Anyone who spends enough time on Murray State’s campus is likely to run into Wayne Harper, who is not only the director of grounds and building services, but one of the University’s oldest and most vocal proponents of sustainability.
“I have always believed in the early 20th century farm ethic of using and reusing everything you possibly can,” Harper said.
Harper is a graduate of Murray State and, after living in New Orleans for a while, returned in 1984 to take over as the grounds director.
“It wasn’t long after that when the state passed a bill encouraging all public institutions to recycle and be more sustainable,” Harper said. “At the time we were already looking at ways to start a recycling program.”
Harper said initially efforts on campus were tough and met some opponents, but over time there has been a shift in thinking.
“When we first started we were just taking paper and aluminum,” Harper said. “And then when we started looking into putting receptacles across campus there was some opposition. People did not think it was worth the money we were spending. But there has been a shift, and not it’s suspected. Students and faculty who come here expect to be able to recycle.”
Since returning to the University, Harper has been trying to improve sustainability on campus not just through recycling, but composting and the increase of green spaces across campus. He said over the years the number of like-minded people on campus has increased.
“It’s always great to have people of like minds,” Harper said. “Finding people with optimism and ideas is encouraging. I have always enjoyed working with people who see an opportunity and not obstacles. Overall it is encouraging to have people stand with you, the students too. It gives you a great feeling for the future. ”
Harper said he is happy with the progress the University has made, but wants to see more changes in the future.
“ I don’t think (the University) can be where I’d like (it) to be when I retire. With the coming spike in energy costs I think it’s important he University look more into renewable (energy) and ways to save money on energy,” Harper said. “I would like to see an energy and a momentum take root in attitudes across campus. I would like to see solar panels take the majority of our energy brunt across campus, as ell as geothermal. And I would really like to see more green spaces to clean our air and provide a better place for the community.”