Two campus clubs raising awareness of environmental issues

By Fred Shaia

Graphic pictures don't affect people anymore; organizations have to get in people's faces to generate a response and make a difference, Carly Vendegna, co-head of the RENEW Club, said recently concerning the "No Tray for the Day" initiative proposed by Dining Services.

This initiative promoted water and waste savings during Earth Day on April 22.

During the past two years, Richmond has been undergoing a slow, but noticeable environmental shift toward becoming a greener campus. The Richmond Environmental Network for Economic Willpower and the Sierra Club, two independent environmental organizations, are planning a merge, uniting all students dedicated to protecting the environment and raising awareness about monumental environmental issues on and off campus, Vendegna said.

During the fall semester, RENEW petitioned President Edward Ayers to sign the Presidential Climate Commitment, conducted two Heilman Dining Center waste surveys, initiated the Eco Spider competition, promoted recycling and held an apartment energy conservation contest among other activities this year, Andrew Essington, a freshman member of RENEW, said.

The PCC commits Richmond to becoming more environmentally friendly by tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Essington said. This means the president will perform projects toward a greener campus, Essington said.

RENEW achieved its main objective this year when Ayers agreed to sign the PCC, Michael Olson, a freshman member of RENEW, said. The school is making environmental changes a priority, Olson said, and greenhouse emissions are being monitored.

The PCC ensures that all future buildings will be LEED-certified and officials are working to replace heating in the apartments with a more energy efficient system, Essington said. A building that is Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design certified meets design and construction standards set by committees of
the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certified buildings are nationally accredited for their environmental sustainability by the USGBC.

The Weinstein building is already using low-flush toilet systems to conserve water and some campus vehicles are using bio diesel to be more economically friendly, Essington said.

During Environmental Awareness Week, which began on Nov. 5, 2007, RENEW and Dining Services conducted a waste survey in which several members collected uneaten, solid food from trays and weighed how much food would have been thrown away. After one day, the club collected about 1,760 pounds of food waste, which could give thousands of people a meal, Vendegna said.

On April 22, 2008, RENEW worked with Dining Services for a second waste survey. This time, the club promoted Earth Day by having "No Tray for the Day," Cathy Moran, purchasing manager of Dining Services, said. By opting not to use a tray, students saved water, wasted less food and consumed a more balanced meal, Moran said.

"The football players were mad at us for not having trays and they did not like having to place their food waste in the trash can," Vendegna said.

Although some of the athletes did not respond well, there was 372 pounds less food waste than the November waste survey, Moran said.

"Many, many colleges are doing things like this to reduce food, water and energy waste," Moran said. "I think that no trays should be implemented daily, but we need student support."

"I am proud that the Heilman Center has been certified as a Virginia Green Restaurant," Ayers said. "This honor recognizes the university's exemplary efforts in the areas of recycling, water conservation and energy efficiency."

RENEW Club recently met with Ayers to discuss future plans for the club. "We are fortunate to have a very cooperative administration and a president who is actually interested in our initiatives," Vendegna said.

RENEW discussed building bike ramps around campus to promote using bicycles as opposed to driving to and from campus, Vendegna said. There was also talk of moving the bus stop to the commons to make public transportation more accessible.

"RENEW received a grant that was used to install a monitoring system so that we can examine how much energy each dorm uses," Vendegna said. "We plan to hold competitions between dorms to promote energy reduction."

Next year, RENEW plans to merge with the Sierra Club to be called the RENEW-Sierra Student Coalition, Vendegna said.

"Whatever change happens to the environmental organizations at UR, it must be a positive change that leverages our collective organizing power better than we are doing now," Jason Levinn, the founder of RENEW, said regarding the potential merge.

RENEW also plans to have an informational session educating students and faculty on green curriculum, Vendegna said. "People don't realize the consequences of their actions, but it's not their fault," Vendegna said. "Our job is to educate."

Next year, RENEW will also continue documenting where recycle bins are located and plans to re-label the bins; this will ensure that the proper recyclable materials are placed in the proper bins, Vendegna said.

The Cellar and E.T.C., two food establishments on campus, are also helping the environment on campus by "going green." In the restaurant, The Cellar is using napkins and pizza boxes that are recyclables, Brendon Cristobal, a freshman employee, said. The Cellar also has special bins to recycle glass and cardboard, Cristobal said.

"When people order take-out meals, we use containers made from sugar cane instead of non-biodegradable Styrofoam boxes," Keaton Cristobal, a freshman employee, said.

E.T.C. encourages customers to bring their own bags to the store so that new bags are not wasted, Lauren Brunt, an E.T.C. employee, said. E.T.C. also recycles all cardboard boxes that package merchandise, Burnt said.

"If a customer re-uses a plastic bag, he/she will receive a five-cent discount on his/her purchase," Christina Quinones, an employee, said.

Last November, RENEW promoted energy conservation among apartments by holding a contest; members measured digital readouts behind apartments and block 1600 received a prize for conserving the most energy throughout the week, Vendegna said.

"We also participated in the Eco Spider competition and created a spider from recyclable materials," Olson said. "It was stationed outside the library."

Last October, RENEW held a three-day e-waste project to promote recycling. More than 60 organizations and 1,559 people turned in unwanted computers, monitors, printers, keyboards, cell phones and television sets, some containing toxic waste, that would have otherwise poisoned Virginia landfills, Vendegna said.

RENEW collected more than 125 tons of old electronics and transported them to a facility where all plastic and usable materials were recycled and all toxic components were safely disposed.

Last summer, the university also installed new laundry machines that save approximately one million gallons of water each school year.

"We aren't going to fulfill our goals if we don't alter the mindsets and uneconomical consumption patterns of students," Vendegna said. "We need student support to make a change."

UR students need to get more active in the bid to “green” the campus

By Catherine Orr

The University of Richmond is taking steps to demonstrate its institutional commitment to environmental awareness, but are the students doing their part to address serious climate and environmental concerns?

For decades, college campuses have been at the center of social change. Student war-protests and civil rights demonstrations were a catalyst for national movements. Now, across the country, college students are rallying to fight what The Washington Post writer Darragh Johnson calls the atomic bomb of today: global warming.

In November, nearly 6,000 college students from across the nation convened in College Park, Md., for Power Shift 2007. Through panel discussions and workshops, students learned new skills and bolstered motivation to become leaders in the environmental movements on their campuses, according to the Power Shift website.

Melanie Martin, a sophomore psychology major, was one of 10 Richmond students to attend Power Shift. "Some schools are doing amazing things, and some don't even have recycling programs," she said.

Richmond falls somewhere in the middle, Martin said.

Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, ranks No. 1 in the Sierra Club's Sierra magazine "10 That Get It" list, which names the top 10 green schools in the country. Like many of the schools leading the pack in environmental awareness, Oberlin has an office dedicated to environmental sustainability, according to the Sierra Club.

In addition, Oberlin has a car-sharing program, purchases more than 30 percent of
the dining hall food from local farmers and employs 10 students called "The College Recycling Assistants." These students work on a variety of resource-use reduction initiatives and administer the college's recycling program, according to information provided by Oberlin.

Richmond has a long way to go to achieve the environmental status of Oberlin, which Sierra magazine calls "a tree hugger's dream." Richmond faces the significant environmental obstacle of being powered by coal, which is not a renewable energy source, sophomore James McCormick said.

Coal-powered institutions are not uncommon in Virginia. Virginia has made non-binding goals to increase the use of renewable energy, but unlike nearly half of the states in the country, it has not passed renewable energy standards, according to an article in USA TODAY by Jordan Schrader.

This statewide trend is prevalent in Virginia colleges. Richmond burns more than 6,500 tons of coal a year, according to an article in The Collegian by Drew Pierson. According to Platts Coal Outlook, the University of Virginia burns 25,000 tons of coal a year and Virginia Polytechnic Institute burns 30,000 tons a year.

Implementing renewable energy is something the Richmond is constantly looking into, President Edward Ayers said in a recent address to students, organized by Richmond's two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and Richmond Environmental Network for Economic Willpower (RENEW). But it would involve a
huge overhaul and there is no plan for that right now, he said.

Although the coal plant does impede Richmond's progress toward becoming a greener campus, the university is significantly responding to the rallying cry for environmental action in other ways, Ayers said. He gave an extensive list of environmentally conscious policies and practices the university has already implemented.

The Heilman Dining Center, for instance, was recognized as a "green restaurant" because of its efforts to reduce waste, Ayers said. Also, Weinstein Hall was among the first four buildings in Virginia to be certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (or LEED) building, meaning it complied with certain recommendations for energy efficiency and environmentally safe materials as designated by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), Ayers said.

Among the green features of Weinstein Hall are waterless urinals, paint and carpet that reduce allergic reactions and sensors in each room that detect the amount of carbon monoxide present and adjust the amount of fresh air being pumped in.

Last spring, Richmond's Sierra Club and RENEW contacted Ayers and asked him to sign the Presidential Climate Commitment (PCC) said Jason Levinn, a senior business major and founder of RENEW. The PCC is a commitment that 420 college presidents have signed, requiring the college of the signatory to become climate neutral, which means having net zero green house gas emissions, according to the PCC. Emissions can be offset with other efforts such as tree-planting, constructing LEED certified buildings and educational efforts, according to the PCC.

Ayers told the students he would look into signing the commitment but that he really wanted to see more student support, Levinn said. Members of the Sierra Club and RENEW took the challenge and during Richmond's first Environmental Awareness Week they obtained hundreds of signatures from students, faculty and staff, urging Ayers to sign the commitment, Levinn said.

At the public address organized by the two student groups, Ayers spoke about the student groups' environmental concerns. He lauded their efforts and assured them that the administration was behind them 100 percent.
The small group of students gathered for the speech, composed mainly of members of the student groups, cheered when Ayers announced that he had decided to sign the PCC.
Richmond is one of only three of the 17 schools that make up the Virginia Action Climate Network (VaCAN), to sign the PCC. Ayers' signing the PCC sends a message to schools in Virginia and to other peer and aspirant universities that the Richmond is serious about environmental awareness, Levinn said.

Signing the commitment will only get the university so far, Ayers said. All the institutional actions don't mean much if students don't do their part, he said.

Students are the only members of the university community who live on campus 24-hours a day, Ayers said. Students make a negative difference when they drive across
campus instead of walk, run water unnecessarily or keep power-strips on when they don't need to, he said. "You can wipe out efforts made by LEED certified buildings with individual irresponsibility," he said.

Ayers challenged the students living in the University Forest Apartments to reduce their energy use by half, and said the university would be installing energy meters on dorms so that the same challenge could be issued to those who lived in dorms.

He also challenged the environmental groups to turn their sights on their peers and take on the responsibility of ensuring that proper action is being taken from the ground up.

Sophomore, Cloe Franko, an environmental studies major and member of RENEW, said she was happy to accept that challenge. "Now that we have the ball rolling with the PCC being signed, it's our big goal to really uphold our end and make the students more aware," she said.

Students' lack of awareness and action is a common complaint among Richmond environmental enthusiasts. It's not that the students are against the environment, Martin said, it's that they are apathetic. When members of RENEW went around to classes to ask students to support the PCC, "No one said, €˜I hate the environment,'" Martin said, "but that doesn't necessarily mean they're doing anything to help."

Aimee Janesky, a senior who is not affiliated with either RENEW or the Sierra Club, said most students are not particularly environmentally cautious. "Honestly, I don't see a huge amount of students participating mainly because I don't know if people really know what they can do," she said.

RENEW is trying to address this issue by educating students about proper recycling and conserving energy, Franko said. Franko wrote an opinion article for The Collegian instructing students to remove bottle caps before recycling, print on both sides of the paper and turn off power strips and unplug appliances when they are not in use.

In her article, Franko also encouraged students to not "hesitate to be that person at an apartment who gathers the empty beer cans and puts them in recycling or who reaches in the garbage can for a plastic water bottle and drops it in the recycling."
It is that kind of action that the general student population is lacking, said James McCormick, a sophomore and political science major. Apathy is the largest obstacle in increasing Richmond students' action toward conservation, sustainability and recycling, he said.

"Students don't really feel that their actions could have an effect," McCormick said. "They feel that, no matter what they do it will really just be the administration that decides everything in the end."

Students have an attitude that one person can't make a difference in saving the environment, said Kimberly Holzinger, a senior who attended the president's address to support her roommate.

In an effort to show students how individual action, or inaction, can add up, the Sierra Club and University Facilities worked together to conduct a waste audit in
March, 2006, according to an article in The Collegian by Austin McPherson.
Through the audit they found that more than 75 percent of the contents of trash bins and dumpsters were recyclable products, according to the article.

That same year, Richmond participated in RecycleMania for the first time. RecycleMania is a nation-wide 10-week recycling competition that pits colleges against each other to determine which university recycles the most, according to McPherson's article. The competition is broken down into three categories: most recycled, least trash and highest recycling rate.

After two weeks of the competition, the Richmond was ranked 40th out of 42 schools, according to the article.

Getting students to recycle has always been a challenge, Stephen Bisese, vice president for Student Development said.

Joseph Boehman, dean of Richmond College, would like to see Richmond students improve their recycling habits, he said. At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where Boehman worked previously, the environmental efforts of the students were significant, he said.

Students would participate in "Green Games," and "Water Wars," campus-wide competitions measuring which dorms were recycling and conserving water more, he said. "The students got really into it," he said.

At Richmond, Boehman said, recycling receptacles are not well marked and they don't saturate the campus the way they should. "Students drive the bus on making
those changes happen," he said.

Bisese said that students could be challenged more to prove that they were environmentally aware. "What it boils down to is student involvement isn't enough yet," he said.

It's going to take a concerted effort from the environmental groups and the administration to increase the environmental involvement of the students, Martin said.

Environmentally responsible actions need to be a conscious effort before they can be habit, she said. "You have to bombard people with it so it hopefully becomes a habit," she said. "You can't make them care, but you can give them strategies and tools to do something."

RENEW is working on a proposal to incorporate environmental awareness in freshmen orientation, Levinn said. Emphasizing environmentally friendly practices from day one could have a positive influence on the student involvement in recycling and conservation, he said.

Increasing the presence of environmental awareness in the classroom is another way to reach the students, Martin said. Martin, who grew up in the rural community of New Kent, Va., where she spent a lot of time outside, always appreciated the environment, but didn't have a real concept of the damage people can do, she said.

That is, until she took a marine biology class at Richmond. Through field trips and research, Martin learned, first hand, the effects of global warming on the ecosystem, she said.

That kind of education is powerful, Martin said. If service learning and practical application were a more present part of academic requirements, it would force students to be exposed to real-world issues, which might inspire change and at the very least would educate students about the problems that exist, she said.

Outside of the classroom, changing students' attitudes might take some positive peer pressure, Martin said. Boehman said that peer pressure could be an important vehicle for change. "People who care, need to make their peers aware," he said, "We need to give them a platform to be a little more vocal."

The current popular culture trend of environmental awareness being "cool," could have a positive effect on the actions of Richmond students, Boehman said. This generation is very conscious of social trends, he said. "It's hip to recycle. It's hip to own a Prius," he said. "If we can make recycling as cool as Ugg boots, people will do it."

Social responsibility being initiated by what's "cool" may seem superficial, "but if it works, it works," Martin said. "It has to start with the image and then it trickles down, hopefully changing the culture as it does."

Bisese is optimistic that students' general apathy toward environmental awareness will change and that they will make the leap to taking action. "Richmond students are responsible about responding to important issues," he said citing an example of students successfully rallying to get healthier food in the dining hall. "When there is a need, they rise up in a smart way," he said.

Richmond has not had an activist in the campus in the past, Levinn said. But it depends on how you define activism, he said. "I think a lot of people view [activism] as rioting in the streets, but that's not always what activism is," he said. "Students here are really smart, and if they see an issue that matters to them, then they can rally around it."

And this may be the perfect time to rally, Boehman said. There is a definite feeling of change at Richmond right now, and with it a palpable energy and excitement, he said.

The institution has shown that it is committed to making environmental awareness a principal issue. Students have the advantage of a new president who is open to their ideas and concerns, he said.

"This is the time to strike," Boehman said.

Richmond is working to become environmentally “greener”

By Taylor Engelson

The University of Richmond, along with a number of colleges and universities across the country, is making changes to become more environmentally friendly.

The design of the buildings on the Richmond campus is the biggest factor in evaluating UR's "greenness." Since UR adopted its latest master plan in 2000, all projects are designed with the LEED rating system in mind, facilities architect Andrew McBride said.

LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council. In order for a building to quality for LEED certification, it has to earn a certain number of points. LEED evaluates buildings in the following areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. The number of points a project earns determines the level of certification it receives.

The four levels are Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Certified means that a building has 26-32 points, Silver is 33-38 points, Gold is 39-51points and Platinum is 52- 69 points.

Weinstein Hall, which earned 26 points, was the first project to come out of the master plan, as well as the first building in the Richmond metro area and the second higher-education building in the state to become LEED certified, McBride said.

Gottwald Center for the Sciences, was the next project and a number of the sustainable building practices were used, although its score in the low 20s was not high enough for LEED certification, he said. The applications for LEED certification for the renovated and enlarged Heilman Center and Weinstein Center will be submitted later this year and the application for the Lakeview dormitory, still under construction, will be submitted sometime next year, he said.

"Compared to our existing resident halls or any of our other buildings, Lakeview will be our highest scoring building," McBride said, who expects the certified level at minimum. Some highlights are 30 percent reduction in water usage via dual flush toilets, no irrigation system for landscaping, and low-flow shower heads and lavatory faucets, he said. In addition, there will be a monitoring system for energy usage.

Ten percent of all materials will be made of 10 percent recycled content, and 20 percent of all materials will be manufactured within 500 miles of the job, he said.

There are also plans to make current buildings greener. "Starting in December, Freeman Hall will be the first of five existing residences halls (Freeman, Jeter, North Court, Thomas and Robins) that will undergo a complete make-over, transforming them into suite or apartment-style residence halls," he said. "The LEED EB (existing building) rating system will be used as we design the alterations and we will apply for LEED certification where possible," McBride said.

Every project the school works on uses the LEED standard, he said. "It stays on the table throughout the design process and only drops off once we have determined that LEED certification is impossible," he said.

A College Sustainability Report Card by the Sustainable Endowment Institute provides a comprehensive grade breakdown of aspects of the university's sustainability in addition to its buildings. The overall grade UR received was a C-, which is the average grade of the administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder involvement grades.

According to UR's report card posted on the Sustainable Endowment Institute's website, UR received a C in administration because a full-time position for a sustainability coordinator has not been developed and a D for climate change and energy because the university has not pursued renewable energy. The grade for food and recycling was a C and it is stated that the university's dining services department has made a commitment to sustainability in its practices. A B was given for the green building grade, because of the LEED certification of Weinstein, the LEED strategies used for Gottwald and three other registered buildings that are seeking LEED certification.

The investment priorities grade was a B, and it is stated that the university prioritizes investing to maximize profit and is also exploring renewable energy investment funds or similar investment vehicles. Lastly, the endowment transparency and shareholder engagement grades were both an F because the university's proxy voting record and list of endowment holdings are not public and its investment managers handle the details of proxy voting.

An aspect that is not analyzed in the report is conservation efforts by students on campus. There are two student-run clubs on campus that strive to incorporate more conservation policies at the university. The first one that was established on campus is the Sierra Club, an organization devoted to improving the environment and spreading awareness of environmental issues here on campus and in the community, as stated on its website. It has about 12 core members, Treasurer Ashley LeClare said.

LeClare said that her involvement in the club was natural since she was a member in high school and her major is environmental studies. "The whole topic interests me," she said. "I want to be involved in programs with that focus."

Its current project is an effort to have the school purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (REC). LeClare said that the government had established something called tradable emissions. This allows power companies to emit a certain amount of Greenhouse gases and other noxious chemicals into the atmosphere. If the companies don’t fill up their emissions quota, they can sell their unused emission slots for profit, she said.

"Obviously wind farms aren’t releasing any such things into the atmosphere, and thus have a lot to sell," LeClare said. "They sell their RECs to energy companies, such as Pepco, who them sells them to us. Wind and landfill gas are examples of renewable sources.

"Thus indirectly we are pumping funds into renewable resources," she said. "We’ll buy the equivalent of how much atmospheric contaminants we release." Members are proposing a student tuition raise from anywhere between $9 and $60. Members will conduct a survey to evaluate student interest in the project.

Wind costs a little more than coal, said Chris Stevenson, the Sierra Club faculty adviser, Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) member and chemistry professor. "We would be giving a donation so that they can sell power at the same cost as coal," he said.
In effect, UR would be helping to subsidize local wind power plants or landfill gas.
Virginia's statewide grid for energy is the coal, Stevenson said. Therefore, UR has to use coal or create its own energy, he said. "Campuses wrestle to have the right fuel sources that don't cost too much," President William E. Cooper said. "UR uses coal because it's cheap," he said. "In the long-term we might have to shift."

Some Sierra Club members are also involved in the group Environmental Residents, which was created last year by a Sierra Club graduate. The group has tried to get an RA position to promote environmental awareness in the dorms. In addition, group members have given current RAs information about environmental conservation to put up on the bulletin boards in their hallways.

Stevenson said that the plan for Environmental Residents was on the Residence Hall Association agenda last year, but the RHA didn't seem that interested. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education website lists schools that that have a system in place for peer-to-peer sustainability outreach campaigns, known as Eco-Reps.

Columbia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Smith, University of Dayton and Yale are some examples.

"A lot of what they do is education, such as programs to talk about eco-friendly living," Stevenson said. This could include a water-savings themed month, "Don't run your shower" posters and competitions among dorms, he said. "This was the origin of the petition that the EAG is doing to monitor energy," Stevenson said.

It is not a big group and the Sierra Club gets more done, LeClare said. When asked about her opinion of student concern for the environment, she said, "We're definitely lacking the activist part. I'm not sure if it's the lack of interest or lack of time."

LeClare's involvement in environmental action on campus doesn't end with her commitment to the Sierra and Environmental Residents clubs. LeClare and fellow member Christie Lencsak, also an environmental studies major, are the UR interns for the Schools Association of Colleges for the South. They keep track of the environmental action that takes place on campus and organize it to give to the association, which keeps a record of the environmental activities of many colleges in the south, LeClare said.

A recent project is the EAG's proposal to buy monitors to show how much energy, water and waste a dorm uses, Stevenson said. The EAG and Professor Steve Nash put together a proposal for this information to be displayed on a screen outside a couple of dorms, he said. They asked the company Dominion Power, an investor-owned electric utility, for money to fund this project since it awards grants to schools, he said.

"The goal is to have all the dorms monitored that way," he said. "We're starting with energy because Dominion Power will be interested in that."

The group RENEW (Richmond Environmental Network for Economic Willpower) was established this year by junior Jason Levinn and is also currently working to make UR dorms greener, by promoting student support. Members sat at a table in the Commons for the month of April, asking students to sign their UR's Green Dorms Petition. Their goal was to obtain 1,000 signatures by April 20, member Sarah Johnston said. RENEW surpassed its goal by getting 1052 signatures, including 18 faculty members.

Students have been willing to sign the petition, Johnston said. "Once you explain what it's about they think it's a cool idea, but I don't know how much more than a signature they'll be willing to give," she said. There are about 75 people on RENEW's email list, but only six to 10 attend the weekly meetings, Johnston said. A component of the petition is getting the school to hire a sustainability coordinator, Johnston said. This sustainability coordinator position is the same one that the Sierra Club has proposed. The lack of one is what the College Sustainability Report Card based the administration grade on, which was a C. This person would be someone to assess and oversee all campus projects, such as building dorms and major landscaping and construction to make sure they are sustainable to the environment, she said.

"Only a few other schools have a sustainability coordinator, but it is something that is becoming very popular and would put Richmond ahead of the curve," Johnston said.

"Unfortunately, a sustainability coordinator would be highly expensive to hire and therefore the university will most likely not support this point of our petition."

Levinn presented the petition to the incoming president, Edward L. Ayers, at a Presidential Welcoming Committee dinner. This committee comprises faculty and students who bring concerns and suggestions to the president. A Microsoft Excel printout of the breakdown in petition names by class year was included in the Presidential Welcoming Committee White Paper Appendix, Levinn said.

"Ayers was informed about the petition when I spoke with him and I think he will be eager to meet and discuss it when things are a bit less hectic for him," Levinn said. "The petition itself is not all that important though, it was really just a vehicle to gauge and incite student interest in environmental developments on campus, and I am confident that we will see some great changes in the coming school year."

An additional project RENEW is working on is finding out whether there's a program that Information Services (IS) can use to shut computers off when they are not being used for an extended period of time. Having them on constantly wastes energy and wears down life expectancy, Johnston said. Another way to save energy that RENEW has discussed is buying CFL light bulbs, which have a longer life, use less electricity and are cheaper than most regular light bulbs.

Furthermore, members have an idea to make electricity in the dorms available by plugging in a key card or students' Spidercards. For instance, before someone leaves the room, he would pull the card out of some sort of plug and the electricity would turn off in the room while he's not there, Johnston said. The student would simply have to plug it back in for the electricity to go on. "I don't know how expensive or feasible this is, but it's a pretty cool idea," she said.

Although Sierra Club and RENEW members are a small percentage of the student population, students who are not directly involved with environmental activity on campus are becoming aware of the importance of environmental conservation. Sophomore Bailey Leuschen said that before a geography course she took in the fall, she had never thought about green issues. Now, she is aware of the effect humans have on the environment, "especially our generation and how much pressure we're putting on the world's resources," she said.

She is glad that the school is making efforts to work toward environmental sustainability on campus. "One of the things I'm really excited about is that the new washers will conserve water," she said. "I also really like that in the library there are certain lights that only come on when people walk through the bookshelves."

Nevertheless, we come from a very consumer-driven culture in our school, specifically the business school, Leuschen said. She learned in her macroeconomics class that a measure of society's happiness is its consumption, she said. "I'm conflicted, because I'd like to see more computers in the library, which would require more energy."

Leuschen believes the only way people will change their ways and not become overwhelmed in the process is through making small changes. "I think the key is baby steps; making change in increments," Leuschen said. "Thinking too much about it leads to a state of paralysis in which you think you can't accomplish anything."

As for the future, there are two things that matter on campus in regard to promoting environmental sustainability, Cooper said. These are political activism and engineering solutions to the problems. "The most important thing students can do is come up with better energy sources," he said. "There should be a fearlessness about solving these problems," Cooper said. "I want to see a solution."

In regard to comparing the greenness of UR with other schools, Stevenson said, "We're roughly middle-of-the-path." The reason is a combination of student apathy and lack of administrative support, he said.

Nevertheless, Stevenson believes that having a green campus is not the ultimate goal. He would rather educate people here about eco-friendly choices than have an ecofriendly culture, he said. "What's really important is that every year we graduate 800 students," Stevenson said. "Having a green campus will help but the end goal is to teach students about these issues."