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Darin Saul
Darin Saul, Sustainability Center Director

With Earth Week celebrations just around the corner, the University of Idaho is right in step with progress on its Waste Management Strategic Innovation Initiative.

“Supporting greener initiatives is the right thing to do, and many of them will save money as well,” says Darin Saul, University of Idaho sustainability director and Sustainability Center director. “There are all kinds of problems associated with waste streams, namely pollution and the loss of raw materials that could have other uses.”

Saul is leading the initiative, with help from across the University, to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint.

Saul says that recycling is the second best option to achieve this goal; the ideal direction for the University to move is to minimize waste rather to expend energy to recycle – though recycling is still a major player on campus. He adds waste minimization, in addition to working towards a greener environment, is saving the University money.

“It’s best to minimize waste up front,” says Saul. “In the end, it saves money and reduces the environmental impact.”

In a current project, the Sustainability Center is partnering with campus dining to create composting on campus to minimize waste and provide needed animal bedding for campus farms. University dining has begun sorting their waste and is in the process of switching to using only compostable materials.
Saul says it is a great partnership because the University will no longer need to haul out the garbage or purchase animal bedding. While in the initial stages right now, Saul says the process is on track. The composting beds have been built and material is just beginning to be composted.

“We’re really excited to see this project take off,” says Saul. “This will make a positive impact on the University’s waste minimization and help out the University farms.”

The University also is working toward purchasing only Energy Star products and working with vendors to switch over to e-billing to reduce the paper trail. In addition, the Sustainability Center is encouraging more information and forms be put online.
“We have a few departments that are making the move, like Human Resources and Risk Management, making it easier to file paperwork, but now we’re scaling it up,” says Saul.

While not as good as minimizing waste, recycling still is important, and the Sustainability Center has coordinated with classes in several departments, the Greek system and student volunteers to initiate Tailgate Recycling last fall. Not only did volunteers run recyclables to a separating trailer, they also cleaned up the parking lot after tailgaters went into the game.

Saul says students are key to a lot of the initiative’s goals, by providing volunteer workers and by using key problems as classroom exercises, like the tailgate recycling program and improving the recycling system on campus.

Also under the initiative, the University is moving towards only purchasing paper that is made from at least 30 percent recycled material and reducing paper waste by putting the faculty and staff newsletter, the Register, online. Not only has the electronic version saved money in printing and mailing costs, but the University does not have to pay to dispose of or recycle the paper after consumers are finished reading it.

The Sustainability Center also received a $25,000 EPA grant that will help implement several projects, once funding is released in May.

“We’ll be working hard over the summer, so we can hit the ground running this fall,” says Saul.