In honor of Earth Week, the Daily editorial board wrote that the University should be more “green” and offered a number of suggestions to help meet that hard-to-pin-down goal. As vice president of University Services, I see green efforts every day. I want to make sure the call for more greenery doesn’t overshadow the many outstanding green programs already in place.
With spring weather finally here, green is fast becoming the most prominent color around the University. The Land Care division of Facilities Management does a spectacular job every spring beautifying the University, and they work hard to be environmentally correct. Many efforts — like sweeping streets and sidewalks as soon as possible in the spring to prevent the winter salt and sand from entering the storm sewers — typically go unnoticed but are undoubtedly important. Other efforts include using delayed-release fertilizer to reduce the amount of nitrogen in the turf and, yes, using some of the “natural fertilizer” produced by the livestock on the St. Paul campus. Now that’s green.
Students also work closely with Land Care on programs that provide learning opportunities while also benefitting the campus. One example is the Teaching, Research and Extension Nursery on the St. Paul campus. Land Care provides the funds, and students plant, grow and study the trees and shrubs. When they’re mature, the stock is planted on campus. Another program gives horticultural design classes the opportunity to design and eventually plant garden areas. The plantings by the Law School and around Fraser, Scott, Eddy and Peik halls are results of design student work.
Green is also the color of the logo of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. For 50 years, EHS has led the way with resources and services to assure a safe and healthy environment for the entire University community. EHS is the department behind the active waste reduction and the conservation of resources at the University. They’re also the people in charge of the Integrated Waste Management Facility, a central processing and storage facility that helps the University safely treat, process and dispose of hazardous waste. It also allows the University to recover more reusable chemicals, solvents and precious metals, and the University’s Chemical Safety Day Program accepts waste from other educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and emergency response agencies.
Avocado green is the color of some of the unwanted but still useable furniture and other things handled by the recycling staff as part of the Reuse Program. Instead of throwing things in the trash, University departments can send unwanted desks, chairs or file cabinets to the Como Avenue Recycling Facility, where the equipment can be claimed by other departments for free or bought by the general public for a small fee. It’s not all avocado green; there actually is some really good stuff. Check out their Web site at umn.edu/recycle/reuse.html.
The Reuse Program is just one of the many good initiatives run by the University of Minnesota Recycling Program and is strongly supported by the students, faculty and staff on campus. It’s no accident that 2,357 tons of waste were recycled in 1998 — that’s more than 30 percent of the waste stream — and that the total tonnage of University-generated solid waste is down about 30 percent from where it was in the late 1980s.
Green is the color of the thousands of trees and shrubs that have been planted in the past five years as part of the Unitree Program. Unitree is a community tree-planting program created by the Tree Trust through a partnership between Foster Wheeler and the University of Minnesota. The program is a 25-year commitment that provides financial and technical support to community groups for tree planting projects within neighborhoods that surround the Twin Cities campus. In the past five years, neighborhood groups in Cedar-Riverside, Elliot Park, Marcy-Holmes, Phillips, Prospect Park, southeast Como, Seward, Como Park, Energy Park, St. Anthony Park and the city of Falcon Heights have planted trees as a result of the Unitree program.
Green is the color of envy of our new U-Pass program. (OK, this one is a bit of stretch, but stay with me.) When implemented at the start of fall semester, U-Pass will offer deepdiscounts on bus passes allowing unlimited rides, to go anywhere at anytime on any Twin Cities bus system. The program will save students as much as 76 percent on the cost of an average pass price, and staff will save about 35 percent. It’s expected to increase transit ridership by 40 percent over two years, adding more than 2,800 riders. That means fewer cars, which means less exhaust, which means cleaner air around the Twin Cities.
Finally, green is the color of some of the recycled paint being used in buildings around campus. The design and construction standards the University follows for new and remodeled buildings include a number of green considerations like recycled paint, light sensors, high-quality energy efficiency and the preservation of trees and shrubs. During the design of the new art building, planners used the Minnesota Sustainable Design Guide as a reference to take green architecture at the University as far as it has ever been.
This whole green analogy wouldn’t be complete without saying that green is the color of money and it’s important to note that the University is working in partnership with a variety of other agencies on many of these programs. NSP provides most of the mulch that goes around trees and in plant beds on campus, and the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance helps fund the recycling program. The Unitree program is the result of funding from Foster Wheeler, and the U-Pass program is the result of a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program federal grant.
Of course, the most important partnership is within the University itself. Without the commitment of students, faculty and staff, the University wouldn’t be as green as it is and could never be as green as we hope it can be.