Feb 262008
Authors: Shayna Grajo

CSU’s Housing and Dining Department is looking to foster environmental stewardship and launch eco-friendly pilot programs with the opening of Ram’s Horn, the Academic Village Dining Center.

The building is designed as a testing ground for green initiatives that could model the environmentally friendly practices of future residence halls and buildings campuswide.

“As an institution of higher education, I think it’s our responsibility to be the leaders in living by good example and introducing environmentally-friendly methods in how we operate a university,” said Deon Lategan, director of Residential Dining Services.

The dining center will open Mar. 24 will offer a variety of environmentally conscious dining options.

Ram’s Horn will not offer Styrofoam to-go containers. Instead, students can select biodegradable and compostable to-go containers manufactured from sugarcane pulp.

“It’s my goal to eliminate 100 percent of all plastics and polystyrenes,” Lategan said.

Eco-Products, a Boulder-based company, will supply eco-friendly disposables such as cutlery and straws to both Ram’s Horn and Lory Student Center Dining Services.

These disposables are manufactured from cornstarch or sugarcane pulp, both renewable resources. Residential Dining Services chose Eco-Products, Lategan said, for the company’s environmentally friendly operation. Eco-Products uses solar energy for 85 percent of its operation, and the Eco-Products trucks are fueled by natural gas or bio-diesel.

Nancy Tuttle, who has worked for Housing and Dining over the past 20 years, said students will look forward to the new containers.

“The biggest complaint that I have as a meal-checker from the students is the Styrofoam option, because they want take-out,” Tuttle said. “But they don’t like the Styrofoam.”

The switch from conventional disposals to sustainable counterparts, Lategan said, will occur at all residence halls. Ram’s Horn will pilot the new line of greenware for the remainder of the semester, and all other dorms will transition this fall.

Ram’s Horn will also feature a composting program. Two pulpers will replace conventional garbage disposal units. The pulpers, similar in size and shape to washing machines, will separate solid food wastes from liquids. A centrifuge will send compostable by-products to a loading dock, where the material will be picked up and shipped to a composting farm.

“By using this pulper and by using active recycling methods, we will be reducing our waste stream up to 70 percent,” Lategan said. “The pulper will save us 120,000 gallons of water a month as compared to using regular garbage disposals.”

Lategan said he could foresee CSU cultivating the compost in a “real visible way,”

such as through a garden, and he plans to give the idea future consideration.

The exhaust fans that cover the cooking equipment, Lategan said, will reduce energy consumption by 40 percent and will result in an annual savings of a $64,000. The dining center will only use renewable energy.

The building is also ergonomically designed, with fewer windows on the western exposure than the southeast exposure. Solar shades added to the southeast exposure, Lategan said, will reduce ultra-violet heat gain by 90 percent.

He said that the environmental efficiency of the building will offset upfront costs, such as the purchase of the sustainable to-go containers. Students will not see a tuition increase or increased fees to accommodate renovations or product purchases.

“With these water savings and energy savings, we’re taking some of those savings and we’re investing back into eco-friendly products,” Lategan said.

The facility will also adopt the current practice held by other residence halls of recycling and converting deep-fried oil into bio-diesel.

Ram’s Horn was developed as an equivalent of four dining centers in one. Newsom Hall’s dining center is scheduled to close at spring break, and the Edwards and Ingersoll dining halls are expected to close at the end of the semester. Lategan said the environmental efficiencies of Ram’s Horn assist in providing optimal service to high volumes of students.

Last week, Lategan gave a preview tour of Ram’s Horn to the Dining Services Advisory Council (DSAC). Michael Polei, a freshman biomedical engineering major and DSAC member, said current practices in residence halls should be more environmentally friendly.

“I definitely think that Colorado State needed to change some stuff. All these dining centers just throw out a lot of energy and water,” Polei said. “This helps our school a lot. Our environment more than our school, really.”

Staff writer Shanya Grajo can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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