A pair of local colleges had two of the best “green projects” in the nation for 2012, the National Wildlife Federation announced last week.
Case studies detailing the projects from Blue Ridge Community College and Eastern Mennonite University are among the 112 chosen for the federation’s Campus Ecology database.
Established in 1989, the database shows the measures universities and colleges have taken to make campuses more sustainable.
“We are pleased to have been listed as a case study and look forward to sharing that information with others,” said Eldon Kurtz, physical plant director at EMU.
Schools included in the database have made “substantial investment in the sustainability of their campuses, communities and their curriculum,” a statement from the NWF reads.
EMU’s project, a $90,000, 100,000-gallon stormwater harvesting tank, collects water runoff across 15 acres of campus to supply irrigation to four athletic fields and vegetation, and helps prevent erosion in Park Woods forest on campus.
“We do like the idea of being able to use rainwater to irrigate our fields rather than using water that has been treated by the city,” Kurtz said. “That is costly and it also seems like a bit of a waste to use water that is good drinking water for irrigating fields.”
Annually, 1.7 million gallons of water are expected to be collected, saving the university around $3,825.
At BRCC, students are exploring sustainable agriculture through a series of on-campus living laboratories: essentially small gardens that include blueberries, kiwi, tomatoes and corn, beans and squash grown using a technique pioneered by Native Americans.
“We’re trying to showcase plantings that would be relatively native to the area, but also show that you can actually landscape with edibles,” said David Wiggins, workforce services program manager for BRCC. “We hope to use these laboratories in the spring for some actual edible landscaping classes.”
The yields from the project — which received funding from a $3,000 grant — benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
Wiggins said the college was able to present its project several weeks ago in a nationwide Web seminar hosted by NWF.
“[It was] very exciting to … showcase to the rest of the country what good things Blue Ridge is doing,” Wiggins said. “We’re hoping to expand in the spring … it’s only going to get better.”
Courtesy Daily News Record, Dec. 4, 2012