“People don’t think much about it,” says Brian Pine, director of facilities operations and maintenance, referring to the management of trash on campus, and he’s probably right. “On any day, we have over 5,000 people on this campus. In a given month, we generate about 49 tons of waste materials.” In fall 2011, handling all that trash got a little bit easier—and a lot more efficient.
Upon signing a new contract with Waste Management, a national company with a focus on environmental performance, New Paltz received five solar trash compactors at no additional charge (each compactor has an estimated value of about $4,000). “They have a small motor and a sensor. Every time one reaches near capacity, it’ll do a crush,” says Pine. “They run entirely on solar, so there’s no electrical usage to them at all. It saves time for the grounds team because they don’t have to stop and empty them quite so often. If we were to, eventually, replace all of the garbage bins on campus, we could save over $400,000 in related costs over 10 years.”
Over the past 10 years, New Paltz has made great strides in increasing sustainability measures on campus and reducing its carbon footprint. “We’ve been able to reduce our solid waste by utilizing recycling,” says Pine, noting that a big part of that was placing clearly identifiable recycling containers around campus and also creating garbage and recycling stations in each of the residence halls. The solar panels on the roof of the Athletic and Wellness Center, which were installed in 2011, generate close to 72,000 kilowatts and save roughly $8,000 in electricity costs annually.