Sustainability at the University of Maryland
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SustainableUMD Spotlight

Dining Services Provides Reusable Cups to Students with Dining Plans

This year, students at University of Maryland will be presented with a sustainable dining option even before the semester begins. Starting Aug. 29, Dining Services is giving reusable “FreeFill” cups to over 8,000 students with resident dining plans. Students can use the cups at any campus dining hall and convenience shop to get unlimited tea, coffee, and fountain beverages.

“We are excited to give dining plan members this great perk. We created the FreeFill program to welcome students into the University of Maryland family and reinforce campus sustainability values,” said Colleen Wright Riva, Director, Dining Services.

The opportunity presented itself this summer when Dining Services staff were trying to come up with ways to connect with incoming students, promote eating at dining halls and encourage sustainable behaviors.

“FreeFills are a great addition to our existing sustainability program and will further reduce waste on campus,” said Allison Lilly, Sustainability and Wellness Coordinator, Dining Services. “Students can now choose to dine in with reusable plates, utensils and glasses or take food and beverages to go with our FreeFill cups. We hope to change the culture on campus to one of reuse, rather than disposables.”

A complement to the reusable carryout containers offered in the dining halls, this promotion encourages students to take their reusable cups wherever they go on campus. In addition to dining halls and convenience shops, students can use them at Terps Heart the Tap water bottle-filling stations located in multiple university buildings. Students without FreeFill cups can still get a 20-cent discount at campus dining locations if they use their own cup or mug.

“I think this program will go a long way toward encouraging students to opt for reusable, nondisposable products,” said Maya Spaur, Director of Sustainability for the Student Government Association. “It will make incoming freshmen more aware of how small, daily actions contribute to an individual's overall environmental impact, and how this simple concept drastically reduces personal consumption and waste.”

Dining Services estimates that if every student with the cup uses it just twice a week this semester, it will save about 250,000 paper cups. For more information about Green Dining initiatives and programs, visit

Wye Oak Building achieves LEED Silver certification

The Wye Oak Building, which houses units of the Department of Building and Landscape Maintenance recently achieved LEED Silver certification. Wye Oak also achieved a rating of Three Green Globes from the Green Building Initiative (GBI) rating system. It is the first building on campus to receive dual recognition from both LEED and Green Globes. These ratings reflect the efforts throughout the design and construction process and beyond to make this building sustainable.

“We are honored to be the first building on campus to have received both LEED and Green Globes recognition,” said Harry Teabout, Executive Director, Building and Landscape Maintenance. “This means a lot for the department as well as the university. We are very thankful to the Design and Construction group for designing such a sustainable building.”

The building completed construction in January 2014. Because of its location behind and above the Xfinity Center, many on campus might not pass it on a regular basis or ever get the chance to see it. Other campus landmarks located nearby include Terrapin Trail Garage and the Research Greenhouse Complex. Once you do make the trek up the hill to see Wye Oak, it is quite an impressive sight to see.

You are immediately greeted by a mini-waterfall and pond provided by Premiere Pond, Inc. that was featured as a part of the reality show Pond Stars. There is also additional landscaping located on the side of the building featuring both native and non-invasive exotic plants which reflect the interests and backgrounds of the staff including edible landscaping as diverse as native serviceberry and tropical bananas.

“The pond and recirculating waterfall features both fish and aquatic plants such as hardy water lilies,” said Karen Petroff, Assistant Director, Arboretum and Horticultural Services. “It is wonderful to see the smiles on the faces of staff members as they search for and find the colorful fish darting below the surface of the water.”

Inside, the two floor structure features state of the art energy savings technology and offers incredible views of the surrounding woods thanks to natural daylight in most regularly occupied spaces.

But perhaps one of the coolest features of the building is the recent addition of recycled artwork from artist and University of Maryland graduate student Zac Benson. Zac originally approached the B&LM staff asking to re-use some materials that were bound for recycling, and the partnership has been rewarding on both sides. Benson donated his art pieces titled: “Shredded,” “Abundant States,” and “Opportunity Awaits,” to the walls of Wye Oak. All three works are made entirely of University of Maryland recyclable materials. The installation of the artwork provided the perfect opportunity for the building staff to further their commitment to sustainability while also providing Benson with a great opportunity to display his artwork publically.

“We’re just thrilled that Zac has donated his art to be displayed in our building,” said Sandy Dykes, Associate Director, Building & Landscape Maintenance. “This is a great example of a ‘closed loop’ system that drives sustainability: the building that houses our campus recycling staff is displaying art made by a UMD student from materials we collected in our recycling bins. And even better – now I feel like I work in an art gallery!”

You can see more of Zac’s artwork by visiting his website.

To learn more about the green features of the Wye Oak Building, including statistics on stormwater management, construction waste management, recycled content materials, and energy performance, you can review the official LEED scorecard.

CYC Students Learn About Sustainable Energy

The University of Maryland Center for Young Children (CYC) and the Energy Research Center (UMERC) have found exciting and innovative ways to introduce a younger generation to sustainability. Throughout the summer, the CYC has connected with members of the UMD community to offer their students the opportunity to see how our campus is committed to a greener future.

On Friday, July 10, fourteen students, ages 4 and 5 years old, were accompanied by UMD student aides and CYC summer camp teachers Vera Wiest and Kate Williams to meet with Dr. Eric Wachsman, Director of the UMD Energy Research Center for a tour of the UMERC facilities in the Engineering Laboratory Building.

Dr. Wachsman began the tour by showing the kids solar tracking photovoltaic (PV) panels in the parking lot outside of the Lab Building and explaining how energy from the sun is converted to electricity by those PV panels. Amazingly, they were all familiar with solar panels and easily pointed the panels out on the solar tracker.

Dr. Wachsman then explained that the electricity from the solar tracking PV helped power the electric vehicle (EV) charging station in the parking lot and showed how it was connected to his EV, a Tesla, an investment he made because of his personal commitment to sustainability and conserving energy.

Dr. Wachsman gave all the kids an opportunity to sit in the car as he explained how it runs exclusively on electricity with no gas needed and since there’s no engine in the front, the additional storage space allowed all of the kids to fit in the car at the same time. Needless to say, the kids loved the car. One of the children remarked: “You have the coolest car in the world!”

Next, it was time to go inside the lab to showcase the great research done at UMERC. Dr. Wachsman explained how they create batteries and fuel cells and how they test them. He also showed them the screen printer and furnaces used to make them. One of the kids thought the cylindrical-shaped furnace was an oversized battery. The tour was an exercise in “looking and not touching!”

For the final stop of the tour, Dr. Wachsman showed the kids the Redox Power System’s “Cube”, the award-winning fuel cell for Best Green Incubator Company in Maryland for 2015. Dr. Wachsman explained how the fuel cell provides renewable, clean energy and how he hopes someday the Redox Cubes can provide reliable, clean electricity to homes, businesses, and potentially even college campuses such as UMD College Park.

The group posed for one final photo to wrap up a fun morning of learning. Dr. Wachsman got to showcase the great work taking place at UMERC and the CYC students were able to learn something new and have an experience they’ll be able to share with their friends and family.

We also collected some quotes from the children about their experience:

“You have to plug in the car to not pollute the air.”

“We loved getting into the car!”

“We liked the solar panels; they were square.”

“We liked going into the laboratory and seeing the batteries.”

“It was cool seeing the fuel cell and finding the switch.”

The Center for Young Children will continue educational tours this summer with visits from members of the Office of Sustainability, the Maryland Educational Solar Array and a trip to LEAFHouse on campus. They also previously visited Dan Wray, Facilities Manager for a tour of The Stamp Student Union earlier this summer. At Stamp, they saw the green roof, the rain barrel and chef’s garden, water bottle filling stations, recycling and compost collection and then stopped at the Maryland Dairy for local ice cream.

The CYC also recently made a commitment to a sustainable future by installing a rain garden at their building, thanks to the great work of Dr. Steven Cohan and grants from the LaunchUMD campaign and the University Sustainability Fund.

The University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) is a multidisciplinary initiative dedicated to advancing the frontiers of energy science and technology, with a special focus on forward-looking approaches for alternative energy generation and storage. The Center focuses on a broad array of research areas critical for future energy technology and development.

Dr. Eric D Wachsman, Director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, is the William L. Crentz Centennial Chair in Energy Research with appointments in both the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Maryland. He is also the proud parent of one of the students at the Children for Young Children.

Bike to Work Day

The University of Maryland has won this year’s 2015 Commuter Connections Bike to Work Day Employer Challenge! With 161 Terp registrants at various pit stops, the university is again among the top employers in the region!

In recognition, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments presented the 2015 award at a luncheon for riders and administrators on Tuesday, 23 June, 2015 in the Maryland Room of Marie Mount Hall.

The award was presented by Nick Ramfos, Director, Alternative Commute Programs, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and UMD Alumna Michelle Cleveland, Events Coordinator, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, who highlighted the university’s growth and commitment to multi-modal transportation solutions; in particular, bicycling for commuting and pleasure. J. David Allen, Executive Director of the UMD Department of Transportation Services, accepted the award, and Scott Lupin, Director of the UMD Office of Sustainability, commented on bicycling as part of the university’s campus-wide commitment to sustainability on many levels.

Sustainability Superstar: Morgan Folger

Thanks to the Center for Social Value Creation for this great write-up about LEAF Outreach Team member, Morgan Folger.

"My aha moment came when I was doing yoga on the beach in Hawaii. I'm actually not that into yoga, but I had this thought about centering my life on sustainability, and it got me really excited. So I decided to double major in Environmental Science and Policy, and English. Right now I'm coordinating MaryPIRG’s Clean Water for America campaign to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act. Sustainability can be everyone’s ‘thing’ and that’s why I work to advocate for a sustainable future on UMD’s campus and beyond. I'm a member of the Environment, Technology, and Economy Scholars Program, an intern at the UOffice of Sustainability with the LEAF Outreach Team, and I'm looking forward to attending the Social Enterprise Symposium on Friday, February 27th at Stamp.


SustainableUMD Spotlight: Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Knight Hall, the first LEED Gold non-residential building on campus, recently installed a signature medallion to showcase its status. Click here to see the most recent pictures. Click here to learn more about Knight Hall.

Knight Hall

SustainableUMD Spotlight: Green Office Program

Knight Hall

The Green Office Program promotes faculty, staff, and students to reduce their carbon footprint within their office. Green Office representatives (GO Reps) coordinate and assess these efforts, recognizing and rewarding leadership in office sustainability. Recently the program partnered with the Institute of Applied Agriculture to provide green offices with office plants, creating a healthier workplace. Click here to see pictures.

The Public Health Garden

There has been a lot going on at the three-year old Public Health Garden, located between the Eppley Recreation Center and School of Public Health. At the beginning of the semester, a group of students from College Park Scholars Life Sciences helped tidy things up as a part of their Annual Service Day. Click here to see pictures.

Just recently, construction began on the research rain garden, a project of Dr. Allen P. Davis, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. After working through an extensive approval process with the Maryland Department of the Environment, production has begun and will be completed by the end of October. The research rain garden will take in stormwater runoff from the parking lot on the south side of the School of Public Health, LaPlata Beach, and the surrounding buildings and landscapes, filter it though three-tiers of gardens, and store the cleaned water in an underground cistern at the bottom of the hill. As stormwater enters and exits the rain garden, it will be measured for pollution levels to monitor the effectiveness of the filtering process. The tiered gardens will be planted with Maryland native plants grown on campus from locally-collected seed.

Once the rain garden is complete, they can construct the Community Garden on the other half of the hill and install an Urban Orchard on the south side of Eppley. Both of these projects will be accomplished using grants from the Sustainability Fund. The collected water from the cistern will be pumped back up the hill using a solar-powered pump and used to water the Public Health Garden, Teaching Garden and Community Garden.

You can follow all the progress of the Public Health Garden on Facebook, or you can get involved by attending one of their volunteering events or joining the Public Health Garden Club!

The UMD Apiary

The UMD Apiary, a 2013 Sustainability Fund project started by sophomore student Jordan Arata, is preparing to harvest honey this semester. The eleven hives can be found across campus at the North Campus Diner, 251 North, and the Plant Sciences Building. Arata, and the Beekeepers’ Club are preparing the hives for the winter and training new student beekeepers. The apiary also recently made an appearance at the First Look Fair.

If the Beekeepers' Club harvests enough honey from the hives, UMD could be enjoying honey ice cream in campus dining halls. Greg Thompson from UMD Dining Services is extremely excited about the potential of the apiary: "Talk about fearless! Honey infused ice cream, rooftop honey on our condiment bars and coffee shops to help replace sugars, but most important is the bees and what they do for our planet, the bee population is in trouble, and they need help from us Terrapins. We have just begun. If everyone would pitch in, what a wonderful world and campus it would BEE!"

Tours of the beehives are also available this semester through the Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The next upcoming tour will take place on Wednesday, October 2nd at 11:30am at the 251 North Dining Rooftop. Click here for more info.

Check out recent apiary photos here. Like the UMD Apiary on Facebook.

Interested in learning more about bees? Read articles written this summer from The Diamondback and TIME Magazine about the current plight of bees and why it is so important to keep a healthy bee population.

Sustainability Superstar: Greg Parcher

The UMD football team has their very own in house sustainable champion, long snapper, Greg Parcher. Greg popped up on The Office of Sustainability radar when The Washington Post featured a unique interview with him in August. Among Greg’s interests and activities, was the desire to add a recycling bin to the team weight room. The Office of Sustainability visited with Greg in the team facility and it was obvious he had made progress. We needed to learn more about UMD’s most sustainable football player.

When/how did you become interested in recycling? Any stories to share?

Mostly from the recycling program here. I noticed one day Gatorade and protein shake bottles were all going into the trash cans. There would be a lot in one day. One or two bottles isn’t that big of a deal but after a while you start to see them pile up. As a kid I had to do chores, take out the trash and recycling. My dad taught me the basics of recycling. Sorting out trash and recycling. One day it all just clicked.

Now that the recycling bin has been installed, do you have to remind your team mates to use it? Can you give them a letter grade on recycling?

I think they are doing a really good job. It’s easy for the guys to see it since its right by the door, on the way out. I’d give the team an “A”. Luckily, no one is giving me a hard time about it.

Are there any other green actions you’d like to take? Any other areas that would be good to focus on?

We need to get a recycling bin in the cafeteria too. I feel like campus does a good job with recycling but we could probably get more in this facility overall.

Do you think there is an awareness of the environmental issues with UMD Athletics? Do players, coaches and fans think about reducing their environmental impact?

There’s a good awareness. It’s hard to remember as a part of the daily routine to take your bottle and put it into the recycling bin. That’s why it’s great our recycling bin is in the weight room right by the door. It’s right there for the eyes to see. People are [more] aware of it now.

Do you realize that between driving a campus shuttle bus and requesting a recycling bin for the weight room you have been active in making UMD a greener campus? What are you going to do for your next earth-friendly action?

I haven’t got that far yet. Once this season is over, I’ll be mostly done with school so we’ll see what happens. I only have one class next semester so I’ll have more free time.

Thanks, Greg! We’ll be expecting you in the office next semester to help us roll out some new initiatives.

Sustainability Superstar: Troy Harris

Troy Harris, Facilities Coordinator for the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center has had a busy summer implementing a food waste compost collection within his building. Instead of going to a landfill, our food waste can be collected separately. It can then decompose, or compost, to form a soil-like fertilizer. That fertilizer is often spread on the lawns around campus, making them lush and green. Recently, Troy sat down with the Office of Sustainability to tell us more about his new program.

Troy, can you share with us how you got the Alumni Center more involved in the recycling program and the eventually the compost program?

We go through a lot of batteries at Alumni Center events. I spoke with the Recycling Office in Facilities Management (FM) because I wanted to get a battery collection box on all floors. The volume of batteries was a little too much for individual collection so I proposed that our staff collect batteries in one central location. Then, we could call FM for a pick-up. It was an easy step that was in line with the “reduce, reuse and recycle” philosophy of UMD. As more of the building started to recycle, it then made composting start coming to mind. At many of our Riggs events, there is leftover food waste. I started wondering if there was a way to capture the waste. So we started with first floor composting, where a lot of our catered events happen. I spoke with the catering companies about composting. The stars aligned. Good Tidings started using compostable products and getting more involved with doing composting so they were on board. Then I sent a letter out to the other catering companies informing them of our new initiative. Catering was already responsible for their own trash. But then we got the composting in place so they could throw away their compost on-site. Bins were placed in the pantry for easy access.

That’s great. Did you have experience doing anything like this before?

Well, not really. I’m not a “treehugger” or an expert - this was all new to me. But I realized, if it’s just one simple step to make a difference, then why not align ourselves with the mentality and culture of the whole university? Make it easy on the staff and make sure to not disturb their work. For instance, I didn’t know paper towels were compostable. Almost all of the trash in the bathroom is paper towels. So we added composting to the bathrooms. I talked to the night cleaning staff and got them on board with collecting the compost and taking it to the proper location. They find the same trash cans in the bathrooms except it’s now for composting. There’s not that much that ends up going to landfill. Now they take the green compost bags and put them in the compost bins. There’s now bins for our office compost and for our catering compost. Once or twice a week, the compost is taken to a large collection bin managed by Dining Services. It’s worked out really well.

And then you were able to expand that into other areas of the building?

Yes, all this just fell into place. The more info I got, the more research I did, it all just clicked and then I found out there’s a whole department devoted to sustainability on campus. Now I’m the Green Office Representative for the building. When we started to compost in the whole building, people weren’t used to doing it. So I tried to make it as convenient and clear as possible. We set it up “separation stations” that included trash, recycling, and now composting. We placed signs above the stations to indicate where everything goes so people can separate it. When communicating with the staff I made sure to let them know if you just take a couple seconds to sort, you’ll make a huge difference and help us be in line with the culture of the university. As with any change, there were some who caught on quickly and others who weren’t so willing. But I really felt it was important to put into place regardless because it was just a matter of them getting used to it. And again the night crew now takes the compost bags and puts it in the proper container. Everything needed to be implemented in stages.

Thanks for your extra effort, Troy! We are excited to hear about your next big project.