Last April, eight students from the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center, in Greenville, Ky., traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the National Green Center Recognition Award. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis recognized these students and other Muhlenberg representatives for the center's outstanding efforts in energy and water conservation, installation of energy-efficient materials, and green student training projects.
Center Director Kenny Brown, who accompanied the students on the trip, said at the time, “This experience has taught our students that environmental awareness is a lifestyle commitment. It's my hope that Muhlenberg will continue to serve as an environmental ambassador for the Job Corps program and for our greater community.”
One year later, it's safe to say Mr. Brown's hope has become a reality. When the eight students returned from Washington, they brought with them a renewed commitment to energy-efficiency and sustainability, which they fervently passed along to the rest of the center. By the end of 2010, Muhlenberg had saved approximately $77,000 on gas, electricity, and water as a result of its energy-efficient upgrades.
The center is now accustomed to huge energy savings from its low-voltage lights; reinforced insulation; 85 new double-pane windows and 94 new doors with insulating sweeps; low-flow toilets, showerheads, and washing machines; instant, tankless water heaters; and new HVAC units. But all this new equipment has only done so much to instill a culture of environmental awareness on center. The rest has been up to the students and staff, led by the Student Government Association (SGA) and the center's Green Committee.
Every building on center contains a 55-gallon recycling container, and drains have been installed around several buildings to collect water, which is then used to irrigate flower beds, saving the center an estimated 13,440 gallons of water per year. The SGA also mandates that programmable thermostats be set to 68 degrees during the winter and 75 degrees during the summer.
In addition to these efforts, no project has been more indicative of Muhlenberg's innovative approach to sustainability than its move to a tray-less food system in the cafeteria. The center no longer needs to use water, electricity or cleaning chemicals to wash 1,215 trays every day. As a result, the center saves approximately 73,913 gallons of water, 47,450 kilowatts of electricity, and 156 gallons of cleaning chemicals per year. All of those savings might have been expected, but what wasn't expected was the drastic reduction in wasted food after the tray removal.
Now that students and staff can only take as much food as they can fit on one plate, wasted food is down about 30 percent per person, per day. Over the course of an entire year, that amounts to 130 pounds of food per person that is no longer going to waste.
The center estimates that the tray-less food system is saving a total of more than $50,000 per year. It's just one of many green initiatives that have taken hold at the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center. Although several of the students who accepted the National Green Center Recognition Award last year have graduated and moved on, their enthusiasm for environmental awareness and sustainability is still thriving on center.