Sustainability News

Guilford Sustainability

Right here, right now, we’re working towards a sustainable future. Our students, faculty, and staff are making a real difference, with large and small sustainability projects that demonstrate concrete, measurable results. We’re lowering our carbon footprint, saving money and creating lasting social change. Why? Because it’s our heritage. Stewardship is one of our seven Core Values and has been since we opened in 1837. So for us, sustainability isn’t some new trend. It’s just the way we’ve always done things, and always will.


When it comes to being good stewards of the land, we’re not at all shy about getting our hands dirty. Whether it’s taking pre- and post-consumer waste and turning it into rich compost for projects all around campus, or gardening alongside our coworkers and neighbors, we take what we put into—and get out of—the land very seriously.

Compost Tea

Compost tea is a microbial solution that improves soil structure, adds beneficial organisms to the soil to sustain plants, builds organic matter in the soil, and aids in soil nutrient uptake. On Guilford’s campus, compost tea is made by aerating a mix of compost and water with a GeoTea system in a 250-gallon container.

Compost tea contains billions of beneficial organisms, so just one application does the work of many applications of regular compost. This saves money and labor and gets the beneficial organisms into the soil and roots more quickly. It can also be applied directly to the leaves and flowers of plants. Healthier soil means more nutrients for the plants, and healthier plants mean less damage from insects.

Book Store

Visit the on-campus bookstore in Founders and you’ll see sustainable, environmentally-responsible products on many of the shelves. But it’s what you can’t immediately see—the massive offering of used books, books for rent, digital books, and digital rentals—that has an even bigger impact on the lives and bank accounts of students and their parents.

Used and rental books are a great example of reduce, reuse, and recycle. They reduce waste going into landfills, reduce the use of energy and ink, save trees, and save money. Digital sales and rentals provide further benefits by offering another level of financial and finite resource savings.

Guilford Farm

Farming is a tradition at Guilford College revisited. After a nearly seven decade hiatus from farming, Guilford is once again growing food to help feed our community. Now in its fifth year of production, the farm is producing over ten thousand pounds of food annually. The farm has seen steady growth and now encompasses three acres of cultivated land, including a five thousand square foot high tunnel enabling year round production. Nearly all the crops are started from seed in our propagation greenhouse. The farm produces a wide variety of vegetable crops utilizing sustainable farming practices. All of the soil amendments and pesticides used are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved.

The farm serves the greater Guilford community by providing fresh vegetables for the College’s dining services, a student operated on-site farmers market, a steadily growing CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, two local groceries and a few local restaurants.

The farm is a popular site for work-study students, Bonner Program members and a wide range of volunteers from both our on-campus and off-campus communities. The mission of the Guilford College Farm is to serve as a learning laboratory while producing fresh, locally grown produce for the community in an economically viable framework.

Campus Bike Shop

Pedal power is one of the healthiest modes of transportation for people and the planet. At the Guilford College bike shop right on campus, students, faculty and staff can drop by and get a quick, free safety checkup at our location in the basement of Shore Hall. There are also fantastic discounts on tune-ups, bike rentals, parts and other services to keep the wheels rolling. Rental bikes are available to the Guilford community for a day, a week or the whole semester. The bike shop fosters and supports a biking culture and community on campus. More people biking and fewer driving cars means a smaller carbon footprint.

Bike shop hours:

  • Monday:  1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday:  2:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday:  1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Thursday:  1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Friday:  1 p.m. - 5 p.m.


Each year Guilford College participates in RecyleMania, a friendly competition that helps colleges and universities benchmark their recycling efforts. During the eight-week competition, schools report recycling and trash amounts each week, then use those numbers to rally students, faculty and staff on their individual campuses to do even better the next week. As everyone on campus becomes more and more involved over the eight weeks, we not only raise awareness of our recycling program, but significantly lower the amount of waste we generate. Because the competition is two months long—and we participate each year—student, faculty and staff behavior is positively modified for the long term.

Landfill, Recycle & Compost Bins

In order to reduce the amount of campus waste, we provide recycling stations in dorms and most academic buildings that include receptacles for commingled recycling, landfill waste, battery recycling, electronic waste and compost. Our landfill waste goes...well...to the landfill, but the rest is diverted from the landfill so that all, most, or some of the parts can be used again.

Our compost is completely processed and used on campus. We use only onsite "waste" products; food waste from the dining hall, campus buildings and farm, fallen leaves from the campus grounds and sawdust from our sawmill operation. The finished compost and compost tea is used as fertilizer on the campus grounds and farm.

Community Garden

Our Community Garden is a relaxed place where people from all walks of life come together to get dirt under their nails, grow awesome food and experience the one-of-a-kind thrill of nurturing seeds into harvests. Our Community Garden stimulates social interaction, teaches sustainable gardening (we also bring our First Year Experience classes here to see sustainable practices in action), creates healthy food that improves lives.

Green Dining

In the summer of 2008 we began a partnership with Meriwether Godsey to greatly reduce food service waste, change the way we purchase our food and materials and create a more sustainable dining program. As part of that initiative we remodeled the kitchen with an incredibly efficient automatic dish washer, added an organic-waste capture system, eliminated trays, switched to biodegradable napkins, began purchasing more local and organic foods and started collecting used cooking oil for conversion to biodiesel. Today, by composting pre- and post-consumer waste, the dining hall diverts thousands of pounds of waste from landfills every week. Depending on the growing season, up to 40% of the food purchased is either organic, local, or both—reducing pesticide use and eliminating thousands of miles of hypothetical highway transportation. And nearly 100% of our cooking oil is reclaimed for biodiesel.

Green Cleaning

Our students challenged us to greatly reduce the amount of chemical cleaners we use around campus and we listened. Today our cleaning crew carries handheld ionizers that convert regular tap water into a safe, chemical-free, germ-killing cleaner that does just as good a job as chemical cleaners, yet doesn’t pollute the air or leave harmful residues on surfaces. For floors and other applications where the ionizers aren’t practical, we’re now using Alpha HP green cleaners. Not only have we eliminated almost all of the issues of transporting, storing and working with chemical cleaners, we have also reduced the risk of those chemicals getting into the water supply through drainage and runoff. As purchasing expensive cleaners is no longer necessary, we are saving money as well.


It doesn’t take long for leftovers and scraps from meals to add up and tons (literally) of our dining waste used to end up in landfills. Today, we have two commercial-grade Earth Tubs to churn that waste into incredibly rich compost. The tubs create huge amounts of compost we can use all around campus as fertilizer. By using our compost and compost tea, we are able to eliminate the use of petroleum-based fertilizers on campus grounds. The compost tea is also applied at the farm where we grow food for the dining hall—starting the continuous, cyclical process all over again. We’re diverting an average of 800 to 1,200 lbs of waste from area landfills every week. That’s an incredible amount of compost we can use on the farm, in the community garden and all around campus.


Sustainable energy has two key components: renewable energy and energy efficiency. For years, we’ve steadily been increasing the use of renewable energy while becoming increasingly efficient in how we use traditional energy. The benefit? A lower carbon footprint, lower power bills, and a campus-wide change in attitudes and behaviors about energy use.

Energy Allowance

Since 2009, students residing in the North Apartments and Theme Houses have enthusiastically been living with a monthly energy allowance. The Energy Allowance Program uses historical data to set a “power ceiling”—a limit of energy consumption the students are supposed to stay under. The students have to learn very quickly how lights, appliances, computers, mini-fridges and other electronics affect power bills and energy consumption. By helping residents become aware of their energy use—and giving them the personal responsibility of conserving in their living spaces—Guilford College has been able to lower its carbon footprint and utility expenses.

XLERATOR Hand Dryers

In an effort to reduce paper waste and save energy, we have replaced paper towels with electric hand driers in 60% of the restrooms on campus. The XLERATOR hand driers we have installed dry hands three times faster and use 80% less energy than conventional hand dryers. We have completely eliminated paper towels in all of the restrooms that have XLERATOR hand driers. Because they’re so efficient, we’re not only reducing waste—and our carbon footprint—but also saving money every month.

Archdale Hall LEED Certification

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize sustainable development. It has incredibly strict guidelines, making it difficult for even new buildings to earn certification. During the 2008 renovations to Archdale Hall, built in 1885, we were able to marry LEED certification with historic preservation. High-efficiency lighting, super-efficient heating and cooling systems, low-water consumption fixtures, a rain water harvesting and recycling system and extra- thick insulation made from recycled cellulose and paper allowed us to highlight historic features and maximize energy efficiency.

Solar Thermal System

Since 2007, Guilford College has installed more than 200 solar panels on nine buildings across campus— which makes it the nation’s largest college solar hot water project to date. Together, these panels can create more than 9,000 gallons of hot water every day. The solar thermal system harnesses renewable energy for a huge portion of the campus—including dorms, athletic facilities and dining halls—greatly reducing our dependence on natural gas for hot water and helping us work toward our ACUPCC (American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment) carbon reduction goals.

Green Office Program

Our Green Office program certifies faculty and staff office suites based on things like energy use, waste reduction, campus participation and purchasing decisions. We start with a simple audit to provide them with some tips for improving their practices, then challenge them to make personal lifestyle choices that are more sustainable. Once they demonstrate these sustainable practices, they earn the honor of a Green Office Certification. Faculty and staff are quickly learning how their day-to-day actions affect not just their offices, but the campus, community and planet. They’re more aware of how they use resources, and they see how positive individual choices can add up and make a real, measurable difference.

EnergyStar Purchasing Policy

Guilford College Facilities created an EnergyStar purchasing policy which requires that all new electronic purchases be EnergyStar or rated equivalently. At the same time, while it’s not an enforced rule, we also request and suggest that all electronics brought to school by students meet the same required ratings. Just by slowly replacing broken or outdated electronics with EnergyStar models—and inviting students to think about the energy demands of the electronics they bring to school every year—we are able to reduce the power we consume as a campus.

ReRev Equipment in PE Center

As part of a larger remodel of the PE Center, 10 ReRev elliptical machines were installed which harness the energy from workouts. Now, when people work out on the ellipticals their kinetic motion actually generates electricity that’s captured to be used in the center later. Each of the ten machines captures about 50 watt hours of clean, carbon-free electricity during every 30-minute workout. That’s enough power to run a laptop for 24 hours or to fully charge a cell phone six times.


The less clean, fresh water we use—and waste—the faster groundwater aquifers can be replenished by nature. We started water-saving measures years ago and continue to adopt new technologies as they become available. The benefit? Far less water used on campus, lower water bills and long-term change in the way people on our campus think about—and use—one of our most precious resources.

Rainwater Capture System

Instead of relying on city water for the toilets in Archdale Hall, we installed a grey water system that captures rainwater from the entire east half of the Archdale Hall roof. The 1,700 gallon, underground system uses mechanical, sediment and ionization filters to treat the water before pumping it up to the bathrooms. By feeding all of the toilets from the grey water system, we are able to efficiently reuse rainwater and reduce the amount of city water needed in the building. The system helped us get LEED Silver Certification during the building’s remodel in 2008.

Lake Water Irrigation

We have always used lake water rather than city water to irrigate both the McBane and Alumni athletic fields, which are about 5.5 acres combined. The same lake water was also previously used to water the grass in the Armfield Athletic Center’s football stadium. That field was replaced with turf in 2009—further reducing our irrigation needs. While we still carefully manage the amount of water we use for irrigation, the lake greatly lessens our impact on local water resources. By collecting the water from our large, wooded watershed, we can keep the fields safer for play while still reducing our impact on the environment.

Dual-Flush Toilets

We’ve upgraded almost all of the toilets on campus with manual, dual-flush mechanisms. When the handles are pushed down for solid waste, the toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush—already a huge saving over older, non-efficient units. When the handles are pushed up for liquid waste, the toilets use just 1.1 gallons, saving another half gallon per flush. By switching from older toilets to basic, low-flow 1.6 GPF units, we can save about 10,000 gallons of water per toilet per year. But adding in the dual-flush, high-efficiency mechanisms, we’ve added another 8,000 gallons of water savings for each toilet. By installing low flow toilets and opting for the dual-flush, high-efficiency mechanisms, we are saving about 18,000 gallons of water per toilet each year.

Sink Aerators

All of the restroom sinks on campus have been fitted with 0.5 GPM (gallon per minute) aerators to reduce consumption. It seems like a small change, but on a typical bathroom sink we use about 25% less water than we’d typically use without an aerator. Today’s aerators do an incredible job saving money without sacrificing water pressure. By installing them across campus, we’re able to greatly reduce the amount of fresh, clean water used for things like washing hands and brushing teeth—without reducing the pressure and effectiveness of the faucets. Aerators are helping us save up to 18,000 gallons of fresh, clean water per sink every year.

Water-free Urinals

95% of the urinals on campus have been replaced with Falcon Waterfree models. Each one of these urinals can save up to 40,000 gallons of fresh water per year. As fresh, clean water becomes more and more scarce, these savings become more important for our campus, community and planet. By using so much less fresh water, we’re not only conserving one of the planet’s most important resources, but saving a good deal of money in utility bills and maintenance. The simple act of using waterfree urinals also reminds our students, faculty and staff to conserve water throughout the day.

Ultra-Low Flow Shower Heads

Like sink aerators, ultra-low flow shower heads are a small, easy way to save a large amount of water. We’ve replaced older, greedier heads with extremely efficient 1.5 GPM (gallon per minute) models in showers all across campus. These reduce the average five-minute shower's water usage from 40 to 7.5 gallons. By eliminating about 32.5 gallons of water from every five-minute shower, we are making incredible gains in water conservation. But it’s not just water we’re saving. Our water heaters—the majority of which are already powered by solar—have to use much less of that stored solar energy to heat the water.

Green Office 2.0

Having a green office is in your power! It's always a good idea to assess your habits and see how green you can be and the Office of Sustainability is supplying you with the means to do that. Complete the Green Office 2.0 checklist to see how you're doing and get certified along the way.

Earn a point for each item on the checklist (available in the downloads section below) which applies to your office. If you are already implementing all of these items, that's great! If not, we hope this checklist provides suggestions for ways to minimize your environmental impact at work. Some items on the checklist won't apply to every office, but we leave you room to include ideas and innovations of your own. If you have questions about any of the items, please contact Sheila Keen. Once you email your completed checklist to Sheila, you will be contacted via email to let you know your certification status.

The idea behind Green Office 2.0 is to reduce our community's energy usage and waste. Anything you can do to contribute to a greener Guilford culture is valuable and we love to hear new and creative ideas from you. This program can also greatly improve the efficiency of our facilities and operations by letting us know what needs further improvements across campus. The Office of Sustainability is your resource for ideas, information and help, so please feel free to contact us any time.