Young applauds U sustainability efforts

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Students who pushed for a greener campus received an answer from administrators — the creation of the new Office of Sustainability.

U President Michael Young formally announced the opening of the office at yesterday’s Environmental Impact Day, calling it an “important milestone on campus” with the students as a “motivating, driving force.”

The Associated Students of the University of Utah Board of Sustainability sponsored the event, which was held at the Union Plaza.

The Office of Sustainability will coordinate campus environmental efforts, such as reducing energy and water consumption, expanding recycling efforts and making landscapes more efficient, Young said.

“We can learn, we can teach each other and we can teach the rest of the world,” he said.

In the last few years, Young said the U has worked to re-landscape the campus, resulting in a 20 percent decrease in water use, and to get building projects LEED certified, a designation reserved for the most environmentally conscious buildings.

Through the new recycling program initiated over the summer, he said the U hopes to recapture half of the paper it uses.

The U recently broke ground on a stem co-generation plant to produce heat and electric power, which could save up to 57,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and supply more than 10 percent of the U’s electricity.

Plans for the Office of Sustainability started in January, when students from the group Sustainable Environments and Ecological Design, or SEED, wrote a proposal to the administration for the formation of the office. Within four months it was approved, and the office began operating July 1.

“A lot of people standing by had been waiting for help (with sustainability efforts),” said office coordinator Jen Colby. “As soon as we were given permission, it was very enabling. The top-level support of the president is absolutely crucial.”

Colby said the office’s first priority will be to do a “baseline inventory” of campus to determine needs.

Members for the office’s advisory board will be announced within the next few weeks.

The ASUU Board of Sustainability is working with the office to encourage student participation and education on environmental issues. The Bennion Community Service Center also influenced the creation of the office.

“Our main goals are to work with the Office of Sustainability and increase involvement…to provide resources for students with ideas to move forward with the great goal of sustainability on campus,” said ASUU President Spencer Pearson.

Students filtered in and out of the event throughout the day, visiting tables from campus environmental organizations, local groups and vendors selling sustainable products. A table from SEED encouraged students to report inefficient fluorescent lights they see in classrooms to the group so that they can be replaced.

“If we made students think about it for 10 or 15 seconds, it makes it worth it,” said Patrick Reimherr, director of the ASUU Board of Sustainability.

Students in attendance expressed approval of the new office and the U’s environmental efforts.

“Even the small things count, like recycling papers in class and if possible, taking TRAX or walking to school,” said Danny Rogers, a junior in exercise physiology.

Will Chatwin, a recent U graduate who has worked on the recycling program through Plant Operations, said the office proves students’ ability to make a difference.

“If students get their minds set and their ducks in a row, they can do anything,” Chatwin said.

For more information on the Office of Sustainability, visit www.sustainability.utah.edu.

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Teresa Getten

Sharon Leopardi, Erin Wiedmeier and Alex Parvaz members of S.E.E.D. (Sustainable Environments Ecological Design) put together their booth for the Environmental Impact Day.