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Going greener: Belmont’s commitment to leading conservation efforts

During sustainability week at Belmont, the university sought to show its dedication to being a sustainable institution and impacting the environment in positive ways.

Sustainability is part of Belmont’s conservation covenant — a promise the university has made to take care of God’s creation — through various projects like maintaining green roofs and using the Earth’s heat energy to help heat and cool the university.

Belmont’s commitment to sustainability isn’t new. Within roughly the last decade, many of the facilities built on campus have received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, meaning the university put considerable effort into using environmentally friendly practices in every step of the creation of a new building.

“It doesn’t just have to do with the building, it doesn’t just have to do with the systems of the building,” said Dr. Thomas Spence, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics. “It also means that during the construction of the building and then the destruction of whatever was here before, all that waste is accounted for and is repurposed as much as possible.”

The Janet Ayers Academic Center even recieved Platinum LEED certification, the highest LEED certification possible, making Belmont the first university in the state of Tennessee to hold that high of a certification.

Other LEED certified buildings include the R. Milton and Denice Johnson Center, the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center and McWhorter Hall, according to Belmont’s Sustainable Buildings page.

McWhorter Hall is also home to the only extensive green roof on a university building in Nashville, which can be used for irrigation and as a natural habitat for wildlife.

The green roofs also have the benefit of insulating the building, so the university can less energy heating and cooling it as the seasons change.

Recent research from the CSM even showed a 20 degree difference in temperature from the surface of the roof to the bottom of the soil, Spence said.

“We just this morning finished collecting data at different depths of the green roof to see what kind of insulating properties that green roof has. It was pretty striking,” he said. “It’s a big difference. In the summer, that roof is dissipating that energy and it’s not making its way into the building.”

But decreased energy consumption isn’t Belmont’s only focus — the university also uses a composting system in the Johnson Center to reduce waste from its food operations.

ECO Club President Caroline Glover is appreciative of all Belmont does for sustainability, and hopes students get involved in simple ways like recycling, she said.

“We have a class in the environmental science major where we did a garbology lab and we discovered that upwards of like, 60-90 percent of things that could be recycled are not on campus,” said Glover. “I would really like to see those numbers drop.”

Recycling may seem like a small change to many people, but its impacts can be huge.

“If people don’t recycle then everything’s going to end up in a landfill, and landfills first of all aren’t pretty. Second of all, they contribute to a lot of greenhouse gases and they’re really toxic to the environment,” Glover said. “So as much stuff that can be taken out of the landfill and go and just be recycled back into plastics or cardboard manufacturing, the better.”

Both Glover and Spence agree ignoring sustainability could have troubling consequences.

“We are using up fuel sources that are going to run out, if not in my lifetime, perhaps in my daughter’s lifetime,” said Spence. “And there are things we can be doing now to extend that lifetime as we try to transition over to technologies that can actually be renewable.”

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Photo courtesy of Belmont’s Office of Communications. 

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