By Lisa Romero, BIO5 Institute
Grassroots movement underway to make UA a green campus
Since early August, newcomers stopping by The University of Arizona Visitor Center have noticed two 1,250-gallon cisterns that harvest rainwater and irrigate Sonoran plants and citrus trees on the east side of the building. Inside the facility, two gauges measure the energy generated from solar panels recently donated by Tucson Electric Power.
The just-completed projects at the Visitor Center are a few of dozens of sustainability initiatives that are transforming the UA into a green campus.
In the spring, UA President Robert N. Shelton signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a pledge by more than 370 university presidents to implement projects to reduce and ultimately neutralize greenhouse gas emissions on campuses nationwide.
Below are some of the campus sustainability projects that have been completed or are currently underway:
- The UA has developed a nationally-recognized recycling program in each residence hall and in La Aldea graduate student housing.
- One of the efforts to make the UA a more bicycle-friendly community is the development of enclosed bicycle storage facilities in multiple garages on campus.
- Members of ECOlition, a student environmental organization, have created a database of potential rainwater-harvesting sites on campus.
- The expansion of the Student Recreation Center will be the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building on campus. LEED is a standardized, nationally-accepted system for certifying the sustainability of design, construction and operation of buildings. All new UA buildings also will be LEED certified.
- The UA has long been a leader in designing and constructing buildings using strategies that reduce energy and water use. Before the terms “sustainable” or “green” became widely used, the UA was already designing and constructing high-performance, energy-efficient buildings intended to last 50 to 100 years.
- In 2006, the UA Motor Pool began using ethanol fuel for approximately 75 vehicles.
- Students and faculty from the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture are collaborating with other departments to evaluate lighting on campus with the goal of increased energy efficiency.
Glenn Schrader, head of the UA’s chemical and environmental engineering department, is responsible for coordinating the various sustainability efforts on campus and chairing a new sustainability committee, which will include representation from students, faculty and staff.
Schrader cites a grassroots movement initiated by UA students, personnel and community members that has resulted in extensive progress toward making the UA a sustainable campus.
“The idea of establishing a green campus is really something that has emerged from the ground up,” Schrader said. “The personal commitment that I’ve witnessed from members of the University community is amazing.”
Schrader is leading the development of an online sustainability portal, which will provide the public with a one-stop resource of all of the sustainability initiatives at the UA, education and outreach resources, academic offerings and opportunities for student and community involvement.
The portal is not centered around one sustainability challenge. It features information about energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, air quality improvements, quality land use, climate change and other related topics. “What’s unique about us is that we’re thinking about sustainability in a holistic way,” Schrader said. “We’re not just thinking about LEED buildings or recycling, but instead are leveraging the University’s research strengths and student enthusiasm into a comprehensive effort to conserve our natural resources.”
Since the UA already features some of the nation’s top academic programs in hydrology, geosciences, chemistry, plant sciences, tree-ring science and other disciplines, it’s in an ideal position to become a leader in promoting campus sustainability through research, teaching and outreach. “We’re recognized around the world as a research powerhouse, and our goal now is to be national model of a truly sustainable university campus,” Schrader said.
All over the UA, students are initiating and advancing sustainability efforts on campus.
According to UA Visitor Center Director Heather Lukach, the ideas for the renovations at the Visitor Center were initiated by students participating in discussions on new landscaping on the building’s east side.
While the project was student driven, UA faculty members, the Campus Arboretum, Campus Planning, members of Tucson’s West University Neighborhood Association and other organizations were involved in the design and implementation of the water harvesting, landscaping and solar panel installation. Approximately 30 percent of the building is now powered by solar energy.
“The ideas were also widely accepted by residents in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Lukach said.
The University community and the public will have an opportunity to become more engaged in the UA’s sustainability efforts during Sustainability Week. From Oct. 24-31, the UA will host a number of public events, including forums on water conservation and community sustainability, a conference for educators, exhibits, a Web cast and a luncheon highlighting student water harvesting projects.
For more information, visit http://sustainability.arizona.edu.