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Sustainability FAQ & Tips

Altering our lifestyles to become more environmentally conscious helps to build stronger communities, save money and improve the longevity of our limited resources. But changing your lifestyle to be more sustainable can seem daunting without helpful tips, advice and support.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about sustainability on campus, as well as guides, tips and resources to help make your life a little more sustainable.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Therefore, to sustain life on Earth we must use our resources in a manner that allows us to thrive without infringing on the ability of future generations to do the same. This entails acting in a manner that promotes economic vitality, environmental conservation and social equality.

Are there any student groups at SLU I can join related to sustainability?

Visit SLU Groups to find student groups to join. Our favorite is the Green Billikens.

Does SLU have any sustainability goals?

SLU established two sustainability goals in 2014.

The first goal is to reduce energy intensity (BTU/GSF) by 20% by 2020 from the 2013 baseline. The second goal is to reduce potable water consumption (gallons/campus acre) by 20% by 2020 from the 2013 baseline.

Are there any LEED-certified buildings at SLU?

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system.

The Doisy Research Center is LEED Certified. The Doisy Research Center is a 230,173 square foot, state-of-the-art research facility equipped with an energy-efficient heating and cooling system and furnished with recycled steel, concrete, carpeting and materials. The facility also includes a green roof, bike racks, showers and locker rooms for employees who ride their bicycles to work.

What is a "green roof?" Does SLU have any?

A green roof has vegetation growing over it to compensate for the landscaping loss that a building causes. Green roofs can help stabilize temperatures inside and outside the building while providing air filtration.

As part of the construction of SLU's Doisy Research Center in 2008, approximately 7,200 square feet of vegetation was installed. This green roof is an extensive system (4") and is planted with five varieties of sedum. These varieties were chosen based on their survivability in a vegetative roof environment.

Do the sprinklers at SLU turn off while it's raining?

SLU uses Rain Bird's Maxicom2 Multi-Site Central Controls Systems, which monitors local weather data, including evapotranspiration rates, to determine if irrigation is required and which suspends irrigation while raining. The Maxicom2 system also employs four rain cans to monitor daily rainfall and suspend or cancel irrigation based on predetermined thresholds.

Does SLU participate in single-stream recycling?

Yes. Single-stream recycling is the method in which the consumer places all recyclables, including glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard, into a single bin. This eliminates the need to sort the materials making it easier and more user-friendly to recycle.

Many different items can be recycled on campus via single-stream recycling. If you questions, check out this PDF, ask your area custodian, or email

Does SLU participate in Recyclemania?

SLU has been participating in the national Recyclemania competition since 2011. Learn more about the competition and how SLU ranks.

I need a recycling bin in my workspace. How do I get one?

If you need a recycling bin at your desk, ask your area custodian or contact Facilities Services via FM:Interact.

How do I know my recyclables are being appropriately managed?

We take recycling very seriously on SLU's campus and want to ensure that every item is accounted for and goes to the correct place.

Typically, custodians use their trash cart/bin to store both recycling and trash waste using two separate liners, blue for recycling and black or clear for landfill waste. It might look like the recycling is going into the same container, but separating these two forms of trash is important to us.

On occasion, food or other non-recyclable items may end up in the recycling containers. This contaminates the whole bin, forcing us to throw all of it into our waste containers. Custodial Services has implemented two separate bins for collection to remove any concern over this process. Custodians also receive training about recycling at SLU and are well-equipped to answer questions about this process.

I've heard I have to rinse my containers before I throw anything in a recycling bin, is this true?

Yes, you should do a quick rinse, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Just make sure you get rid of the majority of the food, so it doesn't contaminate the rest of the recyclables.

Who manages recycling at SLU?

Recycling on campus is a joint effort between several departments within the Division of Facilities Services and the campus community.

Where can I recycle light bulbs or batteries used at SLU?

Facilities Management currently recycles light bulbs and batteries used on campus. To request recycling of these items, place a FM:Interact request.

How can I recycle my old office furniture?

Office furniture can be recycled through the distribution department's furniture re-use program. Place a service request through FM:Interact request.

How can I recycle universal and e-waste at SLU?

Universal waste encompasses everything from old computer monitors, appliances, light bulbs, batteries or anything else with a cord. SLU's Facilities Services division will accept many items. When you are ready to have your items picked up, place a FM:Interact request and Distribution Services will pick it up free of charge.

I'm moving out of my residence hall. What do I do with items I don't want?

Trash to Treasure, SLU's move-out initiative, uses the resources of the Center for Social Justice, Facilities Management, Grounds Services, Sustainability and Benchmarking and Residence Life to divert unwanted move-out items, many of which are sent to local donation centers.

Trash to Treasure takes place during finals week in the fall and spring semesters. During the fall program, boxes are placed inside most of the residence halls. Donations will gradually be brought to central locations and picked up by local non-profits and charities. For the spring program, tents are set up at strategic locations across campus for donations to be dropped off.

Does SLU use any EcoLogo products?

The EcoLogo product certification program is recognized as a Type-I Eco-label by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), certifying environmental leaders using sustainable products. To receive certification, products are compared to others within specific categories and scientifically tested by relevant criteria throughout their life cycle.

SLU uses Tork© (towel, tissue and napkin) paper products certified by EcoLogo™ - the "Environmental Choice."

Does SLU produce any green energy or renewable energy resources?

SLU completed the installation of nine solar arrays throughout campus during the summer of 2015. These solar arrays are estimated to divert 191 metric tons of CO2 from the University's current power system.

The University's utility providers also participate in many sustainability practices.

Does SLU track my energy usage?

Individual metered building data is provided by local utility providers for those SLU buildings on separate meters. We are in the process of sub-metering additional buildings that have consolidated utility data bundled together under one meter. This will provide the opportunity to collect and analyze the data and make better energy-related decisions.

What is SLU doing to help reduce energy usage on campus?

Saint Louis University uses Metasys for building automation and control. The system has been configured to enable night setbacks as well as unoccupied and local operation of remote buildings. The system is used to turn air handlers and pumps on and off according to the scheduling needs for a particular building or zone within a building.

Building occupancy needs are determined by academic, event, research and administrative users for each building or zone.

The equipment schedules are optimized to prevent unnecessary run-time, which assists in reducing energy consumption.

Who turns off the lights at night on campus?

Dual technology lighting sensors using infrared and ultrasonic detection have been installed and are used to control lighting in classrooms, conference rooms and restrooms. For any room still equipped with a manual light switch, we ask that you turn the light off when you are the last one to leave the room or if you see a room not in use.

What other utility efficiency projects are being done at SLU?

LED lighting is being implemented in many lighting projects including, but not limited to: mounted exterior lights, chandeliers, private offices, banquet rooms, track lighting and parking lots. The conversion to LED technology in Busch Student Center alone has reduced energy usage from 44,136 watts to 5,526 watts. Large multipurpose banquet rooms and common areas have been primary targets for LED retrofits. The result is an estimated energy savings of $13,000 per year.

Vending Miser equipment has been installed on vending machines to manage lighting and compressor cooling cycles. The local electric utility supplier, Ameren Missouri, awarded SLU with an incentive rebate of $10,500 for the purchase and installation 105 units installed on refrigerated soda vending machines. This installation is estimated to save $10,229 by reducing energy usage by 157,000 kWh annually.

Where can I find more information on what SLU is doing to provide alternative transportation methods?

Transportation Services is committed to providing information about alternative methods for traveling to, on, and around campus. Check out alternative transportation methods here.

What is STARS and what is SLU's most recent rating?

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS® was developed by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), with broad participation from the higher education community.

Get more information on SLU's rating.