Whether going to the bottle refill station in the Colbert Library & Education Center or enjoying the medicinal garden just outside the library’s doors, MUSC employees have multiple ways to join in the growing green movement on campus.
That’s what community leaders experienced firsthand during campus tours Feb. 27 that were part of the awards ceremony and kick off of Charleston’s Green Business Challenge. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley thanked MUSC for hosting the ceremony and for its partnership. “The tour was just amazing to see your participation in the sustainability movement in our community.”
It’s important for businesses to share ideas and strategies for the movement to maintain its momentum, he said, adding that 59 businesses representing 7 million square feet of property completed the challenge coming up with 600 new strategies to create a more sustainable community.
“Just think of what our savings could be next year with this kind of momentum,” he said.
Carolee Williams, project manager at the city’s Department of Planning, Preservation & Sustainability, said the event was a wonderful blend of information and inspiration. “We had about 100 people in attendance and there are already about 35 signed up for next year. More importantly both the presentations and the networking reception included many sparks of good information and meaningful connections.”
Williams said the goals of Charleston’s voluntary Green Business Challenge are to improve the performance of commercial and institutional buildings and their operations by reducing energy and water consumption, by reducing waste and by buying local. The challenge is a dynamic program that is tailored to each businesses’ goals toward various levels of sustainability. Throughout the year participants learn from each other and from experts in various fields with practical implementable strategies, she said.
“It also allows participants to see what the benefits of undertaking many small or large initiatives are as a collective.”
Some highlights from this year’s actions include:
- Challenge participants implementing more than 600 new strategies toward working in a more sustainable and healthy manner. Added to last year’s total, challenge participants have instituted more than 1,000 new practices.
- Fourteen participants saved almost 4 million kilowatt-hours.
- Thirteen participants saved more than 12 million gallons of water.
- Six participants increased their recycling by almost 70,000 gallons and two participants increased their recycling by 166 tons.
- Eight participants decreased their waste by almost 650,000 gallons and two participants decreased their waste by 2 tons.
Christine von Kolnitz Cooley, MUSC’s sustainability manager, said MUSC has been working for years on sustainability and has gotten to a point where there is a whole suite of projects that can be toured. “It is so much better to show someone what you are doing. It makes a bigger impact. The event gave us an opportunity to give a tour to 30 plus people. It also helped our staff to be able to talk about what MUSC has been doing and to see the positive reactions from others. Positivity breeds positivity.”
MUSC has won many eco-friendly awards and was recognized by the city last year as being a Green Business Pioneer. The city’s challenge program is a very focused way to work on sustainability that provides a list of opportunities, she said. “There are so many opportunities that it can seem overwhelming. This is a way for a group or individual to break sustainability down into some of its component parts and focus on those parts. It also offers a way to measure your success. The measurement is invaluable.”
In the limelight this year was MUSC’s Dental College, which received a certificate for finishing the challenge year in Tier 2, having moved up from Tier 3. The college intends to continue for another year to hopefully end up in Tier 1. The Dental College saved 276,000 gallons of water over the challenge year from Nov. 2011 to Oct. 2012 in the dental building; started a paperless patient check-in procedure; consolidated orders to save on shipping labor and materials; promoted the reuse of boxes and recycling of paper, bottles, cans, toner cartridges and batteries; began collecting food waste from an employee break room for composting at the urban farm; and created a green newsletter for the college.
“I am very proud of the MUSC faculty, staff and students,” said Cooley. “The sustainability effort is an effort that cannot be accomplished by any one person or department. It takes every person at MUSC to achieve sustainability - for example those who are recycling, turning off a light, planting native plants, building green buildings, riding public transportation, reporting a leaky faucet, purchasing local food and goods, keeping themselves healthy and educating each other on all these topics and more.”
Cooley said her group offers presentations, tours, a website and FaceBook to help get out the news.
“My wish is for the MUSC community to know as much as possible as they can about what they can do to help MUSC become sustainable.”