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News Digest: ‘Green’ thinking continues to sweep college campuses

March 24, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some fascinating and encouraging news from other college campuses throughout the U.S. that, in some form or another, are embracing “green” technology and lifestyles.

Since then, plenty has happened at schools like the University of Montana, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Maryland. Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on at these campuses, with links included to the full stories for further reading.

U. Montana to offer climate change minor this fall

The Montana Kaimin newspaper reported today that a new minor program on climate change studies will be available to students this fall. The program will incorporate studies involving science and social issues as well as looking at potential solutions to climate change.

“It’s beyond looking at the science. We are trying to get students into this whole social, political arena,” said UM regents professor of forest ecology Steve Running, director for the new program and Nobel Peace Prize recipient for work on climate change issues. “We are trying to be on the leading edge of this transition and educate particularly our students in facilitating this change and helping the alternatives bubble up.”

The task of fixing the “global sickness” will soon be in the hands of the next generation, he added.

The minor was initiated under the direction of UM Provost Royce Engstrom, who received input from 29 faculty members from 18 departments who wanted to bring a climate change program to campus. “An important thing for students to know is that students from any background can enter into this minor because it takes a very interdisciplinary approach,” Engstrom said. “It’s not just for science students, it’s not just

for policy students. It’s for any student.”

U. California Regents approve deal between universities, utility companies

The Board of Regents for the University of California system approved a program that could lower energy costs and increase efficiency on a number of UC campuses. The program could save the UC system $36 million, the Daily Californian reported.

In collaboration with PG&E, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and three other companies, the program will be implemented at nine of the 10 UC campuses and four of the five medical schools over the next three years.

It will fund 900 energy-efficiency programs and is expected to reduce the UC system’s annual utilities costs by $36 million, or about 10 percent. The utility companies will cover roughly $61 million of the project’s total $247 million.

“It makes perfect financial sense,” said Dirk van Ulden, associate director of energy and utilities at the UC Office of the President.

UC Berkeley will undertake 190 programs, the most of any UC campus, totalling a budget of $24.8 million. PG&E will loan the campus $8.8 million to pursue these projects.

U. Connecticut gets a ‘kick’ out of environmental activism

The University of Connecticut began a shoe recycling program as part of Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program to cut the school’s carbon footprint and promote environmental awareness on campus, The Daily Campus reported.

The collection kicked off on March 1 as part of Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program, a program in which the company collects shoes so that their rubber soles may be turned into running tracks, athletic surfaces and playgrounds. According to the company’s Web site, in 19 years, Nike has collected 22,736,188 pairs of shoes globally.

UConn was inspired to start a sneaker collection after hearing about Nike’s program, seeing it as a way to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

“UConn students are generally athletic-minded and environmentally-responsible,” said Richard Miller, the director of the Office of Environmental Policy, in an e-mail interview.

“We knew there were a lot of sneakers being thrown away by students, faculty and staff, and by recycling and reusing the components in different products, it would be a more sustainable practice than using raw materials to make these same products.”

The program is a partnership involving UConn Athletics, EcoHusky, the OEP, Nike and the Willimantic Waste Co., which brings the shoes to Nike.

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