The University has put a lot of effort and pride into its “Live Green” campaign.  In 2009 the King Pavilion was built for the College of Design and became the first educational building in Iowa to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification.  There has been a sustainability symposium held on campus, and every department has been challenged to review their building and practices in relation to sustainable practices and improvements.

Photo: Laurel Scott/Iowa State Daily 2009

One of the sustainability ideas that gained traction last year was replacing traditional trashcans with solar trash compactors around campus. Without informing the Library, Facilities Planning and Management (FPM) placed a BigBelly solar trash compactor in front of the Library because of the traffic level and the proximity of the Hub (dining services, coffee, and vending machines).  The big brown box, which was not labeled “TRASH” but, instead, “solar compactor” in small letters, faced the front door of the Library.

Sometimes I fear that we are all a bunch of alarmists, and I hear the darnedest things come out of our mouths.  So of course the thing that popped into my mind was “it looks like a book drop” and “why doesn’t it say TRASH in big letters?”  As I went up to my boss’s office, I was trying to figure out if I was just overreacting or if I really have that little faith in our patrons.  My boss did not laugh at me, went to take a look for himself, and came to the same conclusion–it looks like a book drop.  This then became his problem as he tried to convince FPM that we were not overreacting, and that the trash compactor needed to be moved.

Unfortunately, before it could be moved, someone from FPM who was emptying the compactor brought in a library book.  The book was near the top so had not actually been compacted, but we still had to withdraw it because it was soaked in smelly food and drink.

The new and improved solar trash compactor in front of the Library.

The trash compactor pilot test continued in front of Curtiss Hall for the rest of the year and was a great success.  Eleven more compactors were added to campus before the start of the semester–one right in front of the Library (sigh).  My boss immediately called me to tell me not to worry, it was being taken care of.  It was moved to the other end of the building.  I have the best boss.

I will think twice when I worry we are being too much the alarmist.  Much of our response is based on gut instinct and experience.