RCC prunes its costs

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, September 10, 2011

Riverland President Terry Leas and Judy Enright, Riverland physical plant manager, introduce the college’s Sustain Riverland. The garbage represented a week’s worth between the three RCC campuses. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

College hopes initiative will cut back on energy usage

For Riverland Community College officials, going green means cutting costs.

Riverland officials announced Friday a new sustainability initiative to reduce energy usage and leave a better carbon footprint. The announcement, which came ahead of the sixth annual RE-fest Saturday, is meant to show residents Riverland is serious about sustainable actions.

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“We want to be better stewards of the public’s money; and if we can stretch dollars and scarce resources further and still be able to be effective and efficient, that’s a wonderful goal,” said Riverland President Terry Leas.

Riverland officials have known for a long time they needed to cut costs. Yet there was never enough interest among Riverland staff to act more environmentally conscious.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time, but it takes people,” said Judy Enright, Riverland physical plant manager.

“We just know it’s the right thing to do. We’ve always known, but it’s always been on the backburner.”

When RE-fest organizers first came to Riverland, they went to classrooms and asked where the recycling bins were.

“It was totally embarrassing because we weren’t doing anything,” Enright said.

One of the biggest goals of the Sustain Riverland initiative is to cut down on garbage costs and increase recycling. The Austin campus alone dumps as much as 28 cubic yards of garbage twice a week, while as much as 16 cubic yards of cardboard recycling only goes once a week. Riverland officials hope to switch those dump services to cut costs.

Among Riverland’s goals are to reduce energy costs at all three campuses in Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna by 2 percent to save an extra $1,000 a year. Since 2007, Riverland has reduced energy costs from 6 to 13 percent on each campus per federal guidelines. In addition, Riverland’s energy management systems are being programmed according to class schedules so unused classrooms won’t have HVAC services turned on.

“It all adds up,” Leas said.

Riverland is also participating in a Public Buildings Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program energy audit to get ideas and cost estimates on further measures to conserve energy.

“It’s a good idea,” said Joe Stephenson, third-year Riverland student. “It shows that we are about being mindful and it shows that we care about making the world a better place.”