As it does each year, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) recognized Earth Day (April 22) with a series of green events and initiatives across the university. Leading the charge stateside was Cora Lee Gilbert, UMUC’s director of sustainability and contract services who, during her 37-year tenure, has not only become a champion for green initiatives at the university but also across Maryland.
She has hosted a multitude of environmental presentations, including an hour-long special Earth Day presentation at UMUC’s Academic Center at Largo that offered a hands-on craft activity to promote plastic upcycling. Gilbert is responsible as well for the university-wide color-coded recycling and trash program—and projects to retrofit garage and outdoor lighting at UMUC’s Adelphi location resulting in a 65 percent decrease in electricity consumption in those areas.
Throughout April, in honor of Earth Day, Gilbert also has instituted a plastic bag recycling program in cooperation with Trex, a maker of composite plastic decking. Once collected, plastic bags and wraps—including newspaper sleeves, clean Ziploc bags, and cereal box bags—will be processed by Trex and turned into building materials for decks and patios.
“This collection process is a team effort,” Gilbert said. “Housekeeping is doing a great job of emptying the boxes each evening, and at the end of the month, a co-worker in facilities will help me take the bags to a local store. I am thankful and very much appreciative of everyone’s help to make this a success.”
Farther afield, at UMUC Asia, the diversity council shared recycling tips and something “green” with the UMUC community for Earth Day. The overseas diversity council also collected Earth Day stories from global employees, which they will feature on UMUC webpages.
In the United Kingdom (UK), UMUC staff members at RAF Alconbury Education Center, along with their local education center, planted spring flowers along the center’s walk to brighten up the area and herald spring. In Lakenheath UK and at UMUC’s field sites in Northern Germany, staff distributed UMUC tote bags, along with information encouraging students to reuse bags and cut back on plastic waste and help end plastic pollution.
Stuttgart is working with one of their collegiate traveling faculty members, Theresa Martin (BS and MS in Biology), to create a video presentation in recognition of Earth Day. Martin planned to make and serve seaweed cupcakes by way of introducing a discussion on renewable resources. She also discussed initiatives undertaken at a variety of companies to clean up waste in the oceans.
In Kaiserslautern, a team of diversity council members re-potted plants at the administration headquarters and assisted with purchasing new eco-friendly and anti-pollutant plants for their offices. Spangdahlem hosted a "Plant a Seed & Let Your Knowledge Grow" event on April 20 in advance of Earth Day—and handed out to students packets of seeds along with UMUC class schedules.
Earth Day activities and initiatives aside, UMUC remains committed to protecting the environment throughout the year. Since 2008 UMUC has been a signatory of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment, now known as Second Nature, which commits colleges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and work toward becoming carbon neutral.
To meet this commitment UMUC focused on ensuring that stateside building facilities owned by the university were made as energy efficient as possible through features such as high-efficiency lighting and appliances, low-flow toilets, light sensors and the use of smart-strips throughout facilities—energy efficient power-strips designed to reduce energy consumption.
The university has also focused on providing access to public transportation and encouraging its use, as well as instituting an alternative work schedule and teleworking. Priority parking was provided for carpoolers and drivers of high-efficiency vehicles at the Largo and Adelphi buildings. Drivers of electric vehicles will also find a charging station at Largo, and commuter workstations are available at various regional locations including Dorsey Station and Waldorf.
Today, all buildings owned by the university are either gold or platinum LEED certified—the most widely used green building rating system in the world.
As an active member of the Maryland Green Registry, UMUC also submits annual reports on the university’s climate data and greenhouse gas emissions.
To learn more about Earth Day and UMUC's ongoing role to keep Earth green, visit:
Official Earth Day 2018 Website. This site contains information, resources, videos, and a petition to secure a future free of plastic pollution.
UMUC’s Climate Action Plan. This report outlines administration, electricity, transportation, and education and outreach goals as well as the financial plan to achieve carbon neutrality from 2010 to 2050.
UMUC’s Climate Action Plan 2014 Update. This report shares research about how the University is meeting its goals so far and how it plans to move forward.