March 07, 2019

A Penny Saved is A Planet Earned

Making small changes not only improve our energy efficiency, but also prolong the life of our buildings.

The principles and practices that define sustainability have been part of St. Kate’s for so many years, it’s easy to forget or miss the many ways we live this mission on campus. In the coming weeks we will share stories and examples of how sustainability is part of teaching, learning, and student life.


In recent years, as campus integration activities have progressed, much of the sustainability conversation has focused on our buildings. Making small changes have added up to measurable energy and operating cost savings over time that not only improve our campus efficiency but also prolong the life of our buildings.

On a campus like ours, where the average building age is over 50 years, adapting and adopting new technologies and practices into existing buildings and services is an accepted standard practice. Many of these same technologies are used in new buildings designed for LEED certification. In older buildings they bring both energy and financial benefits. A few examples of these improvements include:

​Energy audit and upgrades

St. Kate’s Facilities Management group identified buildings with the highest overall energy usage and outlined a plan to reduce that consumption. To date, all buildings have undergone energy audits and our Facilities group is currently making a number of improvements in buildings across campus.

​Waste stream evaluation

The Facilities team changed waste hauling services, partnering with Aspen Waste to help track progress on campus efforts to reduce landfill waste and improve recycling and composting. A program to promote composting in Dining Services, and changing some paper products to compostable alternatives all support this effort.

LED lighting conversion

Converting to LED lighting is another small step with a greater overall impact. The longevity of the technology means reduced labor and material costs, as well as dramatically lower energy use. By converting all our outdoor lighting to LED, Facilities Management has reduced energy consumption in that area by 75% and realized an estimated $16,000 savings. Lighting upgrades and retrofits are complete on four campus buildings; the remaining buildings will follow based on analytics of which ones have the highest electrical use.

Responsive, proactive maintenance

Facilities Management has also implemented building automation services so the team can track building systems, identify maintenance needs and proactively address them. Between September 2017 and October 2018, this proactive maintenance helped eliminate 147 tons of carbon dioxide from our overall carbon emissions – equivalent to the amount of energy needed to charge an estimated 17 million smartphones, according to EPA estimates.

The cost and energy savings from these building and operational improvements are something the Facilities group can use to support additional investments in future sustainability efforts, and encourage an ongoing cycle of environmental stewardship.

Next Week’s Story

We all have a role to play in promoting campus sustainability efforts. The Student Senate is sponsoring a #KatiesGoGreen Challenge this month to encourage awareness and show the power and impact of small daily life changes. Check back next week to learn more about it.