Busting down silos at the University of Iowa has nothing to do with mixing different bushels of corn together.
Instead, in the state known for producing the largest corn crop in the U.S., it means pushing different departments to work together to make the university's campus more sustainable.
That goes beyond the paper, electricity and other items expected in educating 30,000 students. It also means keeping food trash from a stadium full of football fans out of the landfill, and finding an eco-friendly means of disposing of the gowns and gloves used in medical care.
That's a lot to manage under one roof, but officials there said they have made it work, and that they're on track to reach their sustainability goals.
In 2010 the university made a commitment to reduce its environmental impact and set a goal to divert 60 percent of its waste from landfill. That meant doubling its diversion rate. By working across silos and adopting a new sort-free recycling program, diversion rates have increased in some areas by almost 50%, said Liz Christiansen, director of the university's office of sustainability, in a webcast this week produced by GreenBiz.
"Recycling is generally accepted as an important part of creating a sustainable campus," said Christiansen. Diverting recyclables has saved the university serious money on waste disposal, lowering costs from the 7 cents per pound it pays for garbage disposal to 5.4 cents per pound for recycling -- a 23 percent savings.
One change that increased recycling was introducing new collection containers. Previously, items were collected in separate bins for each product, but once the university switched to bins allowing multiple recyclables like glass and plastic bottles, recycling participation increased.
Dave Jackson, assistant to the associate vice president of facilities management, said there is one recycling coordinator for the university, with constant communication to make sure everyone is working towards the same sustainability goals. In addition, the campus employs a couple of designated staffers at each building who work closely with the facilities workers.
Next page: How officials got teams involved