sustainability alliance

sustainability Sustainability FAQs


Whether you’re new to campus or have been here for years, you probably have questions about the university’s sustainability program. The sustainability program began in 2005 and since then, we’ve accomplished a lot and have grown the program, including many ways that members of the campus community can benefit from and get involved with. Take a couple of minutes exploring this page, you’ll find answers to common questions and campus specific info that you won’t find anywhere else!

The Big Picture
What can I do: Energy Conservation
What can I do: Long Term Sustainability
What can I do: Recycling
The Big Picture

  • Really, what is this whole "sustainability" thing about?
  • There are many definitions of “sustainability”—the word is a little cumbersome. Some people will tell you sustainability is about our ability to sustain development and lifestyle into the future, recommending more mindful use of resources and materials, so that future generations are also able to meet their needs. Others will tell you about the “triple bottom line” which translates to people, planet, and profit (or equity, ecology, and economy). The triple bottom line mentality has simple goals: benefit people on campus and in our community, strive to reduce the institution’s impact on the environment and climate, and reduce costs. No matter how you define it, sustainability is about creating healthier, happier communities, we’re starting right here on campus and we hope you’ll be part of our efforts!

    When people think of campus sustainability, sometimes referred to as campus greening, they often think of particular practices, like recycling and waste minimization, energy conservation practices, local foods in the dining halls, the university’s green house gas emission report, or learning and research opportunities related to advanced energy and sustainability, like the environmental studies program or the SURES program each summer.

  • What is the "Waste stream?"
  • The waste stream is simply all the waste that leaves our campus and ends up in the landfill. Landfills are one of the primary sources of methane gas, one of the most potent green house gases that is responsible for destabilizing our atmosphere.

  • Is all this talk of green house gas emissions a lot of hot air? How much waste do we really create?
    • Every Sunday, the United States wastes nearly 90% of the recyclable newspapers. This wastes about 500,000 trees.
    • Americans send enough office paper to landfills each year to build a 12-foot-high wall of paper from New York to Los Angeles.
    • United States throws away enough aluminum to completely rebuild the American commercial airline fleet every three months.
    • The energy saved from one recycled aluminum can will operate a television set for three hours or light one 100 watt bulb for 20 hours.
    • If everyone in the U.S. recycled just 1/10 of their newsprint, we would save the estimated equivalent of about 25 million trees a year.

  • How does Case fit into this picture?
  • The university is like a small city. We use the amount of energy and create the same amount of waste as about 20,000 homes. For example:

    • In 2008, our campus sent approximately 1776 tons of waste to the landfill, costing the university about $50,000.
    • If every student at Case uses 100 sheets of paper a week for the whole year, we kill about 1327 trees.
    • Every office worker produces more than a pound of scrap paper daily, which equals 326 lbs per year.

  • Our waste stream directly impacts the university’s carbon footprint. What can we do about this?
  • Case has formed multiple fronts on this issue.The campus has a strong recycling initiative in academic, administrative, and residential buildings, not to mention the outdoor recycling bins in our high traffic areas. We participate in RecycleMania an annual contest aimed at raising awareness and decreasing our waste. From 2006 to 2009, the campus community more than doubled its recycling rates, going from about 12 tons of recycling per month to 30 tons per month!

  • Is recycling really worth the effort?
  • When we recycle 1 ton of paper, we save:

    • 17 trees
    • 7,000 gallons of water
    • 4,200 kilowatt hours of energy
    • 410 gallons of fuel
    • 60 gallons of air pollution
    • more than 3 yds' of landfill space

    What Can I Do: Energy Conservation

  • Energy conservation is important to me. Is there anything I can do while I am at the office to conserve energy?
    • Always use Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) in desk lamps as opposed to incandescent lights.
    • Switch off all unnecessary lights. Turn off fluorescent lights when leaving an area for more than five minutes.
    • Turn off incandescent lights when leaving areas for any period of time.
    • Use natural lighting when possible.
    • Use task lighting and turn off general lighting (especially when working late), where it is feasible to maintain sufficient lighting levels for safety and productivity.
    • Turn off display and decorative lighting.
    • Unplug equipment that drains energy even when not in use (i.e. cell phone chargers, fans, coffeemakers, desktop printers, radios, etc.).
    • Turn off office equipment, especially printers, copiers, and monitors at the end of the work day.
    • Use efficient ENERGY STAR products and ensure that power-down features are activated.
    • Close or tilt window blinds to block direct sunlight to reduce cooling needs during warm months.
    • Photocopy only what you need. Save large copy jobs for non-peak office hours such as early in the morning or late in the day.
    • Always use the second side of paper, either by printing on both sides or using the blank side as scrap paper.
    • Use durable coffee mugs instead of disposable cups.
    • Carpool, bike, or use mass transit when commuting to work.
    • To save gas: drive the speed limit, accelerate and decelerate slower, and be sure tires are properly inflated.

  • What about at when I get off work. I don't have much free time at home, what should I do?
    • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120EF). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.
    • Check if your water heater has an insulating blanket. An insulating blanket will pay for itself in one year or less!
    • Use energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers.
    • Wash clothing using cold water instead of warm or hot washes By switching to cold water, the typical family currently washing in warm and rinsing in cold could save up to 620 khW a year - which translates to a savings of up to $52 dollars a year. For those who both wash and rinse in warm, the savings can be more than double this if they make the switch to cold, and for those few who currently use hot water for their wash, these savings are even more significant.
    • Survey your home lighting for opportunities. Look at fixtures above the dining room table, bathrooms, and kitchen. Look at your table lamps, outdoor lights, or garage for opportunities to use energy and money saving compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. CFLs use only ¼ of the energy consumed by incandescent light bulbs and they will last up to 7 times longer. The best place to start is by targeting the lights you use the most, especially those 60-100 watts.
    • Check the age and condition of your major appliances, especially the refrigerator. You may want to replace it with a more energy-efficient model.
    • Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.

  • Ok, so this stuff is pretty cool. What can I do this week to conserve energy?
    • Visit the hardware store. Buy a water-heater blanket, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and compact fluorescents, as needed.
    • Caulk leaky windows.
    • Assess your heating and cooling systems. Determine if replacements are justified, or whether you should retrofit them to increase efficiency and provide the same comfort (or better) for less energy.
    • Change the light bulbs in the 2 rooms you use the most to energy saving CFL bulbs.

  • Wow, I'm really getting into this stuff. It has been a month and I am looking for more stuff to do.
    • Collect your utility bills. Separate electricity and fuel bills. Target the biggest bill for energy conservation remedies.
    • Crawl into your attic or crawlspace and inspect for insulation. Is there any? How much?
    • Insulate hot water pipes and ducts wherever they run through unheated areas.
    • Seal up the largest air leaks in your house--the ones that whistle on windy days, or feel drafty. The worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumping penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Better yet, hire an energy auditor with a blower door to point out where the worst cracks are.
    • Install a clock thermostat to set your thermostat back automatically at night and when away during the day.
    • Schedule an energy audit (ask your utility company or state energy office) for more expert advice on your home as a whole.

  • I must admit, I have become a slacker over the past year. What can I do to get back into the energy conservation coolness?
    • Make a difference right now! Join your school’s Green Team. You’ll become a Sustainability Ambassador and will be on the inside track for new info, guest speakers, internships, research opportunities, and green collar jobs. You’ll be joining an energetic campus-wide team of students, staff, and faculty members who are taking a leadership role in Case’s greening by being goodwill ambassadors for smart energy and recycling habits.
    • If your walls aren't insulated, have an insulation contractor blow cellulose into the walls. Bring your attic insulation level up to snuff.
    • Replace aging, inefficient appliances. Even if the appliance has a few useful years left, replacing it with a top-efficiency model is generally a good investment.
    • Seal up the largest air leaks in your house--the ones that whistle on windy days, or feel drafty. The worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumping penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Better yet, hire an energy auditor with a blower door to point out where the worst cracks are.
    • Upgrade leaky windows. It may be time to replace them with energy-efficient models or to boost their efficiency with weather-stripping and storm windows.
    • Reduce your air conditioning costs by planting shade trees and shrubs around your house, especially on the west side.

  • I use my computer a lot. How can I most effectively save power on my computer?
    • Make a difference right now! Join your school’s Green Team. You’ll become a Sustainability Ambassador and will be on the inside track for new info, guest speakers, internships, research opportunities, and green collar jobs. You’ll be joining an energetic campus-wide team of students, staff, and faculty members who are taking a leadership role in Case’s greening by being goodwill ambassadors for smart energy and recycling habits.
    • Supposing you were to stop using standby and actually shut down the computer, you would be using about 203 Kilowatt Hours, or about $20 a year. That is a net savings of over 75%!
    • Laptops are even better on power, using only about 70 Kilowatt Hours of power. That is less than 8% of an average desktop.
    • Many computer technicians do not use the standby feature and simply shutdown for better performance. So it is possible to save energy and gain performance.

    What Can I Do: Long Term Sustainability

  • What are some examples of "Long term sustainability?"
  • Reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which would curb the Co2 emissions that are ultimately responsible for global warming and climate change: carpool, don’t use your car on weekends, use public transportation, offset the miles you travel by purchasing renewable energy credits. Create less waste by only purchasing what you really want and remembering to recycle. Getting as much of your food as you can from local sources (like within the state or region) to support the local economy, increase freshness of your food, and reducing carbon emissions related to transport of food.

  • What do you mean by recycling?
  • There is a whole section on this down here.

  • What do you mean by reusing?
  • Find ways to reuse items instead of throwing them away. Not only does this make economic sense, the environment will thank you as well!

    • Plastic containers and reusable lunch bags produce less waste than their paper counterparts.
    • Before throwing away things you don't use anymore, try donating it: to friends, local donation centers, etc.
    • Use silverware, glasses, ceramic mugs, and dishes instead of disposable plastics or paper products.
    • Reuse other people's stuff by purchasing recycled merchandise at garage sales or thrift stores.

  • What do you mean by reducing?
  • Simply put, “Use Less and Recycle the Rest!” Reducing the amount of stuff you accumulate automatically means your reducing the amount of waste you produce. It’s the best way to ease your environmental impact. This includes Buying Responsibly.

    • Buy products that do not have a lot of packaging.
    • Save energy by turning off lights you are not using.
    • Save water by turning off the faucet while washing your hands and brushing your teeth.
    • Save 50% of your paper budget today! Simply use both sides of the piece of paper. Keep a stack of half-used paper for jotting notes on.

  • When you say "Buying Responsibly," you mean not spending too much money right?
  • That, in fact, has very little to do with "Buying Responsibly." Buying responsibly refers to keeping sustainability in mind on the consumer end of the market as well. If no one buys sustainable goods, what is the point of practicing sustainable habits. This part of sustainability is so big, it needed a page to itself. You can check it out here!

    What Can I Do: Recycling

  • So what exactly can I recycle?
  • You can recycle a number of every day items. Most commonly, anything made of paper: office paper, newspaper, magazines, phone books, post it notes, file folders, post cards, cereal boxes, pizza boxes (without the waxy liner paper), cardboard boxes, junk mail, etc. We also recycle all kinds of cans, tins, and beverage containers, like plastic bottles, soda cans, and glass bottles. In addition, we handle, batteries, computers, monitors, cell phones, paint, florescent bulbs, ink cartridges, office / campus furniture, and tires.

  • That is a lot of different stuff! Can you recycle all of it in the same place?
  • Unfortunately, no. Most of recyclable goods fall into one of the following categories:

  • Paper: Simple
  • The university no longer separates office paper from other types of paper products, so throw it all together! We want your copier paper, your notebook paper, newspapers, spreadsheets, folders, files, shredded paper, cards, magazines, colored paper, flyers, post it notes (sticky or not), envelopes of all kinds, chip board (cereal boxes or the inner tube of a paper towel roll), signs, posters, anything made of paper. Look for bins with the PAPER label and it all goes in!

  • PGA? Did someone say, “Greg Norman?”
  • PGA stands for Plastic, Glass, and Aluminum. This refers to drink containers that are mostly found in vending machines. Bottled water, Gatorade, Snapple, and pop cans. Remember to take the caps off before you recycle them- caps can go into the PGA bin as well.

  • Plastic? Are there not like a eleventy billion different types of plastic? Not everything can be recycled.
  • Well, not quite eleventy billion different types, but there are a lot. Fortunately, they all fall into one of seven categories. In 1988, the Resin Identification Code was established to help identify the various types of plastics.

    • #1 PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate) Commonly used for beverage bottles and frozen food trays. Recycling opportunities for PET beverage containers are widespread.
    • #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) Used to produce food containers such as milk and juice jugs, liquid detergent bottles, trash bags and cereal box liners.
    • #3 VINYL (vinyl) Used in clear food packaging, shampoo bottles and medical tubing. Also used extensively in building and construction.
    • #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) Used in food packaging such as bread, frozen food bags and shrink wrap. Also used for dry cleaning bags, trash bags, wires and cable.
    • #5 PP (polypropylene) Used to make ketchup and medicine bottles, some dairy containers and molded automobile parts. Recycling opportunities are limited.
    • #6 PS (polystyrene) PS foam is used as packing material and to make disposable food and drink containers. Solid polystyrene is used to make hard plastic items, such as glasses, containers and disposable cutlery.
    • #7 (other) Other plastics and difficult-to-recycle composites of multiple types of plastic and other material.

  • Well then, which of the seven do Case currently recycle?
  • Case only recycles 1, 2, 3, and 5. Try to buy products that are made from these types of plastics.

  • What about all the plastics that are used in labs or by custodial staff?
  • Lab plastics (#s 1, 2, 3, and 5) are also recyclable. Following suggestions from Occupational & Environmental Safety, we ask that you simply rinse out your containers 3 times before dropping them in the recycling bin. The same is true for plastics holding cleaning products.

  • What makes "cardboard" cardboard?
  • Cardboard is pretty much just thick paper. The most common type of cardboard is called "Corrugated Cardboard," which is the stuff with the wavy insides. Other types of cardboard include chipboard (cereal boxes, centers of paper towel rolls, etc.), color filing folders, brown mailing envelopes, and brown copier paper wrappers.

  • What about "everything else"?
  • Some things that fall under the "everything else" category and can be recycled or get handled as hazardous waste by the university: batteries, computers, monitors, cell phones, paint, florescent bulbs, tires, telephones, carpeting, other electronics, ink cartridges. . If you need any of those things recycled, all you have to do is put in a Work Order Request.

    For things like clothing, books, CD covers, and more everyday items, here’s a useful guide!

  • I always see places to recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. Where should I recycle everything else?
  • That is easy! If you have cardboard, just break it down so it is flat and set it next to the nearest recycle bin.

  • What can I do with anything non-recyclable at Case?
  • One option is donation. Check it out here!