To honor Earth Week, U should be more ‘green’

With few exceptions, widespread environmental awareness and concern has often languished in American society. Institutions usually develop initiatives to address environmental problems only after the media or activists raise popular awareness of an issue. Although the University has invested a lot of resources and money to improve its environmental efforts, several other possibilities for reducing its still dour impact on the environment remain unaddressed. In honor of Earth Week, and Earth Day on April 22, the University should assess its environmental impact and develop short- and long-term goals to improve it.
Currently, the University does not offer a service for picking up and recycling discarded couches, clothing or other items left outside of dormitories when students move home. Facilities Management used to run a program with the dormitories to collect and sort clothing and furniture students no longer wanted. Unfortunately, the program dissolved about six years ago. University Recycling Coordinator Dana Donatucci, however, said his department has discussed returning the service to the University. Officials should support this plan, as much of the furniture thrown away by students is in fine condition and still usable. The gathered items could be given to charities, or fixed up and sold to students at low prices to fund the service.
Although the University’s sole heating source — its steam generating coal power plant — has a relatively high efficiency rating compared with similar plants, University officials would be wise to invest more money and time into developing alternative energy sources. Despite the plant’s estimated 60 to 70 percent efficiency level, a more efficient power source could be found. While wind and solar power might be somewhat impractical in Minneapolis, hydrogen fuel cells would be a worthwhile investment. In fuel cells, oxygen and hydrogen collide in a battery-like chamber producing only two byproducts: electricity and water. The University could be in the vanguard of energy innovation if it performed research in hydrogen fuel cell technology and developed a plant that uses the renewable power source. The only downside to this method of power production is its relatively high cost. However, the federal government and many power companies such as Ballard Power Systems, which specializes in hydrogen fuel cells, either offer subsidies or will work in collaboration with universities to encourage the development of this incredibly efficient energy resource.
Meanwhile, Parking and Transportation Services and the city of Minneapolis have been petitioning the federal government for grants to create additional bike paths around campus. City officials secured federal funding to renovate the Abandoned Railroad Bridge north of the Washington Avenue Bridge so as to allow another bike path between the banks. Campus officials expect its completion within three weeks. Parking and Transportation Services also received a federal grant to extend the Transitway bike path west from Oak Street alongside the railway, under Dinkytown and connecting with the new railroad bridge.
Still, some praiseworthy projects have not receive the funding they deserved. A proposal made five years ago by St. Paul and the University would have extended bicycle access on Energy Park Drive across the railroad tracks toward Como Avenue. Additional paths to Como are needed to continue the surge in commuters who bike to campus, which will alleviate area automobile traffic and pollution. However, the University can only do so much to diminish waste and pollution on campus. Students and faculty members need to do their part in preserving a clean environment at the University.