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July-August 2008

Rising fuel, food prices affect operations

norma valdez

Norma Valdez (Event Services) rings up purchases at the Foothills cafeteria. UCAR is feeling the pinch of rising food prices.

Along with everyone else, UCAR/NCAR is feeling the pinch at the gas station and grocery store, with the shuttles, cafeteria, security, and other services facing higher costs.

“It’s definitely affecting our business,” says Mari Bradley (Event Services). “Wholesale food prices this year increased almost 8%, and every time we have a delivery, we get charged a gas surcharge now.” And, she notes, “We have a lot of deliveries during the week.”

The gas surcharges, which started in the past few months, run about $3–10 per delivery depending on the vendor.

The increase in specific food prices varies by item, according to Cathy Halvorson. “Meats are somewhat affected, but it’s mostly vegetables like tomatoes,” she says. “Cooking oil with zero transfats has gone from $35 to $52 since last year.”

As of now, Event Services hasn’t raised prices in the cafeteria, but is starting to raise prices on the catering menu. The rising food costs won’t change the fact that the group is transitioning from plastics to biodegradable, compostable materials, which are pricier. “That’s something we’ve made a commitment to because the organization wants to go in that direction, and really the world wants to go in that direction,” Mari says.

Sustainable UCAR tackles energy use

Sustainable UCAR plans to coordinate energy and fuel use reduction options to help lighten the organization’s environmental impact while reducing costs on certain energy expenditures. One of the program’s initiatives, for example, includes launching an office review program later this year that will helpstaff understand how daily activities translate to resource use and suggest ways to conserve.

For information on sustainability issues at UCAR, including alternative transportation options, recycling, composting, speakers and events, and the in-progress carbon footprint assessment, visit Sustainable UCAR.

Transportation Services, which operates the shuttle system, black bag service, and GSA fleet of vehicles, is also feeling the pain of higher gas costs. UCAR pays a monthly rate plus a mileage-based rate for the GSA fleet, which includes the shuttles. On April 1, the government added a gas surcharge that ranges from 2 to 7 cents per mile until the end of the fiscal year.

“The diesel vehicles have seen the largest increase,” says Jean Hancock.

The shuttle service is also experiencing increased ridership, with the number of passengers in May up 25% from last year, the highest monthly increase so far in 2008.

Staff who work in Logistics, which relies on GSA vehicles for all its delivery services, have noticed the increased prices at the pump but haven’t cut any of the group’s services, which are provided free of chargeback. “We do whatever it takes as far as what people need,” says Kerry Slaven. This can include services such as delivering posterboards and other supplies to meetings held off campus. Kerry anticipates a need to increase services if the new data center proposed for Cheyenne is approved by NSF.

Security is also affected directly by gas costs. Although Security Services uses electronic monitoring (cameras, access cards, alarms) as much as possible, it’s still necessary for personnel to make rounds between campuses. UCAR provides the vehicles used by AlliedBarton, the contracted security service.

“We haven’t done anything to cut back on physical rounds made by security at this point, but every time they get in the vehicle it costs us money directly,” says Liz Kriete (SaSS). “It absolutely has an effect on us because we have no place to pass those costs—it’s an expense of doing business.

“We haven’t cut back on anything so far,” she adds, “but that doesn’t mean that we won’t have to.”

Another area where rising fuel prices impact UCAR is travel. UCAR books plane tickets through Boulder Travel and hasn’t yet undertaken any analyses of how rising airfares are affecting travel budgets. “We’re watching it,” says Katy Schmoll, vice president for finance and administration. “We’re also working closely with Xcel Energy to monitor our electricity and natural gas costs.”


In this issue...

An interview with Eric Barron, NCAR’s new director

Rising fuel, food prices affect operations

Child Care Center earns green recognition

"The Hundred Languages of Children"

A day in the life of a SOARS protégé

Connecting science and the media

Short Takes

Just One Look


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