Students surveyed on environment

Fifty-seven percent of students believe the ‘U’ is not doing enough to protect the environment.

When University President Bob Bruininks signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment earlier this month, it seemed the University was heading in the right direction on environmental issues.

But according to The Minnesota Daily’s Environmental Issues Survey, 57 percent of students who responded think the University is not doing enough to protect the environment.

Ben Kaldunski, Applied Environmental Solutions vice president, said he was not surprised by this number.

Kaldunski said the University’s interest in renewable energy needs to be more visible and publicized, adding it’s difficult to find an interest in renewable energy on campus for University Services.

Vice President Kathleen O’Brien said while the University can continue to improve its environmental practices, the institution is very dedicated to its environmental research, which students and faculty may not be aware of.

“Many times we get so busy doing things, we forget to tell people about it,” she said.

Randi Jundt, a first-year biology student, said she sees several environmentally friendly practices on campus.

“Even the napkins in the dining hall are recyclable,” she said.

Jundt added that her chemistry courses require “green chemistry” so as to not pollute the environment, and the increased use of online resources instead of hard copy handouts are a bonus.

While the University continues its aggressive path to be one of the top three research institutions, the University should also take a more active role to be an environmentally conscious leader, Kaldunski said.

According to the survey, 96 percent of students who responded feel the University can attain this top three status while still being environmentally friendly.

Eighty-one percent of students who responded said that tuition costs or fees would not need to be increased to achieve this goal.

O’Brien said conserving energy saves money and when considering the University’s utility use, reliability, environmental stewardship and controlling risk and cost are the most important factors.

Rosemary Dolata, research assistant and instructor of the class “Our Home, Our Environment,” said while there is always room for improvement, the University implements several environmentally friendly practices including being a major leader in recycling, using light sensors and providing an array of transportation alternatives.

Kaldunksi said the University could take several other steps to improve its protection of the environment.

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Kaldunski said the University can convert its fleet of vehicles to electric plug-in or hybrid vehicles.

O’Brien and environmental health professor Deborah Swackhamer published an opinion piece in The Minnesota Daily on Jan. 28 promoting the University’s already environmentally friendly practices.

O’Brien and Swackhamer stated in their article the University operates “an award-winning fleet of more than 100 flex-fuel, biofuel and hybrid- powered vehicles.”

Kaldunski said to reduce energy, the University could also install solar panels, solar water heaters, geothermal heat banks and wind turbines.

O’Brien said the University currently has a solar-powered project in Rapson Hall and is conducting more solar research.

Thirty percent of students reported solar power as the most promising form of renewable energy for future use, with wind energy at a close second with 28 percent.

Dolata said with the Mississippi River nearby and an abundance of wind and sun in Minnesota, the University is in a position to be a major leader in alternative energy.

Global climate change is still a debatable issue for some people, but 70 percent of survey participants said there was enough evidence to prove the theory is a reality.

Dolata said with five-legged frogs showing up in Minnesota, along with other scientific evidence, people are finding global climate change difficult to deny.