Members of WashU’s Catholic Student Center (CSC) have made changes that improve the sustainability of their building, saving nearly $3,000 a year in energy costs. The push has been led by Brian Wieliczka, a fourth-year doctoral candidate studying chemistry. Brian, as the green projects manager, has helped the CSC initiate five projects. These include retrofitting interior lights and exterior lights with LEDs, building a butterfly garden, using reusable service ware, and installing rain barrels. Although seemingly small changes, these adjustments will lead to big results. Switching to LED lights is expected to be especially beneficial, since students often use the lights in common areas until very late at night. The $3,000 in savings comes primarily from the interior and exterior lighting update. LED interior lights through their 25-year lifespan are estimated to reduce the amount of coal burned by 22,800 pounds and the amount of carbon dioxide released by 47,000 pounds.
The addition of rain barrels is predicted to be just as beneficial. These barrels will collect rainwater and help offset some of the 100,000 gallons of water that gets used for landscaping and fountains. Thanks to funding from the Student Sustainability Fund, students set up drip irrigation lines, which reduce the amount of water lost through evaporation compared to traditional sprinklers.
The CSC sees these changes as an opportunity and a responsibility. According to Brian, “The Church has a direct responsibility for the environmental impact it has, as well as an indirect responsibility for ecological conversion of all people across St. Louis.” He acknowledges that their sustainability has a greater impact, not only on the people of St. Louis but on people around the world. “To be supportive of human beings across the world is to be supportive of the environment and finding this ‘human ecology,’ that we’re all connected.”
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