Day focuses on cleaning U, Earth

The University’s events coincided with activities marking Earth Day.

Fossil fuel consumption patterns have to change, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said Thursday.

“We have to get unhooked from our addiction to fossil fuels. (The United States is) consuming 25 percent of the world’s supply of fossil fuels,” Babbitt told an audience of approximately 100 at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Babbitt’s discussion on energy consumption and government environmental policy coincided with the internationally celebrated Earth Day and the University’s Beautiful “U” Day.

Other Beautiful “U” Day events included a forum on the University’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly and repainting of the Washington Avenue Bridge’s pedestrian level.

Babbitt criticized Bush administration and U.S. government environmental standards. He also provided possible solutions to fossil fuel consumption in the form of nuclear and renewable energy sources.

“(Nuclear power) is here – we’ve got to manage it. It is a lesser of two evils,” Babbitt said. “Irrespective of the outcome in November, we have, through grassroots organization, the power and ability to initiate change.”

University sustainability

Those involved with conservation efforts at the University discussed the institution’s environmental friendliness at a forum Thursday.

Interim Vice President for Research David Hamilton said he remembers a time when the University fired all of its window washers and fought over whether to mow the grass.

Though these actions were partially because of budget cuts in the early to mid-80s, he said the University also had less pride in its appearance at that time.

“I’m struck by the fact that the University feels their needs to be a Beautiful ‘U’ Day,” Hamilton said.

Though Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien said she believes the University is making progress on environmental issues, it could do a better job of documenting it.

“We don’t have very good measures, but we have a lot of people doing good work,” she said.

University recycling rates can be measured.

While approximately 33 percent of the school’s waste is currently recycled, the University hopes to get that amount to 50 percent by 2008, said Dana Donatucci, program director for the University’s waste abatement services.

One plan for recovering more recyclables is to make it as convenient for people to recycle trash as to throw it away, Donatucci said.

For some employees, this might mean getting rid of desk-side trash cans to force people to dispose of trash at a central location next to recycling containers, he said.

Executive Vice President Al Sullivan is part of the Sustainability and Energy Conservation Policy Work Group, a group working to get the University’s Board of Regents to adopt a formal policy stating the school’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the University go on record stating what we’re already doing,” Sullivan said.

Painting the bridge

For the first time since 1998, a horde of volunteers painted the fading and peeling exterior walls of the Washington Avenue Bridge’s pedestrian level.

Following a short 10 a.m. ceremony Thursday, hundreds of painters covered the bridge’s half-mile of walls with 120 gallons of “University of Minnesota Maroon” paint donated by Sherwin-Williams.

“We expected about 90 people, but we had at least twice that when we started,” said Jenn Rowe, a Beautiful “U” Day planner and Facilities Management communications specialist.

By 1 p.m., scattered volunteers were applying the final touches. Several students arrived too late to help.

“It was amazing how fast it went,” psychology junior Chris Cloud said. “It’s great to see what teamwork can do.”

According to sign-up lists, 196 greek, 26 residence hall and 14 student group volunteers were among the participants.

University painters prepped and primed the bridge for several weeks, said Thomas Elton, a painter foreman for the University.

The signature gold-block Ms and striping will be applied in the next couple of weeks, said Gerald Meissner, Facilities Management sign shop supervisor.

Sherwin-Williams representatives said the company donated approximately $5,000 in paint and supplies.