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Auraria Sustainable Campus Program celebrates Earth Day every day

ASCP addressing composting rate

Auraria Sustainable Campus Program held celebrations for Earth Day.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

Created from a student-led initiative, the Auraria Sustainable Campus Program (ASCP) addresses one major goal: reducing the ecological footprint of the Auraria Campus. To do this, ASCP works to create on-campus projects to reduce waste, increase knowledge about sustainability, and treat every day like Earth Day.

“Our campus uses about 48 million kilowatt hours of energy annually,” ASCP Sustainability Officer Chris Herr said. Currently, the Auraria Campus also consumes 60 million gallons of water and 2.7 million pounds of waste. Of that waste, 500,000 pounds are recycled and 70,000 pounds are composted.

When comparing the sustainability level of the Auraria Campus to other Colorado college campuses, it lags far behind the rest, especially in terms of composting. Comparably, CSU has a composting rate of approximately 76 percent, CU Boulder and UCCS both hover around 50 percent. The city of Denver comes in at 22 percent and the state around 12 percent. CU Denver clocks in at about 20 percent.

“We have no excuse,” Herr said. The Auraria Campus may be in the heart of the city, but to Herr, the urban setting should not be a limiting factor to justify the low rates of sustainability on the campus.

The ASCP was created by student referendum voting in 2008. The program is 100 percent student fee-funded and does not receive any funding from AHEC. Students saw the need for the program and, in 2011, voted to retain the five-dollar annual student fee indefinitely, making ASCP a permanent department.

Currently, ASCP is beginning to implement projects that have been proposed to and funded by the student fee advisory committee. These programs include redoing all signage on recycling and composting bins, creating composting locations across campus, installing solar panels on the Auraria Library roof, and reducing overall water usage on campus.

These projects will be rolling out starting this summer. Together, these projects have the potential to reduce both the ecological footprint of the Auraria Campus, as well as save the campus money by reducing energy and water usage. The solar panel project alone will create enough electricity to cover most of Auraria Library’s energy needs, according to Herr.

“We’re doing a ton of stuff,” Herr said. “We’re attacking everything at once.”

ASCP’s programs have measurably made an impact on the Auraria Campus’ ecological footprint. Energy usage has decreased 2 percent, community gardens feed students, and recycling rates have increased.

“AHEC does recycle,” Herr said with a laugh. Herr verifies this fact by the monthly reports from the Auraria Campus’ recycling vendor. Herr receives a report each month with the exact weight of recyclable materials collected from the Auraria Campus.

For Earth Day, ASCP held a fair to celebrate. From rock climbing walls to food trucks with entirely compostable materials and zero waste education, the program recognizes the importance of the holiday to raise awareness for their mission.  “I think Earth Day is important just to get people who may not be interested in it at least to just think about it for one day,” Herr said.

Any students interested in getting involved in increasing the campus’ sustainability are encouraged to reach out to ASCP for student worker positions.

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