Report card grades UAA’s sunstainable efforts

“Don’t waste water, water, water.” Some of us may remember the Sesame Street song that taught us how to be good stewards for our environment. Whether the song stuck with you or not, people are choosing to be conservative with our resources.

Every year, a report card is sent out to every university in the U.S. along with colleges in eight Canadian provinces. It is no ordinary report card. This special report card is given on a grade scale of how well any given college or university is sustaining its energy.

On this year’s Green Report Card, UAA received a “B” while UAF received a “C.”

According to the Green Report Card website, sustainability refers to meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Universities, as leaders of innovation in our society, have the potential to demonstrate sustainable principles in their campus operations and endowment policies. Their examples can provide a road map for others to follow.

Paula Williams, director of the Sustainability Action Board, has put many of her resources into attaining a better grade for the university over previous years, but the efforts are meant to be enjoyable as well.

“The Green Report Card is important to UAA because there is a sustainability competition going on between UAA and UAF,” Williams said.

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UAA and UAF’s Chancellors challenged each other to a competition, as to who could obtain a higher grade on the Green Report Card. The losing chancellor, UAF’s Brian Rogers, will now have to cook a dinner made from local food products for the winner, Fran Ulmer, UAA’s Chancellor.

The Green Report Card is also important to the University because the more UAA conserves its energy, the more it helps reduce costs of electricity, heat, trash disposal and paper usage.

It helps save money that UAA can use for additional important programs, such as intramural sports. In the last school year, UAA spent over $3 million on electricity expenses and an additional $2 million on natural gas expenses. This is only on the main campus and does not include the costs at housing.

Williams would like to have an A, but seeing the improvement UAA has made from 2008, which was a C- in a four year span, she considers the new grade good.

The University received a C for the food and recycling portion of the report card due to receiving its food products from outside state sources and not going local.

Transportation also received a C because there isn’t an absolute percentage for students that use alternative forms of transportation around, to and from campus, and car pooling/sharing isn’t offered. A car-sharing program should be available either Spring or Fall 2011.

Its grade on Climate Change and Energy was a B. To better this grade, UAA is currently installing Digital Energy Monitors on each building, so it can track how much heat, electricity, water, and gas each building uses, so that it can identify future problems and correct them to cut down costs.

UAF had not hired a sustainability coordinator by the time the survey was due or completed a greenhouse gas inventory, but the Fairbanks campus is now in the process of doing so. They have a facilities master plan that mandates more efficient buildings. Additionally, they have a higher student involvement than UAA. UAF’s students voted last fall semester to mandate a green fee of $20 a semester.

Williams has suggestions to better UAA’s sustainability grade. Some suggestions she gave were to offer car pooling and car sharing; get more student involvement through sustainability internships, fellowships, and research; work with dining services to increase use of local and organic foods; and advocating for clean electricity through funding renewable energy products in Southcentral Alaska.

It is also necessary to show gratitude to Chancellor Ulmer for her great support, Williams stated.

Recycling has become a big part of our world since the Go Green Initiative went into effect. From a local standpoint, students at UAA are either taking this seriously or making a joke out of it.

There are a number of students on campus who do recycle.

“I recycle newspapers,” freshman Eric Cothran said.

Freshman Benjo Holganza’s stated she recycles paper and plastic.

Another student’s answers were lacking enthusiasm. Joseph Tunilla, freshman at UAA, shared his thoughts on UAA’s sustainability progress. When asked about his opinion on the grade UAA received, he didn’t have anything to say or know what to say. The next question was if he thought UAA was doing a good job with conserving its usage of power, energy and food. His answer was a simple “yes”.

When asked if he did any recycling the student responded with a quick “no.” When Joseph was asked if there was anything UAA could do better to improve its sustainability record he stated that the University should lower its heating temperature.

A variety of students, depending on how they were brought up, decide to either recycle or not recycle. But the question is, “why should we recycle?”

As discussed earlier, there is broad spectrum of factors to consider. One must think about what everyone has the need to use or what people need to survive, and then think about how to be conservative in the usage of those resources.

On average, a person will take 15 minutes daily using the bathroom for hygiene and 15 minute for its facilities, according to an online survey, so people are generally aware of water consumption.

People who throw plastic materials such as water bottles, newspapers or aluminum into recycling containers help the environment by preserving valuable resources.

So in the end, many people are helping save the planet and ourselves.

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