Waynesburg University was recently awarded a grant totaling $8,000 from PepsiCo intended to reduce water consumption on campus. The zero-impact fund grant is to be used by equipping all residence halls with faucet aerators and energy-efficient showerheads and toilet handles.
Student services, academic affairs, maintenance, the business office and institutional advancement all played a role in receiving the grant, but leading the project is Ryan Smith, assistant director of student activities.
Smith, a dedicated environmental steward, voluntarily created and leads the drive to foster a greener campus.
“My passion for the environment has been what has allowed me to stay motivated through this project,” he said.
Smith compiled an in-depth proposal for the grant, which had more than 60 schools competing for the funding.
“I was mentally preparing because I thought we hadn’t gotten it,” Smith said.“I was blown away by Pepsi believing in the system and believing in the work that is ahead of us.”
Smith previously received a smaller grant, which provided him the financial ability to install energy-efficient toilet handles in Burns Hall. Smith collected water usage data prior to and following the installation of the handles to determine the impact that they would have on consumption.
“Burns Hall was the prototype hall for the project,” Smith said.
In the month-long data set that Smith compared, the energy efficient toilet handles alone have avoided the use of 82,000 gallons of water in Burns Hall.
“That’s just one residence hall for one month,” he said. “We saved 82,000 gallons of water… eventually, that will be
millions of gallons of water saved.”
Though the initial impacts of the toilet handles seem significant, Terry Sattler, director of facilities management, is cautiously optimistic.
“It is an excellent snapshot,” Sattler said. “If we could keep that rate going I would be extremely pleased and very surprised.”
Sattler will gather more confidence in the impact of the fixtures as more months go by and further data is collected, he says.
Sattler is organizing the installation of the new equipment and has worked with Smith in installing the initial toilet handles. The purchase of 265 showerheads, 298 faucet aerators and 265 toilets is set to occur later in the week.
The new fixtures will reduce water consumption campus-wide, benefitting both the environment and the budget of the university.
“I give [Smith] a lot of credit for being the one to get this initiated,” Sattler said. “I appreciate it because it helps our bottom line at the very least.”
Sattler plans to have the installations complete by the time students return to campus in August. The task of placing the toilet handles in Burns Hall took just a few days, but the upcoming updates are more daunting, says Sattler, because summer is typically maintenances’ busiest time of the year.
In his position, Sattler oversees all of the utilities used on campus in his budgets.
After reading about the Environmental Protection Act of 1992, which set revolutionary standards of water efficiency, Smith considered how most of Waynesburg’s residence halls were built before the regulations.
“I realized we could be running things more efficiently,” Smith said. “That’s where all of this work came from. Research upon research that we could be saving a lot more than we were,” Smith said.
The university didn’t previously have energy-efficient fixtures because they on average have a 30-percent higher upfront cost, says Sattler. Though Smith agrees that energy-efficient products are costlier initially, the long-term savings make up for their slightly higher price tag.
“A misconception is that environmental products cost a lot of money,” Smith said.
The water consumption project is split into three distinct parts: phase one is the residence halls, which will be covered by the Pepsi grant, the second phase is sporting complexes and the gym and the final phase is academic buildings. Further funding will be required to complete the second and third phases.
After months of research, writing and analyzing data, Smith is now set to receive the check in four to six weeks.
“I’ve been at Waynesburg University for a few years now and I see room for improvement for the environment,” Smith said.