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Notre Dame works to be green

Christian Myers | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Notre Dame’s director of Sustainability discussed the University’s current efforts and future plans to be green during a lecture Monday to kick off the Mendoza College of Business Ethics Week.

Heather Christopherson, a Notre Dame graduate, said sustainability is part of Catholic social teaching. She said Vatican City has become carbon neutral, and she referenced statements by Pope Benedict XVI about the need to use resources properly.

According to Christopherson, the University saves money.

“When the University replaced inefficient lights in older buildings around campus, the return on investment was estimated to take four to five years. In the end it only took about a year and a half,” Christopherson said.

Christopherson said the three goals of the Sustainability Department are reducing the University’s carbon footprint, reducing waste — including energy, water and trash — and increasing outreach.

The University requires new buildings on campus to be built to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications rating for green buildings, Christopherson said.

The University works with companies like Office Depot to make deliveries to campus more sustainable as well. Supplies from the company now come in green, reusable totes and then delivered to individual professors and departments in brown paper bags, Christopherson said.

“We have worked with Office Depot to reduce waste in ordering office supplies,” she said. “In the past, office supplies arrived in cardboard boxes with a lot of unnecessary packaging.”

Another example is the effort to get “tailgaters” to recycle, she said. This involved volunteers walking through the parking lots and collecting recyclables from the fans. According to Christopherson, these efforts were very successful and resulted in Notre Dame winning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenge for the Midwest, beating Michigan, Michigan State and other universities.

In the area of transportation the University has incorporated the Zipcar program and uses some hybrid vehicles. According to Christopherson there are plans to make use of electric vehicles in the foreseeable future.

Christopherson said there is also a program to make laboratories more sustainable.

“There was a lab that used four large, inefficient ovens to clean glassware,” she said. “It only took about an hour to clean the glassware, but the ovens were left on 24/7 and only some of the space in each was used. We replaced these four ovens with one new, efficient oven.”

A major concern for sustainability is communication. There are various programs in place to try and educate the Notre Dame community about recycling, limiting energy consumption and other concerns, Christopherson said.


For example, she said the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) exchange during which students are offered free CFL light bulbs to replace their incandescent bulbs.

According to Christopherson, sustainability is now a part of the Contemporary Topics curriculum for Notre Dame students.