Student organization leads charge to go green
RELEASED: April 17, 2008
President John A. Roush's membership to the ACUPCC has resulted in the College adopting three tangible actions to reduce its carbon footprint. Facility maintenance officials have made consistent strides toward adopting more energy-efficient utilities as new technologies become available. And now, a grassroots effort is flourishing within the student body to strengthen Centre's image as a progressive force in the preservation of the environment.
ECCO began as small partnership among a few students and supportive faculty members at the turn of the millennium but is now influencing College policy in a tangible way.
At the most fundamental level, ECCO does what its name implies: it encourages an environmentally conscious lifestyle so that individuals are empowered with the information they need to make wise day-to-day decisions. Through informational fliers, the student-operated initiative has encouraged all community members to practice moderation in their use of supplies ranging from paper products to energy. Supplementing their print campaigns, ECCO has also funded several convocation events in which professional environmentalists were invited to discuss the environment and the impact humans make on it every day.
At the start of 2007-08 academic year, members of ECCO became concerned about the excessive use of polystyrene takeout dishes in Cowan Dining Commons. Polystyrene, popularly referred to as Styrofoam, is considered a carcinogenic non-biodegradable material and due to its light weight, it's virtually non-renewable.
"The College was using about 600 polystyrene to-go containers a day. And that didn't include all the ice cream cups people were taking after meals," says Christanna Shuman '09, president of ECCO.
Bagasse, the remaining biomass of sugarcane stalks after they're crushed to extract their juice, was sought as an alternative material, but the College's supplier offered it at nearly double the cost of polystyrene. The change simply wouldn't be cost effective. But rather than walking away, Jamison Norwood '09, a member of ECCO, spent hours researching other possible alternatives. Along the way she found a supplier who could provide bagasse containers for less than what the College was paying for polystyrene. With the cooperation of Centre Dining Services, ECCO was able to replace all to-go containers on campus with the eco-friendly material.
ECCO also launched an energy-saving campaign with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Going door-to-door through Centre's residence halls, members of ECCO offered students an eco-friendly light bulb in exchange for their incandescent light bulbs, which operate at a much higher wattage.
"People were usually happy to make the switch and interested in learning why the compact fluorescent bulbs were better," says Kerri Howard '09, vice president of ECCO.
ECCO is exerting its influence in administrative matters, as well. The student group helped lead the effort in obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification for Centre's newest residence facility, Pearl Hall, due for completion in August 2008.
More recently, ECCO advocated for the adoption of a Green Fund as part of multi-organizational coalition which included representatives from Centre Outdoor Recreation and Service (CORS), the service oriented Bonner Program, the Student Government Association, APO (a service fraternity), and the Cento—the student operated newspaper. The proposed initiative would require students to pay a $20 surcharge on their tuition to purchase renewable energy credits from a local hydroelectric plant. Fundamentally, this would offset the College's carbon emissions through the private funding of renewable energy sources, which is unprecedented in the state of Kentucky by an educational institution. Students recently voted 82 percent in favor of adopting the fee increase, but the proposal will need to go before senior staff members and the Board of Trustees for further discussion.
Environmental activism is not without it's hurdles though, as Shuman will attest. "Sometimes there are a lot of financial and legal barriers to leap through," she says. "For instance, Clay McDonald '10 wanted to set up a green roof on campus. He researched the materials we would need and even found a philanthropist willing to donate the required plants, but turning the roof green would void it's insurance policy, which is a legal problem we would need to work around."
For ECCO there are no problems, though—only challenges. Shuman says, "Our job as students is to generate the ideas and the support for any changes we want to see on campus."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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