Mason Facilities transitioned to LED lighting at the Fairfax Campus’s Rappahannock River parking deck – replacing over six hundred fluorescent light fixtures. Mason’s new LED lighting offers consistent illumination, glare control, and significant energy savings. “The Lithonia LED light fixture spreads light evenly and further to improve the overall photometrics of the older fluorescent fixtures. This fixture also reduces glare from the light fixture that would make it easier on the motorist navigating through the parking garage. The lighting fixtures are equipped with a motion activation feature – remaining dim until motion is detected, resulting in considerable energy savings,” said Christopher Thorpe, Electrical Supervisor. Mason Facilities, in partnership with Parking Services, worked diligently over the span of five months to successfully complete the installation. The new parking deck lighting greatly enhances both the parking experience and safety for Mason community members.
What a year! 2022 has flown by and Mason Facilities has achieved great things all thanks to you and the teams within this division. We were able to accomplish so much this year allowing this university to run smoothly and efficiently because of the work you put in. Your investment into Mason continues to elevate our success as a division and is a testament to our culture of thriving together. Thank you for another successful year. We celebrated your dedication and hard work throughout 2022 and at the End of Year Facilities Appreciation Event. Check out some of the highlights below.
We hope you have a wonderful rest of the year, and you are able to recharge and make memories with your family and friends this holiday season. I look forward to seeing all that we will accomplish in 2023!
Vice President, Facilities
During the fall semester, Amber Saxton a Program Manager in Facilities’ University Sustainability office co-hosted a session with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) at the 2022 Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education. The conference had over 4,700 attendees from 353 institutions and 23 countries. Amber’s session, “Tackling Single-Use Plastics on Campus,” was one of only 24 discussion sessions.
Leading a session continues a long-standing connection between Mason and The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) who runs the annual conference. Mason was the first university in Virginia to earn an AASHE STARS Gold ranking, which is the second highest rating in what is recognized as the most comprehensive university sustainability ranking system available.
Amber has also been deepening ties with AASHE leadership and NWF through her role on the national board of NWF's Campus Race to Zero Waste (CR2ZW). This year she authored the NWF’s CR2ZW 'Plastics Reduction Partner' certification program, which universities around the country can now use to guide them through campus-wide plastics reduction, and receive AASHE STARS’ Innovation credit for their participation.
During the global conference session, she advised attendees on the importance of prioritizing going plastics free as institutions of higher education, potential solutions, and was able to highlight George Mason University as a case study after our university eliminated over half its single-use plastics within the past year, including plastic water and soda bottles and foodservice containers, and received the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for our commitment, leadership, and progress.
Story credit: AASHE.
Before the winter break, President Washington stopped by with donuts as a thank you to our Facilities Management team. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to Mason Facilities!
"I enjoyed our visit! Your important work touches the lives of every student, staff member and faculty member at Mason. We greatly appreciate your expertise, caring, and commitment to the university community," said University President Gregory Washington.
Mason Facilities' waste management and recycling operational processes have undergone significant changes over the last two decades. During this time, Mason Facilities identified several ways to streamline processes and workflows to improve efficiency of Mason’s waste management and recycling efforts.
Someone who has seen these changes firsthand is Facilities Management Recycling Supervisor of twenty years, Wiredu Adade. He has played an important role in the department’s progress and the identification of growth opportunities.
Prior to Adade’s employment, the campus “slim jim” waste and recycling containers were not lined – “we would have to pick up all the bins, load them in our trucks, bring them to the yard, sort them, wash them, and bring them back.” To cut down on the manual process, he spearheaded the campaign for the use of liners in campus waste and recycling containers.
“Mason Waste Management and Recycling (WMR) team has made major improvements to help move the university forward, including but not limited to: our waste diversion rate, composting program, and the addition of smart technology with Mason’s “Big Belly” campus bins,” said Kevin Brim, Facilities Management Waste Recycle Supervisor. “Our work as a department, with the support of the Mason community, is ongoing in efforts to reduce our volume of trash and reach our zero waste goals.”
Mason’s WMR team, in partnership with University Sustainability, is working toward increasing the campus waste diversion rate to 90% and to eventually become zero waste. Waste reduction, reuse, and donation, as well as diversion strategies like composting and recycling, are needed to support Mason’s sustainability goals. Mason has a robust multi-stream recycling program that is continuously being improved upon. The WMR team sort and collect multiple recyclables to keep cross-contamination low and to maintain clean recyclable material. Mason has also switched to high percent recycled content items (e.g., paper bags or aluminum cans), which are also proven to have high product circularity and recycling rates.
In October 2022, an interior zero waste station was installed at the Starbucks Northern Neck on Mason’s Fairfax campus. The zero waste station itself, installed by the Zone 6 Team, is made of approximately 1,655 reclaimed milk jugs – key to supporting post-consumer recycled (PCR) purchasing mandates – and offers updated zero waste design features like restrictive openings and better bin messaging. The interior pilot station includes five waste streams: glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans and plastic/aluminum bottles, paper, trash, and compost. Brim oversees collections and operations at the site in partnership with Mason Dining. University Sustainability, Operations & Business Services and its vendors will support planning, coordination, and data tracking/results.
The progression of Mason waste and recycling exemplifies Mason’s commitment to a sustainable future. Achieving zero waste will take the entire Mason community. According to Adade, there is an opportunity for increased correct disposal methods that can positively impact how the Mason community uses waste and recycling streams. As an example of how waste can accumulate, following move-in week, 44k pounds of cardboard was recycled by Mason’s WMR team! Adade, alongside Facilities Management and University Sustainability, continue to work toward educating students, faculty, and staff on proper waste disposal, recycling, reuse, and donation methods. As George Mason continues to expand, it is taking steps to do so responsibly. Learn more about waste management and recycling here.
Facilities Management Recycling Supervisor, Wiredu Adade, who for the past twenty years has overseen Mason’s WMR efforts, will retire in January 2023.
On Thursday, November 17, 2022, Mason’s Greenhouse and Garden’s program hosted its first “Earthsgiving” sustainable, cooking event. Students, volunteers, staff and community members learned how to make meals out of local, wild, foraged, and campus-grown ingredients. The Greenhouse and Garden’s program partnered with Mason Dining and the School of Art – hosting the event in the Art and Design Building with the support of Benjamin Ashworth, Sculpture Studio Supervisor for the School of Art.
“The goal of the event was to teach community members how to properly cook and prepare food, using local ingredients. Our team grows food all day – we want to inspire others to eat and live sustainably,” said Donielle Nolan, Greenhouse and Gardens Program Manager.
Starting in 2023, Mason's Greenhouse and Gardens program will focus on food security and student-focused events. Join them as they transition toward food security as the focal point of their efforts!
During her routine check of a campus building’s mechanical equipment, Rebecca "Becky" Mirenzi, a Facilities Management team member, identified and reported a gas leak at Mason’s Beacon Hall, a graduate on-campus housing facility at the Science and Technology Campus.
Becky quickly engaged Mason’s emergency personnel following her discovery of the gas leak – enabling a timely shutdown of the building and an isolation and repair of what was found to be a significant leak.
“Becky’s quick action ensured the safety of the residents of Beacon Hall,” said Ronnie Wells, Zone 2 Supervisor. Rebecca’s attention to detail and commitment to campus safety is well-deserving of this award. She was a crucial part in ensuring the safety of Mason’s SciTech graduate students.
Interested in submitting a GMU Facilities Employee of the Month nomination? Check out the new process here!
On October 25, 2022, The Princeton Review released its 13th annual Guide to Green Colleges – a resource, published for college applicants, to showcase colleges and universities committed to sustainability-related policies, programs, and practices. The profiles in The Princeton Review’s guide provide information on the institutions’ uses of renewable energy, their recycling and conservation programs, the availability of environmental studies in their academic offerings, and their career guidance for green jobs.
Since its inception in 2010, Mason has ranked among the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges. “This is our thirteenth consecutive inclusion in the guide. It is a great testament to the hard work of the University Sustainability team and to sustainability work across the entire university, including academics, operations, and a lot of student, faculty, and staff stakeholders,” said Gregory Farley, Director of University Sustainability.
It’s no wonder Mason continues to gain recognition for its sustainable efforts. Mason’s commitment to sustainability is a focus supported by the Mason community’s efforts and accomplishments. Over the past year, University Sustainability has made several efforts to further their commitment to a more sustainable future at Mason. Below, are just a few ways Mason is working toward its sustainable goals in 2022.
- The Starbucks Northern Neck composting pilot was launched in October as a collaboration between Facilities Management, University Sustainability, and the Patriot Green Fund (PGF), Operations & Business Services and its vendors, and offers the first industrial composting resource available for students, faculty, and staff use.
- Mason Exhibitions with the support of Mason Facilities, the Patriot Green Fund (PGF), University Sustainability, and community volunteers, planted 100 native hardwood tree saplings on the Fairfax Campus. The trees will benefit the Mason Arboretum – a nationally accredited collection of trees and woody plants, which can be spotted on Mason’s campuses with labeled signs that include scannable barcodes to its online catalogue.
- The installation of hydroponic and aquaponic food production systems was made possible through generous grants from both the Auxiliary Enterprise Management Council, Facilities Administration and the Patriot Green Fund. The staff at the PPG produce approximately 1,000 lbs. of fresh produce annually which raises $10,000 each year that is used to pay for supplies, staff and utilities. Harvests include fresh produce such as herbs, lettuce, and tomatoes.
The Princeton Review selected 400+ schools for the guide and its ranking list based on 2021-22 data from the company’s surveys of administrators and students attending the colleges.
The Princeton Review’s timely release of the guide coincides with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s annual October event, Campus Sustainability Month. Mason, along with AASHE, participated in a university-wide Sustainability Month – talk about a great way to close out a month dedicated to sustainable initiatives, programs, and best practices.
In 2021, AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) awarded Mason a STARS Gold rating, offering recognition for the university’s ongoing commitment to sustainability.
Mason’s feature on The Princeton Review’s guide can be found here.
On Tuesday, October 25, 2022, University Sustainability hosted its first Campus Sustainability Tour, showcasing Patriot Green Fund (PGF) projects that have reduced Mason’s environmental impact through innovative student, staff, and faculty efforts. Students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered outside of the Northern Neck Starbucks on the Fairfax campus to begin the tour – the location of a new zero waste station, with industrial composting!
The campus walking tour was led by prominent members of the University Sustainability team, Sarah D’Alexander, PGF Program Manager, Colleen Regan, Zero Waste Specialist, and Benjamin Auger, Sustainability Engagement Coordinator.
The PGF is a $100,000 per year sustainability fund, from Mason Facilities, devoted to making Mason’s campuses more sustainable through infrastructure improvements and research projects. Since its inception in 2011, the PGF has sponsored 100+ projects. Several of Mason’s PGF projects were featured during the walking tour. One sustainable project, highlighted during the tour at Mason’s Innovation Food Forest, was the “Bee Hotel,” a nesting habitat for native bees to safely lay and hatch their eggs.
The on-campus walking tour highlighted seven sustainability efforts:
- The Composting Pilot at Northern Neck Starbucks
- The George Mason University Arboretum
- Piedmont Rain Garden
- Waste Reduction at Southside
- Bird Strike Prevention Research
- Plastics Reduction
- Permaculture at the Innovation Food Forest
“Overall, the goal of the tour [was] to draw attention to the campus's sustainable infrastructure, as a showcase of the PGF’s impacts at Mason, to inspire future engagement with the program,” said D’Alexander. “It is so impactful to connect with the community and show them what is possible with support from the PGF. These tours highlight ways University Sustainability can equip anyone at Mason with the resources and knowledge needed to make positive change in the pursuit of our shared vision for a more sustainable future."
Throughout the tour, the University Sustainability team shared valuable information with participants including, but not limited to: proper methods of waste disposal, identification of Mason’s arboretum trees and foliage, Mason’s sustainable community-campus partnerships, the benefits of campus rain gardens, compost, reuse, and plastic reduction efforts, food insecurity initiatives, bird strike prevention, Greenhouse and Gardens program involvement, and engagement opportunities.
Promoting student involvement and engagement with sustainability is a year-round mission at Mason; however, it is a focal point during October, otherwise known as, Sustainability Month – a month-long series of events, including programs, initiatives, sharing best practices, and building capacity for a more sustainable Mason. Sustainability Month comes to close, but does not end! University Sustainability encourages the Mason Community to continue making an impact, exemplifying our university’s commitment to a just and sustainable future for all. University Sustainability and the PGF are hoping to offer similar opportunities for sustainable engagement in the future.
Do you have a sustainable project idea? Any current student, faculty, or staff member may apply for funds to support a sustainable project. Start your application by submitting the interest form and a member of the PGF Committee will provide you with one on one support to guide you through the application process.
Questions? Explore our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.
Contact the PGF via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Work continues on the “Necklace Phase One and Stream Restoration” project on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus. This project includes the restoration of the main stream channel, as well as adjacent tributaries, beginning at the southwestern corner of the Patriot Circle/Aquia Creek Lane intersection and finishing at the northern end of Mason Pond.
Construction teams have made progress and have almost reached Mason Pond Drive. The teams are currently performing earthwork and stream bed installation, as well as the installation of natural features, including boulders, rocks, and logs from felled onsite trees. Lighting for the paved and mulched pedestrian trails is also underway.
The construction phase is projected to be completed in late 2022. Once construction is completed, a diverse mix of native vegetation, shrubs, and trees will be seeded and planted to help minimize erosion and improve water quality.
To read our original announcement, click here.