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Class tries to help campus go green

Lucretia Welsh

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One St. Edward’s University  class is researching how to be environmentally conscious on a college budget as well as developing plans to help the school be more environmentally friendly.

This year, the Environmental Science and Policy class taught by Peter Beck plans to formulate a plan of action that will help St. Edward’s move towards becoming a carbon-neutral university.

Many colleges across the United States are working on similar projects as part of the American College University President Climate Commitment.

St. Edward’s part in the venture began last year when Beck had one of his classes create a greenhouse gas inventory that catalogued St. Edward’s major sources of pollution. The goal is to curb these sources of pollution and get the levels back to where they should be. Members of the class said that an important part of their mission is getting the whole campus involved.

“We hope we can engage students from other majors…hopefully it’ll grow as we go on,” sophomore Kristina Schenck said.

Students can make a lot of progress towards becoming more environmentally conscious by making small changes in their daily routines: taking shorter showers, turning off lights that are not in use and not leaving faucets running for any longer than necessary.

“You can’t expect change from anything unless we change ourselves first,” senior Jessica Espinoza said.

To help move students in the right direction, Beck’s class is coming up with incentives for students to ride the bus more often and contemplating ideas such as a creating a bike-sharing program.

“We want everyone to be aware of sustainability and carbon neutrality,” Espinoza said.

But being environmentally conscious isn’t always cheap or easy. Students in the class said they have kept this in mind in their planning. When school administrators review their final plan they will have to weigh this fact in their decision.  

“The ultimate goal is that the administration will accept either the entire plan or part of the plan and go through with the projects and new policies that we propose,” Schenck said.

Given the current economy, the class has tried to come up with the most cost-effective methods of saving energy as possible. Students in the class said that energy conservation can coincide with long term cost benefits, so many of their policies will be attractive to everyone involved.    

The plan won’t be limited to energy saving, but will also take carbon offsets into account to make up for the current levels of pollution that can’t be eliminated. This can be as simple as planting a new grove of trees on campus to produce more oxygen. The class will carefully calculate all of the proposed plans for carbon offsets to determine how much the plans will cost and how much pollution they will offset.

The class is also looking to other universities to see what plans have succeeded and which have not.

The long-term goal of the program goes beyond St. Edward’s in two ways.

First, the class wants to create a policy that can be studied and modified by future classes.

“We want to start something that the class right behind us will pick up and continue with,” Espinoza said.

Second, students in the class say, it isn’t enough just to be carbon neutral for four years of your life in college. Beck said he hopes that what students learn in class will be applied throughout their lives.

Having spent five years in Kenya, Beck said he knows the same principles of energy conservation apply worldwide. The hands-on learning in his class aims to do more to teach students about developing practical energy policy (and getting it approved) than simply looking at models ever could.

“What I like about the projects we have in class is that they are actually beneficial to my education and my growth as a student,” Schenck said.

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Class tries to help campus go green