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The Green Scene, November 2018

Going for Gold: OII earns highest level of Green Office Certification

Sustainability Initiatives is proud to announce that the Office of International Initiatives (OII) has achieved the Gold level for the Green Office Certification program–the first office at Georgia State to do so. Their offices in Dahlberg Hall and the Confucius Institute in 75 Piedmont have earned credit for dozens of sustainable practices, totaling 122 points: far exceeding the 106 points required for the Gold level.

The Green Office Certification program, administered by Sustainability Initiatives, is available to all departments and offices on all Georgia State campuses. The process starts with a majority of department/office employees signing on (or individuals may apply for Individual certification themselves). Using the Green Office Companion Guide and Green Office Checklist (available at, the office will assess their current level of sustainability and try to gain as many points as possible by committing to new initiatives. Some of these are easy, zero-cost items like shutting down computers at the end of the day or using only reusable water bottles and utensils in the break room. Higher point values are awarded to larger investments in sustainability, which also have a greater impact. These include consolidating purchases in large batches to reduce transportation pollution, investing in energy saving devices like “smart strips” to automatically shut off power to unused electronics, occupancy sensors to control lights, and LED light bulbs, sink aerators, etc.

OII excelled in their commitment to recycling, earning all possible points in the category. Their employees are well-informed on what can be recycled and what can’t be, and they designed very effective signage posted near each recycling bin to remind employees and educate visitors. They have plenty of well-placed recycling bins in all common areas, and all offices utilize deskside recycling bins. All of these policies are what led to OII’s astounding 62% diversion rate, meaning 62% of all waste was recycled. That’s twice the university’s rate of 31% for 2018 so far.

OII’s space benefited from a relatively recent renovation, where LED lights, occupancy sensors, and efficient plumbing fixtures were installed. But most of their points were earned through the human element. The establishment of a Green Office Leadership Team affords a close relationship between Sustainability Initiatives and OII. Designated employees are responsible for monitoring temperature fluctuations and leaky faucets among other things, and staff are sent an energy savings checklist before all holidays and breaks to conserve energy while the building is unoccupied.

Since the Office of International Initiatives first achieved Participant status with the Green Office Certification program in early 2016, they have steadily committed to increasing their office’s awareness of the importance of recycling and energy conservation. Their work has paid off, and they have now become the first office at Georgia State to receive the Gold level certification. Congratulations to OII and the Confucius Institute!

For more information on how your office can become Green Office certified, visit


The Rec Center stays Fresh (and Green)

Despite being built in 2001, Georgia State’s Student Recreation Center remains on the forefront of sustainable building design and practices thanks to carefully considered investments over the years, living up to Jerry Rackliffe’s (Senior VP of Finance and Administration) hope that the Rec Center would be “as nice for the students in its 20th year as it was in its first year.”

After receiving 3 out of 4 “Green Globes” from the Green Building Initiative, an organization that independently certifies sustainable buildings across the US and Canada, the Rec Center did not rest on its laurels. Instead, a comprehensive Facilities Conditions Assessment was launched to prioritize repairs and upgrades to the building. According to Allen Wilbanks, Assistant Director of Recreation, “energy impact and sustainability” were always key considerations in prioritizing the list of projects.

The first upgrade was to replace the natatorium HVAC system to a better, more efficient model. The use of a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) saves energy and improves performance by slowly cycling pumps and fans on and off throughout the day, rather than switching them fully on and fully off.

The next major upgrade was to repair and improve the building’s outer “envelope”, including the roof, which was converted to an efficient white PVC material. This durable roof not only insulates the Rec Center more effectively, it also reflects significant amounts of heat, reducing the energy demands of the building–and since heat is reflected rather than absorbed, the Rec Center releases less heat at night than buildings with traditional roofs, reducing the urban “heat island” effect.

When the weight rooms needed new cushioned floors, the old natural rubber flooring was replaced with all-recycled rubber, made from used tires and sneakers. This choice eliminated the use of new materials and toxic chemicals and saved tremendous waste from ending up in landfills.

At any recreation facility, effective cleaning products are an absolute necessity. But these are traditionally corrosive and toxic concoctions of ammonia, not friendly to the environment or to people. Georgia State’s Rec Center has invested in a cutting edge technology that is surprisingly simple and highly effective. The system, called Gen-Eon, uses water, two simple salts, and a small amount of electricity to create a solution that kills 99.999% of germs without leaving any soapy residue, and is completely harmless to people and animals. It costs less than one cent per gallon to produce on-site, reducing the Rec Center’s carbon footprint through decreased shipping orders, and reduces the demand for harmful cleaners.

Additional upgrades include new EnergyStar washers and dryers, two new water boilers to replace the old, larger one, and an advanced Siemens automatic building control system, which enables the “most efficient use of the building,” said Wilbanks.

Just recently, a Sustainability Fee funds proposal submitted by Recreational Services to replace the remaining metal halide lights in the gymnasium with efficient LEDs was approved. According to their estimates, the switch will save 100,000 kWh of electricity and over $8,000 annually.

With leadership that is so dedicated to implementing sustainable upgrades, students and visitors to the Georgia State Rec Center will indeed enjoy the facility for many years to come.


Georgia State Stadium receives National Recognition for Sustainable Practices

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and United States Gypsum announced finalists for the 4th annual Sustainability Award at NACDA’s convention in Washington, D.C.—and Georgia State University was among the three institutions selected. The award honors athletic departments and their institutions for incorporating sustainable practices into their athletic facilities.

A prime example of adaptive reuse, the Panther’s new stadium is a transformed Atlanta icon: the centerpiece of the 1996 Olympics and home of the Braves for nearly two decades.

In deciding to make this historic venue its own, Georgia State not only saved a beloved landmark from destruction, but also made an environmentally—and economically—wise decision. The Stadium project was the only one of NACDA’s finalists (UCLA, Bentley University) to adapt an existing structure rather than to build a new one from the ground up.

“We were extremely pleased that we were able to transform a stadium for a third time and convert Turner Field into Georgia State Stadium,” assistant athletics director for facilities and operations Patrick Hatcher said. “When we first viewed the property, we knew we could reuse, recycle and make the stadium more efficient in so many ways, just like they had when the stadium was built for the Olympics in 1996. Although the first stages of the transformation are complete, we will continue to look for ways to repurpose the iconic stadium for years to come.”

Not only did the university save $20 million by not building a new stadium, but over 6,500 tons of material were diverted from landfills through reuse and recycling. The concessions stands, restrooms, press boxes and offices, as well as 4,000 seats were renovated, improved, and reused. Artificial turf was chosen to eliminate irrigation costs and to reduce surface temperature, and all lighting was replaced with efficient LEDs.

In addition to upgrading the facilities for athletes and spectators, the stadium is now a central hub for other sustainability-related activities at Georgia State. The stadium’s service level is home to Sustainability Initiative’s Recycling Center, where recycling from stadium events and from across the campus is processed. The concessions served at the stadium are completely compostable or recyclable, and student volunteers (“Trash Talkers”) encourage patrons to properly dispose of their waste. The stadium’s trash chutes have been repurposed to handle recycling.

Cardboard is baled on-site and other valuable recyclables, such as scrap metal and wooden pallets, are collected from around the university and sold to generate revenue. Additionally, the Recycling Center houses a new Styrofoam densifier—one of only two others on college campuses—which can reduce bulky Styrofoam into a recyclable (and profitable) commodity.

A new project, funded by the student sustainability fee and led by the Student Environmental Team (SET) also finds its home in the stadium. A rooftop garden is to be planted next to the main scoreboard and screen, which will be tended by the student group.

For its efforts at sustainably transforming Turner Field into Panther Stadium, NACDA and USG presented Georgia State with a large trophy (displayed in the Office of Sustainability Initiatives) and awarded the university with $10,000 of building materials from USG to be used in future projects.

The Georgia State Stadium is unique as a college sports venue: having already been the site of countless memorable moments in athletic history, it will now be home to GSU athletes and fans for years to come. It is also a monument to the university’s commitment to sustainable practices, both in construction and in programs which will have a lasting impact on the university and the environment.