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UMD Sustainability Banner: Education and Research - In a world full of serious sustainability issues, students need to be prepared to solve complex issues that balance enviromental, economic, and social.


Student ideas and projects are important to further and enrich sustainability efforts at UMD. We encourage students and classes from all areas of study to submit their work on sustainability to build a more sustainable community.

Ideas for Student Research

Some of these ideas have already been worked on, but research in sustainability is dynamic. Even if the problems have already been assessed, it's useful to gather new information or assess problems and solutions from a different perspective.

The U of M Environment and Sustainability Portal can help students find an expert in a variety of research fields to start a project.

+ Energy

Lead an "Energy Walk" through campus: after hours or on weekend, look for energy saving opportunities and record them (lighting, computers, appliances, temperatures, etc.)

  • Evaluate light pollution from UMD campus, including an evaluation of the potential changes to immediately reduce our contribution to light pollution (while balancing safety)

Find out if stickers or placards on light switches that say "Power Off" change behavior

  • Observation stations: Dorms? Classrooms? Labs? Bathrooms?
  • How many needed, what type works best, where to put them?

Fume hood audit/survey (Working with EHSO). See example data.

  • Working with Mahjoub Labyad/Andy Kimball, conduct a fume hood survey: which ones work, which are not being used but sucking energy? Which are inefficient? Can any be scheduled? What is the potential for saving energy? User behavior? Mechanical fixes? Replacement?

Refrigerators on campus

  • Research the adoption of the energy star mini–fridge policy in the dorms.
    • Would it save money over time? What are the barriers?
  • Which refrigerators on campus could they be upgraded? How much energy would it save? Where could they be replaced or combined/reduced?
    • Think: Laboratories, departmental fridges, mini–fridges in offices, etc.
    • Note: EHS has baseline data, but student help needed to continue

Pledge idea: Be part of "greenUMD" (I promise to turn off lights, use power management on computers, unplug for long breaks, go out of way to recycle, turn down thermostat, etc)

  • Work with ITSS to establish a database of online pledges (log in to pledge)
  • Tally up resulting promised energy savings

Conduct an energy audit of a building to look for energy–saving ideas:

  • Lights in unoccupied spaces (offices, classrooms, bathrooms, etc.) Are computer labs left on? How many mini–fridges could be eliminated? Are fume hoods left open? How many coffee pots are really needed in a department? How many printers/copiers could be turned off at end of the day? Etc.
  • Where is lighting excessive/not needed? What areas would benefit from various lighting sensors or timers?
  • What does an average dorm room energy demand look like? How many plug–in appliances and chargers? What wattages?
  • What does an average office/classroom energy demand look like? How many plug–in appliances and chargers? What wattages?
  • What are ways we can encourage UMD students, faculty, staff to conserve energy at work/school/housing?

What are the reminders, prompts, incentives? What should a campus–wide campaign look like?

Evaluate light pollution from UMD campus, including an evaluation of the potential changes to immediately reduce our contribution to light pollution (while balancing safety)

How could we improve management of phantom power loss on campus (components drawing energy when not in use)? Create an audit and remediation plan of a building (recommend Robert W. Bridges Facilities and Grounds building for a pilot project, as it is metered separate from other campus buildings. 10 computer workstations, 15–20 portable radios, and many appliances, etc)

Does installation of Smartstrip and/ or programmable outlet surge protectors on electronics reduce electricity use?

Analyze costs of purchasing renewable energy/offsets – for campus electricity use or natural gas consumption.

How much energy has the solar panel on Malosky Stadium produced? How did this reduce our campus carbon emissions? What is the projected return on investment for UMD?

How much energy do vending machines consume across campus? Can this be reduced?

How much energy do refrigerated drinking fountains consume? Can the compressors be turned off?

Conduct building customer surveys of older buildings on campus (Humanities, Cina, Heller). Which areas too hot or cold? Do temperature controls work?

How much energy could be saved by replacing old windows in the Research Lab Building (the Large Lakes Observatory)?  Also consider how would the historical status of the building would effect the payback of this project.

Evaluate the performance and payback of solar photovoltaic installations at UMD.

+ Campus Sustainability Outreach

How does UMD sustainability compare with other campuses? What areas are we doing well in? What do we need to work on?

  • This would utilize the AASHE STARS measurement framework, would make a nice student group project– three main areas: Education/Research, Operations, and Administration

Develop a student orientation to UMD campus sustainability– Bulldog welcome week. Perhaps an interactive online map (or brochure) about various campus sustainability efforts (green buildings, transportation, waste, stormwater sites, etc) .

  • Note: identifications of areas/topics of interest were collected by summer 2009 intern Christine Ebert. We need student help to take it and make an interactive online resource.

Research student or staff sustainability knowledge and attitudes – what can be done to improve sustainability communications on campus?

+ Transportation

What would it cost to offset UMD’s air travel emissions? (athletics, administration, faculty, and study abroad)

How many single–car commuters come to campus every day? How far do they drive? What is the carbon footprint of staff/faculty/student commuters?

  • How much carbon could be offset by carpooling?

Why do students/staff choose the bus? How can we increase ridership?

Why do people bike to campus? Are more bike racks needed? Is there enough Bike parking? Is it in the right places? (where are bikes chained to trees, poles, etc?) What are the biggest barriers to getting to UMD by bike, or around in the neighborhoods? What would encourage more biking to campus.

+ Waste/Recycling

Research the effectiveness of different communication options on dorm recycling rates (could be done in offices as well).

Could a campus "swap–shop" be established? What are the barriers/benefits? Could departments use Freecycle to get rid of unwanted items? What might reduce waste during student "Move Out" weekend in dorms?

How can we increase proper recycling of batteries, printer cartridges, and other e-waste? (Work with Andrew Kimball in the Environmental Health and Safety Office; location of drop offs, signs, advertising)

What kinds of hazardous wastes are generated on campus? How are they handled? Could any of these sources be reduced or eliminated?

Trash audits: What percentage of trash is recyclable, compostable, or hazardous waste? Which areas of campus are in need of additional recycling bins? Where are there too many? Where could they be placed? What kind of signage would help clarify how to and what can be recycled?

What are impacts of the free newspapers around campus: Reader, Statesman, Zenith Weekly, Transistor, along with other paper information (i.e. postings on walls)? What would be the impact of switching to more electronic versions. Do these items contribute to trash volumes and/or custodial demands in classrooms, halls, etc.?

What is the best method for hand drying. Consider aspects of the UMD budget, the environment, and occupant health.  Method analysis should include paper towels, paper towels that are composted, air dryers (different types), cloth towels, etc.

+ LEED buildings

The UMD campus has several LEED certified buildings (Civil Engineering, LSBE, Life Science and the Bagley Outdoor Classroom), does a green building change behaviors? Survey or observe building users. (Ex: bathrooms have low-flow fixtures, are people aware of how to use them? Fume hoods are variable speed, do people close the sash? Recycling bins are built in, do people go out of their way to find these?)

Green roof/ white roof on Civil Engineering/Bagley or the Burlap Garden on Life Sciences – do temperatures differ on various roof surfaces? What are insulation and water savings?

Do office workers know their light turns on additional air circulation? Do office workers like/dislike natural lighting? How do building users feel about the air quality?

How are students recieving the new Ianni Residence Hall?

Conduct a thermal comfort survey of a UMD LEED certified Building.

Research energy generation and usage of Bagley Outdoor Classroom; evaluate building performance and assess whether it is meeting the goal of being a net-neutral energy building.

+ Paper

How much paper does a department use? How can it be reduced? What work can be shifted to an electronic format?

What percent of campus paper is made from recycled material? How apt are students and faculty at consciously purchasing paper with recycled content?

How much paper could be saved in a department by switching default printer settings to double–sided?

If someone has a printer at their desk vs. down the hall, does it affect how many pages they print?

+ Food

What are the choices/recommendations for eating green or healthy meals on campus?

Does going ‘trayless’ in the cafeteria save on food waste? How much? Are students willing to do this? What are the barriers to trying one–day–a–week ("Trayless Tuesdays")

What are the efforts at UMD regarding food waste reduction and composting?

+ Purchasing

What are the benefits of purchasing used products such as furniture, clothing, etc.? Financial? Environmental Impact?

What products can be purchased in campus offices or in the dorms that are: made from recycled content, recyclable, long–lasting, save energy, fair–trade, etc?

Where can products be purchased in the Duluth–Superior community that are: made from recycled content, regionally produced, recyclable, long–lasting, fair–trade, etc?

+ Water

Analyze water usage in campus buildings

  • See the report and presentation by Jie Li, Jessica Schiff and Sarah Brengman on the Sports and Health Center water usage

Review winter de–icing products or snow-removal practices. Are we dealing with the winter weather responsibly?

Rain Garden ecosystem evaluations.

Campus water consumption:

  • How much bottled water is consumed on campus each year? What would help reduce bottled water purchases?
  • Do campus water fountains need to be chilled?
  • Analyze water bottle savings or guage student reception of the EZH20 fountain units.

What is the energy cost of water use in the Duluth area? How much energy can be saved through water conservation in a typical UMD bathroom?

+ Other

What would be the economic, environmental, and social considerations of building a parking ramp at UMD?

How can we connect alumni with sustainability at UMD: projects and funding?

Create database of all sustainability-focused classes on campus. (STARS related)





Student projects in sustainabilty aren't limited to research; students and classes are encouraged to get creative in sustainability projects such as the above student project, Getting Trashy



+ Submitted Student Research Projects

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Last modified on 02/14/13 07:32 AM
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