Monday, January 24, 2011

Alma Mater Goes Green!

I admit, I perused the cover article of my latest alumni magazine with a mixture of excitement and envy. The feature story championed all the ways the University has "gone green" in the decade since my graduation, outlining both the big and little steps they are taking toward environmental sustainability.

While the seeds of environmental change had already been planted during my time there, the fruits of these labors did not materialize until after I had left; the University began offering a minor in environmental studies my senior year (but by then it was too late for me to add the program and still graduate on schedule) and it was offered as a major in 2005. The LEED-certified Welcome Center opened in 2008, and the GREENetwork, a task force that formed the year after I graduated, meets monthly to oversee the many environmental initiatives that are taking place campus wide.

Those are the biggies, but there are plenty of smaller and equally innovative practices taking place in nearly every aspect of campus life. Student volunteers run a second-hand clothing store from one of the residence halls; the cafeteria has gone trayless and has installed a "Hydration Station" of filtered and flavored waters, meant to encourage students to carry reusable water bottles; and prospective students and their families sip beverages from ceramic mugs that encourage their users to "Think Green", referring both to the environment and to the school's colors.

Even the University's staff are doing their part: the grounds crew has abandoned the practice of blanketing the lawn with pesticides, opting instead to spot-treat areas when necessary; custodial workers have switched to machines and cleaners that use both less water and fewer chemicals; and 65 pairs of aging laundry machines have been replaced with energy efficient models that use much less water and less energy.

Although I did take one environmental science class during my undergrad years, I would certainly have taken more had they been offered. I might have even taken more science classes if the ones that most interested me didn't have crazy prerequisites (like surviving the infamous Bio 101). That this liberal arts school is now taking a liberal arts approach to the environmental sciences-- encouraging students in the program to complete coursework in biology, chemistry, political science, and anthropology-- pleases me to no end; I only wish I could have gotten in on the fun!

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