Sustainability viewpoints

Sustainability is All About Efficiency

These days most of us are consumed with budget concerns and the economy. It’s times like these that people often question the relevance of sustainability. Yet, the very tenants of sustainability can help us reduce costs. I like to say that we have the greatest opportunity in our challenge areas, but it takes some creativity; the opportunity here is to take a thoughtful look at our practices and make changes to save money while also reducing waste.

WalMart has emerged as a leader in sustainability. If you look at their long-standing business model, this is not surprising. A major component of their operating philosophy has been to save costs and increase profit margins by maximizing efficiency. They designed their approach to sustainability with a focus on mitigating waste – solid waste, wasted energy, and transportation dollars are examples. ASU shouldn’t be any different.

I’ve observed on campus what I call “NMBS” or “Not My Budget Syndrome”. Most of the operating costs for the university come from a centralized pool of money, not from individual departments and yet those departments’ actions influence the expenditures. There are savings all around us – and especially in areas that in the past have seemed beyond our purview.

ASU’s utility budget is the pool of money that pays for water, purchased electricity, generated electricity, and waste disposal (among other things) on all four campuses. It is also one of the largest non-personnel expenditures of the university budget which we can actually influence. However, it takes all of us working together to make significant change. Turning off lights and computers when they are not needed is an example. Fewer kilo-watt hours used is actually dollars saved.

Looking at our solid waste footprint, we can do even more. ASU is charged less to handle recycling than to handle trash and actually receives a rebate on cardboard. We can also save money by producing less trash/recycling in general – fewer water bottles and less paper going into the waste stream means an automatic savings to the university. Changing printing practices reduces the amount of paper you need to purchase for departments, as well as fewer printer cartridges.

My advice, look at the “waste” in your department to capture the savings for the entire university that will propel us into the future while practicing the very core of sustainability.
Bonny Bentzin
Manager, University Sustainability Business Practices