Embracing the eco-friendly at Sacred Heart University
When Sacred Heart University was founded in 1963 by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, part of its mission was to be a force for good. “The University advocates a very strong moral consciousness,” says Paul Healy, executive director of campus operations, emergency management, and public safety at Sacred Heart. Of late that moral consciousness has taken an environmentally friendly turn.
“In the past six years the university has undertaken 19 projects that deal with everything from lighting to aged boiler infrastructure,” explains Healy. These reforms have ranged from high-tech new technology, like installing LED lights, and purchasing hybrid cars, to implementing simple but effective reforms like using green cleaning products.
These projects have cost the university $2.6 million but have resulted in an annual savings of $540,000. Those savings reflect the university’s greatly reduced energy consumption. Last June these environmental efforts were recognized when Sacred Heart was awarded the Santa Energy Green Business Award by Bridgeport-based Santa Fuel.
“We’ve taken a comprehensive approach of looking at wherever we can make an investment in new technology that makes us more energy efficient,” Healy says. “Everyone knows that there hasn’t been a major power plant built in the Northeast, so the incentives are there to try and think smarter about energy conservation and energy usage, and create systems that reduce consumption by using newer technologies.”
Students have also been actively involved with these reforms. In 2011 freshman roommates Matt Cole and Edward Garrity decided to form an environmental club on campus called The Green SHUs (pronounced “green shoes” ). “We noticed that SHU was really poor at the time with handling certain issues such as recycling programs, and using unsafe and un-ecofriendly products, such as harmful plastics, and styrofoam,” says Garrity, a 20-year-old junior, double majoring in graphic design and studio arts. “So we wanted to start a group that could try to tackle these issues.”
The club officially formed the next year and by that time Sacred Heart had already addressed many of the issues Garrity and Cole were concerned with. Currently the custodial department at the university uses environmentally clean products. Sacred Heart has also implemented a single-stream recycling system—in this system papers, plastics, and metals can all be placed in the same receptacle which has resulted in a dramatic increase in recycling on campus.
Today, the Green SHUs functions as an awareness organization. Each semester the club hosts a talk or film screening about an environmental topic. Club members also work outside the campus on environmental projects with local organizations, and participate in the Housatonic River Clean Up each spring. “We hope to continue to work with outside organizations, to not only raise awareness, but to get our hands in on solving the problem,” Garrity says.
Other steps Sacred Heart has taken to improve the environment include renovating buildings with more efficient boilers and effective insulation, promoting energy-usage awareness by publicizing gas and electric data usage through an Energy Dashboard, and using an online management system to control the temperatures and lighting at all campus facilities.
Many of the university’s environmental reforms have been made possible through grants from Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, and the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. The university has received $670,000 from the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund for the 19 projects that were reviewed in advance by United Illuminating, and then inspected for post program compliance standards.
And the movement toward green practices at the university is still going forward. “We’ve studied the use of geothermal energy and fuel-cell technology,” he says. “We work diligently to always look for new technology, new and better ways of improving our efficiency here, as well as efficiencies environmentally within our region.” n