U finding unique routes to sustainability

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Sure, most universities have a recycling program. But what are colleges across the nation doing to become eco-friendly in ways their fellow universities have not? ? That’s the question many schools, including the U, are asking in what has become a race to turn universities across the nation “green.”

Besides securing $310,000 for a new recycling program, U administrators, student government leaders and student groups are coming up with creative ways to become environmentally conscious.

In the past year, the U signed a pledge to conserve water, trimmed more than $1.2 million from its utility bills after cooling and heating systems were tightened after hours, created a student group with the aim of making the campus eco-friendly and is in the process of creating a new office dedicated to campus sustainability.

The U also hosted a regional conference in the spring that gave other universities from Utah, Wyoming and Idaho a behind-the-scenes opportunity to see how the campus was slowly turning green, said Lindsay Clark, who co-founded the Sustainable Environments and Ecological Design student group.

“A lot of the people (from other schools) were saying, ‘(The U) is way ahead of us,'” said Clark, who graduated last spring in French and environmental studies. “It was a great opportunity to get them motivated.”

Still, the U has a long way to go. ?Universities throughout the United States are on their way to becoming more environmentally friendly–or at least some have found unique ways to get there.

California State University, Chico, completed its first sustainability assessment: a research project completely produced by graduate and undergraduate students, according to Chico Statements, a magazine at CSU.

The university has also created projects like the Green Dorm Demonstration Program, which will involve building new dorms made out of recycled lumber and using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.

CSU also participates in the Green Cup Card project, where students can accumulate points every time they use a reusable cup.

The university is also developing a campus website for sustainability. It is building a new administration building that will be completely green, said Joy Boone, who works with the recycling program at CSU.

“The move toward getting campuses to be more sustainable has just exploded,” Boone said. “I know we get a lot of calls from other campuses asking how they can start their own programs, which is really cool to hear.”

Eastern Iowa Community College has an Ecology Committee where students give input to administration and facilities staff concerning the management of the campus, a nature trail and a prairie trail.

At Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., chemistry students are recycling oil within the campus as part of a sustainable campus initiative. Fryer oil left over from the college dining hall is collected and turned into bio-diesel fuel used to power campus vehicles.

Although there is no official evaluation of how sustainable college campuses are in comparison to one another, there is a ranking of the most eco-friendly college towns based on air and water quality, mass transit use, power use and organic producers.

According to www.collegetownlife.com, a website that helps match prospective students with universities, the top eco-friendly college towns to live in are Burlington, Vt.; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Corvallis, Ore.

[email protected]