Everyone involved in the Green Greek Representative Program is passionate about sustainable practices, but having strong leadership like Daniel can help everyone reach that next level. We are proud to highlight Daniel Merz in our Executive spotlight this week!
Daniel Merz, our VP of Operations, has always had a knack for loving the environment. “I’ve always been very passionate about the environment, having had recycling and compost programs in all my previous schools. My passion definitely was born there.”
Sustainability can be a complex process that requires planning ahead and knowing what your own personal habits are. “On a grander scheme I have always been very efficiency oriented. Throughout my life I’ve always tried to streamline my daily practices and being sustainable naturally fit in. Whether that was turning off lights when I could, using less water when I can, and wasting right, it’s always fit into my way of living.”
Thinking of sustainability as simply being efficient with resources is a great way to think about it.
As for what his job as VP of Operations entails, he manages all the project groups, consults them in difficult situations, analyzes their performance, and guides them to their goals and club goals. A very important role!
When asked about how the Green Greek Representative Program has helped him to better his own environmental space, he proudly responded, “Green Greeks has given me an increased space to make changes not only to my environment to my communities. Professionally, I am able to grow as a leader, collaborating with both fellow students but sustainable professionals in Seattle Public Utilities and other environmental organizations, we can make this world a better place that lasts a lot longer for the human race. We just have to unify.”
Thank you, Daniel for all your hard work. We appreciate your leadership here at Green Greeks!
With summer time coming to a close, we at Green Greeks are so excited to welcome everyone back to campus and look forward to getting to work with all of our new and returning members this fall. We are so excited to announce that after two years of hard work and perseverance, we will be an accredited course this year while we dive into our third year of sustainability in the Greek Community. The Green Greeks Representative Program offers 1 credit to all of our members and up to 2 credits for our project leaders, which is an amazing accomplishment for us and we are so excited to offer this opportunity to our members.
Over the last two years we have learned a lot from our members and from those around us. We have seen over 150 representatives in over 50 unique major programs across the University of Washington with a Sorority participation rate of 84% and a Fraternity participation rate of 57%. We have seen fourteen different chapters save an average of $2,800 per year through sustainable water solutions: which is around $2ook savings in total. Currently, we are on track to save upwards of $500k in the next 5 years and it wouldn’t be possible without the immense support we’ve received from our brothers and sisters campus wide!
This year, we will be still meeting Tuesday’s every other week starting on October 3rd. We have some amazing speakers and presentations lined up for this quarter and can’t wait to share what we learn with the whole Greek Community. Since we are now accredited, our grading is based mainly on participation so that we can get as many men and women working to better our homes and our environment as possible. With that in mind, we are so excited to welcome new (and old) members to our new Green Greek course and can’t wait to see what kind of positive impact we can have on the UW campus this year.
Green Greeks is proud to announce that we were recognized as a Husky Green Award Nominee this year for our exemplary leadership in the UW Community and our dedication to campus sustainability!
We are extremely appreciative of our leadership team, including Director Talia Haller, VP’s of Finance Mikey Callan and Shiv Chitre, VP of Operations Daniel Merz, VP of Fundraising and Events Alex Urasaki, and VP of Outreach Emma Conneely. We are also incredibly grateful for the numerous project leaders who do such awesome work in the community and produce successful results: Jane Green, Gavin Forster, Lia Carstens, Ben Weymiller, Natalie Logan, and Elizabeth Szorzad! Thank you all for your efforts.
And lastly, we are incredibly appreciative of the support we’ve received from the Greek Community as a whole, including Chapter Presidents, individual members, and the Greek governance organizations: IFC and Panhellenic.
Coming to you live, on April 20th, catch your favorite Green Greeks for a Pizza Extravaganza you won’t want to miss! Catch us on the 17th Ave Median between Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Epsilon Phi. Not only do you get the chance to help your very own community improve our sustainability, but there is plenty of opportunities to enjoy yourself in the process.
We’ll be serving up pizzas from 12pm to 4pm, $2 a slice and $3 for two slices. Pizza options include Cheese, Pepperoni, and Hawaiian. Plus, no extravaganza would be complete without activities. We’ll have a water pong trivia game where you test your knowledge on sustainability and learn some cool information in the process. Additionally, you’ll find the classic corn-hole game that no outdoor event is complete without, and you can toss a frisbee into a compost bin and see how easy it is to compost in your everyday life. If simply playing games isn’t enough for you, winners get a BOGO free pizza card, courtesy of Pagliacci Pizza!
After playing games all afternoon and learning about ways you can help our Greek community become more sustainable and eco-friendly, we’ll have the opportunity for you to take the Green Pledge and become a part of our cause. Your pledge will become a part of our photo booth background where there will be plenty of props for you and your friends to pose with! Post your pictures on social media and use the tag #UWGreenGreeks to help spread the word. The best way to help your community is to get involved, so make your 4/20 productive and join us for pizza and a good time, we can’t wait to see everyone there!
During Winter Quarter 2017, the Green Greek Representative Program has seven exciting projects, many of which are primed for success! A few projects are continuations from Fall Quarter 2016, including the Waste Right Project which is working to reduce and divert waste in the Greek Community.
The Comprehensive “Waste Solutions Package”
But they’re not working alone! In fact, the Waste Project Team has been working with a team of experts from local companies and utilities to roll out a comprehensive, money-saving “Waste Solutions Package” for Chapters. The list of experts involved includes Commercial Recycling & Composting Program Manager Pat Kaufman, Director of Solid Waste Compliance at Seattle Public Utilities Sally Hulsman, Waste Zero Specialist at Recology Elizabeth Szorad, and Solid Waste Field Inspector Brenda King. So far, four chapters have acted as case studies for implementing and making the business case for waste solutions: Alpha Chi Omega, Chi Omega, Delta Chi, and Sigma Kappa. On Tuesday, January 24th, the Green Greek Representatives, led by the utility experts, did a waste audit of these chapters and four others to learn more about how to implement a Waste Solutions package within more chapters.
Essentially, the waste management plan is a three-part approach to improving a chapter’s waste habits:
First, the Green Greek Representative will create a Waste Solutions Plan for their chapter. This entails creating a strategy for the implementation of recycling, composting, and waste disposal bins for all main areas, as well as acquiring the respective bags that will be needed for the new bins (i.e. green compostable bags and clear recycling bags), explanatory signage, and transitioning to sustainable materials (utensils, to-go containers, paper towels) so that most, if not all, household materials can be recycled or composted rather than thrown in the trash. In some cases, it might also include a plan for smaller recycling and composting containers for individual rooms to encourage sorting and stop chapter members from simply taking all the garbage they accumulate in their room and dumping it into a main trash bin. The plan will include the estimated costs and sourcing options for all necessary supplies, as well as a timeline.
While the Waste Solutions Plan is being developed, the Representative will work with a Solid Waste Field Inspector from Seattle Public Utilities to set up the best pick-up schedule. For example, instead of getting the trash picked up Monday through Friday, the chapter may be able to have the trash picked up only two days a week by adding on two additional recycling pickups (which are free). This can reduce waste costs significantly. One fraternity’s current service levels was as follows: two 2-yd garbage dumpster pickups on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which cost $1848.48 per month (2 Dumpsters x 3 pick-ups per week x $308.08 monthly cost of 1x per week pick-up) and one 2-yd recycling dumpster with one pickup, which was free. The recommended version was one 2-yd dumpster with four pickups per week at a new cost of only $1232.32 per month (1 Dumpster x 4 pick-ups per week x $308.08) and the one -yd recycling dumpster picked up three times per week (still free). The total yearly savings would be more than $7,100. On top of that, the Chapter has the potential to eliminate enormous fines it has been receiving for not recycling/composting correctly and for having waste outside of the specified bins, which totaled more than $485 from September to December 2016.
As the Waste Solutions Plan and new pickup schedule is implemented, the Representative must focus on creating an educated and respectful culture around the waste reduction efforts. This includes educating the Chapter on best waste practices through one or more Chapter presentations, putting up signs and reminding people on Facebook, and making the business case for waste reduction and diversion very clear.
The Big Gr$$n Barrier: Getting Around Up-front Capital Costs
One of the biggest impediments to implementing a Waste Solutions package is the cost of the bins (one recycling slim jim is about $30, multiply that by 10, and you’re looking at $300 for recycling bins alone). This is of special concern because many Representatives wanting to make the changes fear that their chapters might not even use the bins and the investment would be wasted. In order to help Representatives pay the upfront costs of implementing a waste solutions plan, the Green Greek Finance team is working to create a low-risk loan system in which Chapters would receive and implement a full waste solutions package (including bins, signage, bags, sustainable kitchen materials, and a chapter education presentation) at a subsidized price, which would then be paid out of the savings the chapter sees in their waste utility bill over a specified time period.
Given that one fraternity expects to save over $7,500 in one year from the implementation of their waste solution package, whose upfront cost was $830, the return on investment is unquestionable. In fact, the net present value of such an investment (assuming a relatively high discount rate of 10%) is over $27,000 within 5 years. Now, that’s real savings.
Two sustainability-focused groups at the University of Washington, UW-Solar and the Green Greek Representative Program, are collaborating on a project that has sunny prospects and dazzling potential. Essentially, the two groups will be working together to determine the potential for solar power in the UW Greek Community.
UW-Solar brings students and faculty together to carry out solar energy projects. The project tasks range from planning, governance, finance, design, development, economic, and environmental effects of infrastructure. These mid-to-short term solar power projects are small steps towards the long-run objectives of decarbonization, resilience, and information security.
Desiring to achieve similar goals, the Green Greek Representative Group works to make the Greek community a more sustainable place. So far, the Greek community has taken action to educate chapter members about recycling/composting, lighting efficiency, water conservation, and other general sustainability education topics. After focusing on many quick-fix problems, the Green Greek Representatives are now turning their attention to long-term projects.
Quoting myself, the current Director of the Green Greek Representative Program, from a May presentation: “Using too much energy and using energy inefficiently are huge problems in the Greek Community. We want to see what we can do to power our community more efficiently, bring down energy costs, and source as much of our power from clean energy sources as possible.”
Pictured: UW-Solar student helping the GGR Program initiate the project.
The U-District, where the UW Greek Community resides, is powered by Seattle City Light. As of 2014, Seattle City Light already had a highly renewable fuel mix, including Hydro (90%), Nuclear (4%), and Wind (4%). Less than two percent of energy comes from coal and other fossil fuel sources. Yet many energy customers are still pursuing solar energy too close this small gap, as well as additional benefits like paying less for energy in the long-run or getting paid for your electricity.
Solar power in the UW Greek Community has many additional perks. “The greatest benefit of this collaborative project is the potential for student engagement,” said Stefanie Young, the leader of UW-Solar. “The Greek Representatives involved with this project will gets hands-on experience working on a real-world energy project: they will be collecting data, preparing the feasibility audit, securing funding, facilitating construction management, as well as educating their chapter members.”
Through the summer, the Green Greek Representative Group is working to collect data from all 54 chapter houses, including roof plans, electricity information, and the age of the roofs. Come fall, UW-Solar will use this data, and the continued help and support from the Green Greeks, to conduct feasibility studies that answer questions such as: Is solar even feasible on chapter house roofs? Is it cost-competitive with what chapters are currently paying in energy costs? What will the return on investment be? Will solar power reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if so, by how much? What would be the best system given project type/location? What are the funding possibilities? How will energy be monitored to quantify the success of results?
Depending on the outcome of the feasibility reports, the Green Greek Representative Group and UW-Solar will then work to determine the next steps. Regardless of whether solar power turns out to be feasible or not, this opportunity is a chance for collaboration, education, and dawning discovery.
Collaborative efforts like these hold the key to sustainability success in the future.
Other Greek Chapters Nationwide: The GGRP wants to extend our reach and expand our collaboration efforts with other Greek Communities around the nation. Currently, the UW Green Greek Program would is interested in Cornell’s LEAF rating system, the University of Arizona’s “Zero-net-waste” philanthropy events, and Indiana University’s Spring Energy Challenge.Collaboration is a two-way street, already students at Washington State University and Syracuse University have contacted the GRRP to learn about potential program possibilities for their own Greek Communities.
UW-Solar: UW-Solar, a group that works on solar energy projects, is working with the GGRP to calculate the solar potential for chapters. Learn more here!
The UW Farm: The UW Green Greek Representative Group hopes to participate in future collaboration projects with the UW Farm, whose mission is to be the campus center for the practice and study of urban agriculture and sustainability. Although that idea has yet to come to fruition, reaching out has already culminated in one chapter, Sigma Kappa, successfully servicing the “Farm-To-Table” dinner.
Mercedes Stroeve, Seattle Public Utilities: A UW senior used the GGRP to gather data for her research for Seattle Public Utilities on creating an outreach strategy that encourages tenants to fully transition to composting and other best waste practices.
UW Biodiesel Cooperative: The UW Biodiesel Cooperative, a group repurposing leftover cooking oil into an alternative fuel supply, is setting up a collection system to use the Greek Community’s leftover oil.