Both red and blue excel at being green

By By Anne Roper

By Anne Roper

It’s red vs. blue again, but this time they are vying to be the most…green?

The College Sustainability Report Card released last month favored the Utes with a B grade over the Cougars’ F. The report card was based on surveys passed out to the 300 universities in the United States and Canada with the largest endowments, and replies were optional. Because Brigham Young University didn’t respond, the initiative of the Sustainable Endowments Institute assigned it a grade, albeit an unflattering one.

BYU definitely doesn’t deserve a failing grade. The University of Utah’s sustainable-energy offense might have the advantage, though.

A cogeneration plant that uses natural gas to create both electricity and heat has been built on campus, replacing the need for electricity generated by coal-burning plants. Currently, 94 percent of the U’s power is purchased from Rocky Mountain Power, with 12 percent of that electricity coming from hydroelectric power, Office of Sustainability Director Craig Forster said.

BYU purchases its power from Utah Municipal Power Agency, where “just a hair over 20 percent” of that electricity is hydroelectric, general manager Leon Pexton said. It’s a pretty good start.

The Cougars boast an emphasis on recycling, and rightly so. BYU recycles paper, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and even metals. It is the only university in Utah that makes its own compost out of waste materials, recycling trainer for BYU Grounds Maintenance Bill Rudy said.

In the same vein, Styrofoam and food waste from dining areas that is sent through a pulper and turned into the texture of canned tuna is used as fertilizer, Dean Wright, director of food service for BYU said. The Styrofoam serves a purpose by extracting some of the moisture in the mix.

At the U, even those with an aversion to greens can be sure their plate is green. Chartwells, the company responsible for the U’s dining services, is dedicated to decreasing its carbon footprint. Reggie Conerly, Chartwells’ resident district manager, had a few minutes to show off the new biodegradable corn-based plates, cups and salad containers in between a sustainability meeting and catching the FrontRunner home.

Chartwells also bolsters the U’s image by buying food from the campus garden and the Farmers Market. The company strives to be as “farm to fork” as possible, Conerly said. The eggs they purchase are cage-free, and the seafood is sustainable. Even the coffee is from Logan.

BYU dining services has coordinated with the trucking companies it contracts with to make sure the trucks aren’t backhauling empty, Wright said.

The U’s efforts to take transportation one step further by making it sustainable is probably its strong point, said Marie Martin, administrative program coordinator for the U’s Office of Sustainability.

The campus shuttles run on low-sulfur diesel, and the U owns several fuel-efficient Priuses used for university business. Bike routes are being painted around campus, and the parking patrol rides bicycles to do its job. A portion of U student fees are used to pay for UTA Ed-Passes, which allows students to ride TRAX, buses, and FrontRunner for free.

BYU students aren’t so lucky and must pay for their UTA passes, but are given a discount. Single students at BYU are required to live in campus-approved housing, which is generally within a 3/4- to 1-mile radius of campus, in theory eliminating the need to drive to campus, Rudy said.

BYU’s sustainability efforts are a hidden jewel8212;virtually no hint of them could be found through the university Web site.

In contrast, the U’s sustainability efforts are ubiquitous, proving once again that red and green are complementary colors. The Office of Sustainability, one thing BYU doesn’t have, has a great site with links to many campus green initiatives.

BYU and the U might have a couple of sustainability fumbles, but they both make pretty solid teams that are strong on offense. I suspect the fight on the football field will be just as fierce as the one for Mother Earth’s approval.

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Anne Roper