MT. PLEASANT — Central Michigan University is encouraging a “culture of sustainability,” according to Tom Rohrer, director of the Great Lakes Institute of Sustainable Systems.

Rohrer notes that student-led organizations and initiatives like Take Back the Tap, a group of students working together to gradually phase out the sale of bottled water on CMU’s campus, have helped to make an impact on CMU’s operations.

CMU has responded to the TBTT initiative by purchasing approximately 15,000 fewer units of bottled water for resale between 2011 and 2012. Beginning in 2012, CMU installed retrofit kits into more than 40 drinking fountains across campus. The kits, which help to alleviate the purchase of bottled water by making it easier to fill up reusable water bottles, records the number of water bottles filled over time. As of February 2013, the retrofit kits have helped eliminate the use of more than 400,000 plastic water bottles.

Now, Walled Lake junior and TBTT Vice President Mariah Urueta has seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Urueta was told that if TBTT continues their education mission and rallies the support of all student, faculty and staff organizations on campus, the university would work to end the sale of bottled water at CMU as early as 2015.

“Bottled water sales have been eliminated at more than 60 universities across the nation so far,” Urueta said. “This would be a great step in the right direction for CMU to be the sustainable, forward-thinking university we know it is.”

Urueta says 86 percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled, and the remaining percentage is not recycled efficiently because of the low quality of plastic used to make the bottle. Urueta says because Mount Pleasant has access to clean drinking water, the sale of bottled water at CMU is not a necessity.

Rohrer says initiatives like TBTT, and activities like the 10-week recycling competition named Recyclemania, have helped to inspire a culture of sustainability for CMU students and the university’s faculty and staff.
• CMU’s energy conservation initiatives have saved the university more than $2.8 million annually.
• Between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2011, CMU reduced its carbon footprint by 7.1 percent because of ongoing energy conservation projects.
• CMU has received more than $350,000 in combined rebate checks from Consumers Energy and DTE Energy since 2009, leading all other public universities in the state.
• As of 2012, CMU has the most paid project rebate applications, the greatest tally of expected annual energy savings and is a close second in the highest dollar amount of paid incentives/rebates received.
• CMU defeated Michigan State University by 454 pounds in a football game recycling challenge. Approximately 3,300 pounds were recycled between both universities.
• CMU ranked 47th out of 180 schools nationwide in waste minimization during the 2012 Recyclemania competition.

Rohrer says CMU is hoping to teach the value of sustainable living to its students.

“We’re an educational institution,” Rohrer said. “It’s our job, and our ultimate goal is to train the future leaders of the world to live a more sustainable life.”


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