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NMSU Office of Sustainability opens new Environmental Education Center

What began as a University of San Diego green campus tour turned into a new facility for New Mexico State University when the Office of Sustainability opened its new Environmental Education Center earlier this year.

New Mexico State University’s new Environmental Education Center
Located in Regents Row, the new Environmental Education Center is fully made of sustainable materials such as blue jean insulation. (NMSU photo by Ada Ciuca)

“They had just constructed their Environmental Education Center and I looked at that space and thought that there is no reason why we can’t do that,” NMSU sustainability manager joni newcomer said.

After presenting the idea to Glen Haubold, NMSU’s associate vice president for facilities, the idea took off. Finding a space that could be easily accessed by students was the first step, followed by getting the construction people involved. Properly scheduling and pricing the services and items involved in creating the EEC were all issues that needed to be taken into consideration as well.

With 35 years of experience as a commercial interior designer, newcomer took on what she feels is the most exciting portion of the job, as a behind-the-scenes project, construction and design manager, helping the architect. Space acquisition began three years ago along with the asbestos abatement.

“Last fall is really when things started moving along in the form that you see them now,” she said.

In its completed stage, the EEC’s purpose is to educate the community on all of the aspects of sustainability and taking care of the environment. To do so, newcomer anticipates a variety of mediums.

“We’ll be having movies and webinars,” she said, pointing to the large video screen located in the new center. The screen is complemented by a conference table and chairs, where anyone is welcome to relax or use for conferencing meetings.

“I just hope people – faculty and staff, public, everyone – comes to visit the Environmental Education Center,” newcomer said. “It’s going to be the hangout place. That’s my dream.”

The center’s amenities will each be accompanied by a sign that teaches people what makes each item green. From LED lighting to the furniture made in a green factory, the facility is well equipped in teaching the community about every aspect of sustainability at NMSU and personal sustainability.

According to newcomer, a important part of sustainability is being able to not put things in the landfill but instead learn to reuse. The EEC is sustainable from the bottom to the top. The carpet, an array of sticky squares with some recycled from the Office of Sustainability’s old location, eliminates the odor of spread adhesives and contains zero toxic solvents, or VOCs. The carpet’s environmental footprint is more than 90 percent less than traditional carpet adhesives, keeping the amount of harmful gasses produced at a minimum.

“As you walk in the front door, you will notice that the carpet is carpet squares,” newcomer said. “It’s made by Interface, which is the greenest, most sustainable carpet company in the world.”

In addition to the carpet, the paint is also VOC-free, with no smell or “off-gassing of chemicals into the lungs of the young students that get to sit here,” newcomer said. The veneer on the cabinets and doors is made of bamboo, a rapidly renewable material that takes about five years to grow before harvest. Another sustainable item is quartz, which graces the EEC kitchen counter. The counter is made from small chips of quartz remains from larger items.

One of newcomer’s favorite additions is the hydration station, “which I’m hoping people will want to come in and feel really comfortable using,” she said. The hydration station is an installation, which allows the community to refill their reusable water bottles with fresh, filtered water.

The building is also sustainable on the inside, with insulation made out of recycled blue jeans, which contains no chemical irritants.

By introducing the community to the center’s amenities, newcomer hopes to make people think about all the toxic items they are currently allowing into their homes and bring awareness to sustainable alternatives.

“All of the information you can take with you, such as the type of lighting used,” newcomer said. “I’m pretty sure people will be buying LED lights for their homes from now on because it saves so much energy.”

Beyond the new EEC, the Office of Sustainability is committed to further sustainability knowledge across campus.

To visit the EEC, call 575-646-7563 or email newcomer@nmsu.edu to schedule an appointment.