U strives for environmental awareness

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

Ohio’s Oberlin College is looking to become climate neutral by the year 2020. The college already has a building on campus that doesn’t discharge any waste water and generates more electricity than it uses.

Making campuses environmentally friendly is a trend gaining momentum among many colleges and universities across the country.

In an attempt to develop communication with University departments and other colleges in the Midwest, the Sustainable Campus Initiative held a conference Saturday to discuss “green” campus problems and their solutions.

“We’ve begun to work on making this campus sustainable with the environment,” said SCI coordinator Suzanne Savanick. “We want to see if we can work with other schools in Minnesota and the Midwest to share what we’re doing and to hear what they’re doing.”

Representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and other schools in the area met to hear and ask questions of experts speaking on issues such as waste reduction, “green” building and water efficiency.

Jessica Stine, campus ecology coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation, presented information on how to design “green” buildings.

“Campuses have a need for growth, and those buildings last a long time,” Stine said. “Buildings are a literal footprint we make on campuses; we need to design ‘green’ buildings.”

The University was named “exemplary” in three categories of a national NWF survey to determine environmental performance. The University was lauded for offering environmental studies majors and minors, requiring environmental courses, supporting faculty on environmental studies and providing transportation options.

America’s campuses were also graded as a whole by the NWF, which showed areas in which schools in the country can improve.

“Schools were the strongest in energy efficiency and water efficiency,” Stine said. “While recycling is the most populous of programs, 70 percent of college municipal waste still goes to the landfills.”

“You can reduce the need for recycling by reducing waste,” she said.

Savanick said the University was successful in the many projects being done across campus, such as reducing energy consumption.

“We need to do more in communicating what we’re doing,” Savanick said. “We have the opportunity to be a real leader by developing more projects and getting students involved.”

Jenny Fenske, a senior in the College of Human Ecology, and Anika Johnson, a fourth-year student studying interior design, said they’ve become more aware of conservation issues by attending the conference.

“I spend a lot of time working late at night in the studio, and sometimes we don’t always turn out the lights when we leave,” Johnson said. “But, if that happens in every building at every university, it wastes a lot of energy.”

Rebecca Foss, a professor in the departments of design, housing and apparel and construction management, said she thinks much more can be done to make the University more environmentally and ecologically friendly.

“I think the primary area is to incorporate information into the curriculum,” Foss said. “We have to understand what we need to do to make the campus “green” and then we need to be able to teach it.”