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Full text of "The Gateway (2007-10-25)"

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A t a time when dire warnings about 
climate change dominate the headlines, 
we all have to start thinking about the 
little things, like how long your shower 
was this morning or what you're going 
to do with this copy of the Gateway once you're done 
reading it. But have you ever wondered what happens 
when you bring 40 000 people together in a condensed 
space? The degree of environmental impact is suddenly 
on a much larger scale. 

Fortunately, one upside of bringing so many people 
together is that it generates a lot of ideas and innovation, 
and as a result, there are now measures being put in 
place by the University to curb our collective carbon 
footprint on the planet. 


However, unlike the daily flow of students and 
staff, "going green" is not a change that can 
appear overnight. As Don Hickey. U of A Vice 
President (Facilities and Operations), explains, 
one important thing to consider when it comes 
to campus sustainability initiatives is practical¬ 
ity. For example, our chilly climate is a major 
factor: we can't rely on things like solar power all 
yearlong when winter days see only six hours of 
sunlight. 

Still, Hickey explains that the U of A has 
always been smart about its sustainable mea¬ 
sures, going back at least to 1972, when the 
university was a pioneer in paper recycling. 

"If you look at our footprints, we've been 
very engaged on recycling, energy manage¬ 
ment programs, behavioural programs," Hickey 
explained. 

The most recent step towards this planned 
reduction is last week's launch of a new recy¬ 
cling transfer centre, it will serve to compact 
recyclables on campus so that more can be done 
and fewer trips are necessary to off-campus 
recycling centres. It is estimated that 40 per 
cent (or 4200 metric tonnes) of the university's 
waste will be moved from landfills to materials 
recovery facilities. In addition, they will burn 
fewer fossil fuels in hauling recycling away. 

The U of A’s Sustainability Measures and 
Initiatives plan outlines various steps for a green 
future for the institution: by 2010, it wants to 
cut its output of waste by 30 per cent. Other 
measures are already itt place: for example, the 
heater plug-ins in the parkades have timers and 
temperature sensors that won't let electricity 
run unless it's cold enough, and motion-sensor 
lights in offices and classrooms are also being 
installed. 

Tile Environmental Coordination Office of 
Students (EGOS), a student-run organization 
operating as an official service of the Students' 
Union, is looking to engage students on this 
matter as well. According to F.COS director L isa 
Dockman. her office oversees a variety of prog¬ 


ams that deal with reducing the environmental 
effects caused by students. 

"That means we operate programs and ser¬ 
vices to encourage students to live more envi¬ 
ronmentally friendly lifestyles and to make 
more life-sustainable decisions," Dockman 
explains. 

The mission statement of ECOS is, she says, 
to educate and involve, research and recom¬ 
mend, and provide resources. They educate 
with "Green Res" presentations for Lister Hall, 
East Campus Village, Newton Place, HUB. 
and other campus residences, and on campus 
with their "Living Green" presentation. ECOS 
is also responsible for educating SU employ¬ 
ees about environmental awareness. Thanks to 
a new direction for ECOS this year, they now- 
play a role in advising the SU regarding policy 
changes and review and examine existing poli¬ 
cies to encourage environmentally sustainabile 
implementations whenever possible. 

In addition to their educational programs, 
ECOS runs a bike library, which rents out bikes 
to students for $40 per month. They have also 
engaged in a naturalization project in the court¬ 
yard of the Education Building: ECOS encour¬ 
ages native plant species to be grown here, so 
there is less need for maintenance and irriga¬ 
tion. Finally, ECOS also manages the Campus 
Community Garden situated in East Campus 
Village, which grows organic herbs and veg¬ 
etables and is maintained entirely by ECOS 
volunteers. Hickey also added that the univer¬ 
sity takes care to plant species native to Alberta 
throughout campus. 

Lister Hall is working on its own eco- 
friendly measures with the guidance of the 
Enviro Committee, directed by Jenna Rodgers. 
Rodgers explained that they're working on 
piloting a composting project, called vermi- 
composting, on some of the floors in the four 
Lister towers. Each floor that volunteered is 
equipped with a 53L Rubbermaid bucket with 
soil and half a pound of red wriggler worms. 


All of tlie organic waste on the floor is placed in 
that bucket, which is periodically emptied. As 
for other floors implementing the composting, 
there's a financial concern. 

"I've had ten floors express interest and [...] 
that's pretty much a quarter of [Lister]. I still 
have people asking me about it; it's just that we 
don't have the funds to provide every floor with 
a vermicomposting bin." Rodgers said. 

"Let's face it: Alberta doesn't have the best 
recycling initiatives at all. so not a lot of people 
grow up with recycling [... or] composting," 
she continued. "If you leach a handful of people 
that. yes. paper is recyclable, and no. it's really 
not difficult to do, hopefully that's a habit they 
can take back to their households and teach 
[others]." 

Lister also recycles their bonks, which can 
accumulate to a colossal amount, much of 
which the Enviro Committee donates back to 
the Residences while keeping a portion for 
themselves. 

However, these amounts pale in comparison 
to the costs of implementing green initiatives 
and technology in the first place. As Hickey 
explains, apart from a commitment to sustain¬ 
ability. fiscal responsibility is also a part of the 
university's mandate. 

Maintaining energy-saving and environmen¬ 
tally friendly infrastructure, he says, can be 
incredibly costly, adding that the university has 
to make sure that each initiative is cost-effec¬ 
tive, and that students are getting their money's 
worth. 

"If we made a policy that said we will buy 20 
per cent of our power from renewable energy 
resources, that could mean an extra sLx or seven 
million dollars cost to our budget." Hickey said. 
"It's always cost [versus] effect: if six of seven 
million goes there, where won't it go?" 

The consequences of ignoring costs in an 
environmental equation, lie says, would prob¬ 
ably detrimentally affect the University: staff 
positions, for example, could be affected, and 
tuition could be hiked up by several thousand 
dollars. 

As for the involvement of individuals regard¬ 
ing eco-friendly habits and lifestyles, there's 
one thing that Hickey and Rodgers both agree 
on: behavioural changes are necessary. This 
includes many small changes that make a dif¬ 
ference in the long run. Rodgers says. 

"For me, it's not about telling people. 
'Compost in your houses, do all this, buy every¬ 
thing organic.' I mean, that's great; it's a choice 
you can make. But start simple. Throw your 
paper in the right bin. Throw your bottles in 
the right bin." she said. 

Rodgers also believes that in caring and 
showing that these small habits matter to you, 
you may inspire others to do the same. 

"I would really encourage people to not be 
apathetic. Even if they're not going to come out 
to meetings or stand on a green box and shout 
out green colours or whatever, just be aware of 
what's around you." 


Campus recycling initiatives 

While the University has operated recycling 
services on campus for over 30 years, 2007 
marks some of the most significant changes 
to its programs. Building & Grounds Services 
has recently constructed a Recycle Transfer 
Station (RTS), which allows for increased 
recycling capacities and the recycling of all 
types of plastics, glass, and light materials. 
It's also the first station of its kind in Alberta. 

Buildings & Grounds Services is also imple¬ 
menting new colour-sorted recycling bins 
across campus, as well as trialing compost 
ing programs for both organic food wastes 
and papier towels from washrooms. 

Where to recycle on campus 

It's relatively easy to find a place to recycle 
drink containers, but it can be a bit trickier 
to find receptacles for a lot of other things 
on campus, including paper sometimes. 

Cell phones, batteries, ink cartridges, and 
paper can be deposited at the recycling 
boxes offered at the InfoLink booths in 
SUB, CAB, HUB, and ETLC 

Ink cartridges can also be recycled at the 
University Bookstore (lower level) and the 
Students' Union Print Centre (lower level SUB). 

Egg cartons (cardboard or styrofoam) can 
be given to Campus Food Bank, who will 
reuse them. 


Clarification 

In last week's feature, entitled “Growing 
Pains; Construction at the University Kicks 
into High Gear" (18 October), University 
Architect Len Rodrigues is quoted as saying, 
"I really like South Lab because it's going to 
be one of our first lead' buildings, so it's 
going after a sustainable agenda." However, 
this should have read "LEED buildings." 

So, what is LEED? 

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental 
Design is a Green Building Rating System 
designed specifically for Canadian climates 
and construction codes, and is based on 
the United States Green Building Council 
(USGBC). LEED status for construction and 
renovation projects is achieved through a 
credit-based process that examines sus¬ 
tainable sites, water efficiency, energy and 
atmosphere, materials and resources, and 
indoor environmental quality, as well as 
additional innovation and design processes. 
LEED projects are then assessed one of four 
levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, 


and Platinum.