KUMC's energy-saving and environmental efforts

July 18, 2013

This week, I am pleased to highlight some positive outcomes from our energy conservation and green initiatives.

Several months ago, Jeff Gilliland, our energy manager, launched a campaign to encourage everyone to help in our energy conservation efforts. These monthly messages provide examples of effortless things we can do in our daily routine to help reduce our $7 million annual utilities bill. This reduction is important for two reasons. Not only are we decreasing our carbon footprint, we are freeing up funds that we can reallocate toward meeting our No. 1 mission of training health care leaders well into the future. We have really made great strides with these efforts in a short amount of time.

While it's too early to determine actual cost savings, we already know that we are lowering our costs. Many of us are now turning off our computers and lights when they're not in use and setting thermostats at 75 degrees or higher. We also know that during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, we reduced our carbon footprint by two percent. While this may seem small, our electric and gas savings is equivalent to taking 145 cars off the road. The EPA estimates that CO2 emissions in the United States increased by about 10 percent between 1990 and 2011, so a two percent decrease in emissions is significant.

Here are a few other things we are doing:

  • We separate and recycle construction waste when doing renovation projects.
  • We use eco-friendly tile, manufactured from recycled materials.
  • We use products low in volatile organic compounds (VOC) for flooring, carpeting and painting projects. VOCs contain chemicals that may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.
  • We follow energy standards for lighting and equipment and design efficiencies.
  • We replace old, dark-colored roofs with white-colored roofs (as needed) to reduce the heat island effect.
  • We've installed occupancy sensors in many of our restrooms, meeting rooms, research labs, and other areas, so lights only come on when needed.
  • We've installed automated faucets and auto-flush stools as these need replaced to help conserve water.
  • We use more efficient air handlers to heat and cool our environment.

In addition, the Information Security, and Environment, Health & Safety groups host a monthly computer pickup recycling program. In the nine years of this program, it has kept close to 180 tons of equipment out of the landfills. That's the equivalent of six empty railroad cars! We also provide a community Ripple Glass bin behind Dykes Library, and last year, we recycled almost 33 tons of glass. This year, we've already recycled 25 tons of glass. Our paper/aluminum/plastic bins located throughout campus have generated about 48 tons of recycling a year. In total, our campus is recycling and keeping out of landfills more than 100 tons annually. More can be done, so we are planning to expand our recycling program to include cardboard, conducting a waste audit to determine our percentage of recycling to trash, and improving our trash pick-up efficiency.

On our Wichita campus, the recycling program is going strong. From 2009-2012, KU School of Medicine-Wichita recycled 32.81 tons for a monthly average of 0.68 tons per month. In just six months in 2013, recycling increased to 9.18 tons for a monthly average of 1.53 tons per month. This is a 225 percent increase per month since the start of the program. Wichita has also reduced the frequency of trash pickup to once a week, which is projected to save almost $4,000 a year. Additionally, the Wichita campus has a recycling/green champion with Elizabeth Ablah, Ph.D., who has been publicly recognized for her conservation and environmental education efforts within the Wichita community.

Our Salina campus is thinking green too. Faculty, students and staff at the KU School of Medicine-Salina rely heavily on iTV to attend classes and offsite meetings, which reduces transportation costs and CO2 emissions, and they use electronic means versus printing as much as possible. Salina's school building, Braddick, has energy efficient windows as well as an efficient air handling system in the anatomy lab.

Many other areas are being conscientious as well by doing things like donating old furniture for reuse and using eco-certified cleaning projects. I'm grateful for every effort. At KU Medical Center, we definitely want to make our mark, but not in the form of a carbon footprint. I encourage everyone to do their part and get involved. Given the progress that we've already made, I believe we will have a lot more to brag about in the next few years, so stay tuned.

Last modified: Jul 18, 2013