University Can Create an Eco-Friendly Campus

By Tiffin Brough and Arwen Ek, Bennion Center Student Recycling Project Director and Volunteer

Pinus Longaeva. The Bristlecone Pine. A native in the southern deserts of Utah, Bristlecones are a hardy, slow growth species that put bonsai masterworks to shame. They are the longest living things in the world, with roots reaching back thousands of years.

The U could learn from the wisdom of our elder southern neighbors. We should take example form their source of longevity: conservation of the precious resources available to them.

U President Machen has called the newly declared Heritage easement “the greatest accomplishment of his tenure.” We would agree. And, we would challenge our president, administrators, faculty, staff and classmates to continue finding ways to improve our energy consumption and conservation for the future.

With Earth Day once again here, now is as wonderful a time as there ever will be to begin putting more effort into our campus efforts at conservation and recycling.

This school year the Bennion Center campus recycling program, Terra Firma (U’s environmental club) and CARE (U’s recycling club) joined forces to set up a permanent recycling program administrated through the U.

We collected about 3,000 signatures supporting this issue, we had a joint resolution passed through the student Senate and Assembly, and we formed the University Recycling Coalition.

Our next step will be implementing the recycling program, but we need money for it. The existing program at the U now supports mainly offices and recycles only office paper, newspaper and aluminum cans. Their budget is limited and it cannot be expanded.

Our next step in this process is to look for a private donor and write grants. This will take lots of time and effort, so we hope we will be able to create a work study position for recycling issues. Meanwhile we are going to strongly concentrate on education about the existing program on campus and in the dorms. Earth Day is a part of it.

Earth Day in the United States began 32 years ago as a nationwide rally for the environment. About 20 million participants gathered around the country to show policymakers a “broad and deep support for the environmental movement.”

Earth Day has been celebrated every year since, organizing Terra Firma for institutionalized policy reforms such as the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and more. In 1996 recycling saved 33 million tons of carbon dioxide from polluting the air which is approximately the amount emitted annually by 25 million cars.

Despite this “progress” however, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are still rising, drought and famine are rampant, and non-renewable resources are being rapidly depleted. Two hundred and thirty million tons of waste were generated in 1999 (roughly 4.6 pounds per person per day). More than 60 percent of all waste sent to landfills could be diverted to recycling or composting. According to the April 9 edition of Time magazine, the United States alone creates 50 percent of the world’s waste and has produced 186.1 billion tons of CO2 since 1950?with only 5 percent of the world’s population. Considering these statistics makes me wonder why such a large community as the U doesn’t recycle more.

The U has made some efforts toward lessening our institution’s impact on the environment. Along with the new land easement, the sparsely distributed “use less energy” stickers are a friendly reminder of the U’s commitment to saving some money?er, I mean the environment.

Anyone who has seen our sprinkler system hard at work keeping our state arboretum green has probably enjoyed a good laugh at the vain (and wasteful) attempt at growing our sidewalks.

A growing local debate over our valley’s water usage has sparked more interest over xeriscaping? gardening with low water, low- growth desert plants?in our desert climate. With a looming draught, people are thinking about these things. Sometimes I guess it just takes an emergency. Though it shouldn’t.

The Daily Utah Chronicle has a few recycling bins scattered around campus. There are also bins for collecting office paper in every building on campus. The student apartments have joined organization with Rocky Mountain Recycling, Plant Operations on lower campus collects aluminum cans, and the Bennion Center continues to attempt a workable recycling program for the dorms.

Recycling on campus, however, is still uncoordinated and under-used. I can see dusty recycling bins hidden in the dark hallways, dusty closets and basements of this great university.

And why? The answer is plainly written on the campus recycling report for 2001: “Cost to recycle one ton: $82.36. Cost to landfill 1 ton: $34.45.”

Recycling is not cost efficient for the U?not yet, anyway. This is partly due to the potential landfill space that seems to stretch beyond the great salt flats. Even in the economics of managing a business, however, deciding the feasibility of any action is a matter of priority?and it is painfully obvious where the U’s priorities don’t lie.

Landfills in more populous and older parts of the country are full. They have been dealing with much more serious waste management issues for decades that we have yet to face here in the vast western deserts. But as the Skull Valley nuclear waste issue shows, other parts of our country are and will be looking for places to put waste they do not want and have no room for. Recycling is a burden shared by every member of every community, no matter where they live in the great loop of humanity.

Many other public universities in size and funding have successfully thriving recycling programs in place, and have had them for years. The U is well behind the rest of the West, and the only institution of higher learning in Utah that is not a member of the Utah Recycling Coalition.

Our U mission statement articulates our goal as a contributor to public life: “The University of Utah fosters reflection on the values and goals of society.”

The Salt Lake community has distributed all-in-one curbside collection bins and begun weekly pick-up for recyclable materials. They do this right along side our regular waste removal. Now our campus recycling has remained weak and disarrayed. Where is the reflection?

The students of this university through petitions, letters and Associated Students of the University of Utah resolution have declared their support of an efficient campus recycling plan. Our staff and faculty support coordinated and available recycling on campus. Our university should stop wasting and start supporting our community.

Now our challenge: What kind of longevity will you impart to our community?