Lifestyle changes for a green campus

y observing the variety of paper and plastics in campus trash cans, the bright fluorescent lights flickering in empty dorm room windows, and the amount of food left on dining hall plates, it appears that voluntary reduction of one's own adverse environmental impact is not sufficient. At this point, students' environmental consciousness cannot be depended on to significantly limit our campus carbon footprint. A large segment of the student population holds an attitude of indifference and displays minimal effort toward achieving a "greener" campus.

I recognize it is not just the students' responsibility to minimize waste and energy usage. However, campus administrators have already implemented several programs and completed renovations toward achieving a more sustainable campus. Some of the sidewalks on the Case quad are now made of porous concrete in order to reduce the need for salt in the wintertime, the dining halls have gone tray-less, and the entire Village complex is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified with a silver rating. As a result, it is the students' turn to implement a concerted effort in reducing their waste profile and energy use.

A viable solution to the indifference reflected by a large percentage of the student population would be a combination of charging 'green fees' and mandatory attendance at a waste and energy minimization course. Students who do not show sensitivity and concern for their environmental impact would surely show concern for their thinning wallet. Computing any sort of green fees would be complicated and will call for a consensus approach. However, the projects which could use the fees are endless. Further research toward implementing alternative energy sources, the purchase of electric cars for the campus, and the undertaking of sustainable renovations of older, less-efficient buildings on campus would greatly benefit from the green fees.

From the outset, the primary objective of the fees would not be to generate revenue. Instead, the fees would serve as an incentive for students to be more conscious of their carbon footprint on campus. Dependant on how much of an impact we wish to make, meters could be installed in all dorm rooms to measure energy use, trash and recycling would be weighed and observed for proper disposal, and the amount of water used in each dorm room would also be measured. Students would be assessed as groups, including all roommates, in order to encourage community living and the understanding that our individual actions do not only affect ourselves but our neighbors as well.

Students cannot be expected to change their lifestyles overnight, nor can they always be aware of the waste minimization practices that are expected of them. Therefore, sustainability-education programs should be required during orientation and at the beginning of each school year. The courses would outline the importance of minimizing waste, show the impact of stringent waste and energy management practices, and demonstrate the impact of resource management, such as the simple act of addressing leaky faucets. The course would provide students with information on the financial and environmental impact their corrected action would generate.

What we are trying to accomplish is a change in lifestyle which would hopefully continue well beyond the limited time spent at CWRU. After all, isn't that one of the reasons to attend a world-class university? We need to develop sound principles and behavior to lead humanity to the next stage of development.

These steps aren't unprecedented - other college campuses, such as Evergreen State College in Washington, have already voted on implementing a mandatory green fee. Check out: http://www.aashe.org/resources/mandatory_energy_fees.php.

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