buildings.

Some of our campus administrative practices have also become green. It is very rare that we receive leaflets in our mailboxes about upcoming events. Such leaflets used to be commonplace but have been replaced by the Weekly Calendar and other online resources. We register for courses online as well--this used to be a paper process-- and the course catalog is now only available online. Moodle provides a means for distributing class readings and generating class discussions paper-free. Applicants to PSR can submit most of their paperwork online as well, if they so choose, and Logos is also available in this way. Recycle bins dot the campus to collect our paper, cans, bottles, cardboard, and yard waste.

We can do our part to help make this campus more energy efficient. We can take care to turn off lights and computers when we leave a space, and shut windows and doors to keep from sending heat outside. Such simple things as turning off the water while we brush our teeth can save many gallons over time. We can request low-flow showerheads in our living quarters. There are plenty of other ways to conserve energy as well.

TREES is generating momentum around greening practices on campus. TREES meets on the first and third Wednesdays at 12:30pm in d’Autremont Dining Hall and welcomes new participants as well as input from those with ideas about creating an even greener campus, including greening the curriculum. Much of the task of greening campus depends not on Andy, Terry, or a task force, but on us. What would you like to see?

This article was reprinted from the December 2009/January 2010 LOGOS, the student paper of the Community Association of Pacific School of Religion (CAPSR). The full paper can be viewed online.

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