The issue of sustainability touches almost every area of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). It is integrated into the core values of the University as well as the daily activities of the campus itself.
This is evident every time a bee flies over landscaping planted with native perennials. Or when an empty soda can thrown into a recycling receptacle in the break room makes its way to the new recycling center. Throughout October, the Office of Sustainability highlighted some of UMB’s green initiatives that are helping achieve these goals.
October is celebrated nationally as Campus Sustainability Month and, to mark the occasion, the Sustainable Development Office hosted a series of events that engaged and raised awareness among the campus community about the many ways UMB strives to protect the environment.
Elizabeth Main, MPAdirector of the Office of Sustainable Development, explained: “As UMB works year-round to integrate sustainability into its operations and culture, we are celebrating Campus Sustainability Month in October by hosting special events to bring sustainability awareness to the forefront of the minds of students, staff and faculty. Campus Sustainability Month is the culmination of our fall programming and allows us to engage with the UMB community on a number of sustainability-related topics.
One such topic is urban beekeeping, which featured one of UMB’s newest eco-friendly initiatives.
Last spring, a beehive was installed on the green roof of the seventh floor of the Health Sciences Research Center III (HSRFIII). As part of efforts to make the campus more hospitable to a variety of pollinators, the project complements ongoing ecological landscaping work and attracts more bees to the downtown area.
Bill Castro, owner of Bee Friendly Apiary, maintains the hive at HSRFIII as well as those on the rooftops of the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and the nearby Royal Sonesta Hotel. During Sustainability Month on campus, he led “What’s the Buzz,” a standing-room-only educational session that allowed members of the UMB community to learn more about urban beekeeping before to see the beehive on the green roof up close.
During the event, he explained how bees are able to survive – and even thrive – in Baltimore’s concrete jungle.
“With all these big buildings in the lower downtown area, you wouldn’t think the bees would be able to find nectar sources. I wasn’t sure how well they would do when I set up the first hive at the hotel, but the bees immediately started bringing in nectar and producing honey,” he said . “By placing the hive here, on the seventh floor, I always considered it another experience. Would the bees do well? Wouldn’t they do well? And the hive here is so full of honey that it’s even difficult to lift it.
He pointed out several types of trees that dot the local landscape, including Japanese pagoda, crepe myrtle and maple, which provide bees with a large amount of pollen. He also noted that bees are responsible for pollinating many fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts essential to the human diet, and that with a pollination radius of up to five milesthey play an essential role in the health of urban ecosystems.
“Bees function as a kind of barometer of local environments. If a bee colony is culled in a certain area and it does well there, that’s good for the environment. Even in cities, there are niches within local ecosystems where bees can thrive and survive,” he said, before adding: “I think for modern humans, with all the hustle and bustle that surrounds us, nature is now a second thought. It’s good when organizations like UMB try to make sustainability a frontline topic, because, in reality, without nature we would struggle to survive on this planet.”
Another event highlighting recent sustainability efforts was the Recycling Center Open House, which gave the campus community the opportunity to check out UMB’s newest building.
In addition to touring the facilities, open house attendees took part in an engaging question and answer session with staff from Environmental Services (EVS) and the Office of Sustainability. Among the topics discussed was the self-service system waste collection system currently deployed on campus, where centralized trash stations and standardized signage help reduce contamination of waste streams.
The conversation got attendees wondering how their offices could reduce waste when hosting events — and it turns out the Office of Sustainability maintains a list of “Green Eats” catering suppliers.
“The recycling center takes care of the end product, which is the waste, but our office also tries to take care of the front end of the cycle, which is the supply,” Main said. “To this end, we have a list of eco-friendly caterers on the sustainability website under “ “To be involved” tongue. These are caterers within a two-mile radius of campus, and we identify those that use local sourcing for their food, those that offer vegan and vegetarian options, and those that offer low waste, whether This is bulk packaging to minimize packaging or compostable waste. materials.”
She added: “We also have guidelines on how to organize green events, divided into small events and large events, for people who want to ensure their event footprint is as small as possible. »
During the open house, attendees were also able to learn about the unique aspects of the facility, including the fact that it is not only a recycling center, but the building houses redundant electrical infrastructure which can provide backup power to the campus if needed.
Other details discussed included the use of eco-friendly landscaping outside the Center, which uses pollinator-friendly native plantings that also help with stormwater management, as well as “daylighting” the The facility – windows deliberately incorporated into its design which, for the sake of equity, give all staff access to natural light.
Vanessas Harrington, MS, SHRM-CP, director of safety and compliance at the Department of Public Safety, said she attended the open house because sustainability is part of her own belief system. She added that learning more about UMB’s efforts in this area was enlightening.
“I have children and grandchildren, and it is important to me to leave the world a better place. It feels good that the University is doing this,” she said. “It’s great to work somewhere that reflects your own core values to make the world a better place. »
Campus Sustainability Month included a campus cleanup that attracted a crowd of dedicated volunteers who headed to points across campus armed with bags, gloves and gripping tools in an effort to #KeepUMBBeautiful. A biannual event held every spring and fall, the latest cleanup collected 127.33 pounds of trash in four hours — with a side mirror and a crab shell standing out among the more standard trash of food packaging and discarded cigarettes .
Among those who helped clean up the campus was Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, president of the UMB. Other participants included Tom Hockensmith, MSITexecutive director of IT for central administration, who briefly interrupted his work to share the reasons for his help.
“I’m on campus a lot and I have staff on campus, so it’s important to help keep it clean,” Hockensmith said, before adding, “My ten-year-old daughter hates litter. She even went around our neighborhood cleaning. I thought doing this was a good way to support her.
Another well-attended event was “Growing Together,” an educational session focused on the benefits and care of houseplants. Hosted at the School of Nursing in collaboration with the Office of Enterprise Risk Management and URecFit and Wellness, it included a small plant giveaway.
Victoria Meadows, MS, head of the enterprise risk management program, led the “Growing Together” gathering. She thinks, “This event was important because it gave the UMB community the opportunity to learn about the benefits of houseplants and how to care for them. This was especially important to me because as someone who LOVES houseplants, I wanted to make sure that when members of the public walked away, they had the knowledge they needed to care for houseplants . It brought me so much joy to see how engaged the audience was in learning and they appreciated the opportunity to take home their own little houseplant.
In addition to Sustainability Month events and activities on campus, specialized recycling collections – for books, batteries, ink/toner cartridges, electronics, and plastic bags/film – were collected throughout the month of October in the lobbies of the Campus Center and the Lexington Building.