The topic of sustainability has been an ever-growing trend within the last decade. It not only is what legislation is pushing for, what trends are setting and what businesses are implementing into their core principles, but also what universities have taken under their wing. It seems like there is a nationwide competition of who can be the “greenest empire,” install the most solar arrays or drive the most electric fleets. It definitely has been perceived to be a trend and some people aren’t behind it. But you can’t go wrong by saying that it is very progressive and a way to live a more simplified and efficient lifestyle.
First, sustainability can be defined as meeting current human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met for generations to come. There are many ways campuses can address these initiatives, much of which is behind the scenes. Mount Union’s physical plant has made an effort to install low flow toilets and shower heads to preserve water and CFL light bulbs to save energy (among other building specifications). Other projects on campus include the 54-kilowatt solar array system on The MAAC, the LEED-certified Gartner Welcome Center that runs on geothermal, solar panels on the cafeteria, reporting our sustainable initiatives through the STARS program, signing the President’s Climate Commitment and being listed in the Princeton’s Review of Green Colleges. Much of these projects are operational and can be seen, but don’t really drill the impactful message into our student body. By reducing our school’s carbon footprint, there definitely needs to be a more robust educational infrastructure for students to understand these concepts.
One way to really put sustainability and education in the face of Mount students is to find what they are passionate about and take advantage of it. For example, we are known for having some impressive sports teams and much of our student body are athletes or is either interested in a physical wellbeing. So does this show that our campus is competitive? Maybe we all are concerned for a healthy lifestyle? These are great qualities and present some interesting ideas I found at the AASHE Conference. Some other school’s have implemented projects like student gardens, water bottle refilling stations, green revolution bikes and bike share programs.
When I heard about the green revolution bikes, I thought what not a better way to put sustainability in the face of our students? The students who are competitive and workout a lot, maybe who spend a lot of time in the MAAC, could be able to use these bikes which offers some educational material right in front of our most common student at Mount. The green revolution bikes are exercise bikes that basically let you generate or “pedal your power,” which is shown by monitors. Eventually, we could have a whole facility that is functional by our own power, providing environmental awareness to the majority of our student body, on a topic that is fundamental in many parts of our world today.
I also recently read an article about how prep schools are leading the way on sustainable living. A Connecticut school will open the Kohler Environmental Center, “a living-learning facility where teams of students will compete with one another to see who can live most energy efficiently.” You can think of it as The Sims meets Survivorman or Men/Women vs. Wild. This is definitely applicable to our average student as well, but I am not sure if there are enough students who are behind sustainability. I hope this changes!
These are just some ideas that I gathered while attending the AASHE Conference, but I feel that Mount Union has made a ton of progress in relation to sustainable efforts. I hope we only continue to promote projects and education. Sometimes this requires a large budget, but I think our student body needs to be more behind this issue.
What do you think could drive students to be more involved? How do you feel is the best way to get students behind this green movement? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Who knows, maybe one day Mount will be completely off the grid and waste and totally functional from State Street and Union Street within. Only time will tell.