By Haley M. Walker | email@example.com
Every week, Melissa Kafel pushes a wheelbarrow through the Flagler College campus.
In the rain, Kafel can be found wearing the hood of her windbreaker, rolling the unwieldy cart full of scraps of cardboard boxes and paper down the sidewalks, stopping at each building.
Kafel is the president and founder of the Flagler Outdoors Club, an organization that seeks to bring environmental awareness and outdoor activities to the student body. One of its largest and most recent projects is a campus wide recycling program.
“I came from Pennsylvania where everyone recycles,” Kafel said. “It seems like such a normal thing to do, but I saw that a lot of people here don’t recycle.”
The program began a year ago focusing on paper and has since grown to include plastic, glass and aluminum. The Outdoors Club has set up 18 bins throughout the campus, in efforts to make it convenient for faculty, staff and students to participate.
After Kafel and other club members collect the materials, they are taken to a small recycling center behind Lewis House. With the help of a $10,000 grant from an anonymous donor and a senior class gift, the Outdoors Club has hired a private company to pick up the recyclables.
Kafel said while this funding has helped the program grow significantly, the club does not receive any physical or financial help from the administration, and the donations are quickly running out.
“At other colleges around the United States, recycling is not even a question and it is already built into the budget,” Kafel said. “This should just be what you do. It should be so normal.”
The club plans to propose a $2 increase to each student’s tuition in order to raise the $7,000 needed to continue recycling on campus.
“For the program to take off, Flagler has to endorse it more,” Kafel said. “If we don’t have people helping us out, nothing is going to happen.”
Over the past year, Flagler has made eco-friendly changes to both its infrastructure and curriculum. Last summer, Kenan Hall underwent a $2 million green renovation. GreenSpace Interior Design included eco-friendly materials such as compact florescent lighting, latex paint and carpet designed to limit volatile organic compounds that can emit gases thought to be harmful to health and the environment. Larry Weeks, director of business services, and Vic Cheney, director of maintenance, headed the project.
A mechanical renovation also included two energy-efficient air conditioning chillers from McQuay, an air conditioning, heating, ventilating and refrigeration company, specializing in energy efficiency. A new cooling tower and two gas-fired boilers were also installed.
According to McQuay, Flagler was the first in northeast Florida to implement the chillers. Visitors from other institutions, including the University of Florida, have come to view the system.
“It was just common sense,” Cheney said. “There are a lot of benefits, but we are mainly looking at saving money.”
He expects the mechanical renovation to include a payback of two to three years.
According to Weeks, finances were the main influencing factor in the decision to implement eco-friendly products into the renovations.
“It was more energy savings and keeping costs down than going ‘green,’ ” Weeks said. “If we can keep costs down, we can keep tuition down as well.”
Cheney also recently required the maintenance crew to use green cleaning products.
Kafel said while she recognizes the additions to the college’s infrastructure, she worries that a simple part of Flagler’s efforts to go green could end because of a lack of funding.
Flagler College President William T. Abare Jr. said that $7,000 would not break the bank, but he wants to make sure the cost can be sustained.
“We must make sure it does not all of a sudden move from a $7,000 program to a $27,000 program,” he said.
Abare said he has aesthetic concerns as well.
“We have to figure out how to do this in a way not to detract from the campus,” Abare said. “We spend a lot of money on the care and maintenance of our ground and buildings, and the last thing we want to do in our efforts to become more environmentally concerned is to create unnecessary clutter.”
According to Abare, a next environmental investment may be solar paneling.
“If the return on investment can be realized in three to five years, it might be a good investment for us,” Abare said. “Where we can find win-win situations, we are going to give those a high priority.”
Kafel and the Outdoors Club will continue the recycling program until funds run out. Four members each spend approximately six hours a week on the project.
“There are steps being made,” Kafel said. “But, it’s hard reversing what’s been done forever.”