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Profs, students talk about going green

September 8, 2008

Profs, students talk about going green

PLU has made great strides in reaching its sustainability goals, campus leaders and students stressed last week. However, especially in the area in energy conservation, PLU staff and students need to be conscious off turning off the lights or reducing the heat. After President Loren J. Anderson’s State of the University address, about a dozen faculty and students talked about how the campus was doing in its conservation goals, including having a zero carbon footprint by 2020, and what each was doing to try to achieve that end.

Professors also spoke on how they try to reinforce the message of sustainability in their respective fields and classes. One of the biggest challenges is to bring home the environmental impact of everyday habits, noted Brian Naasz, assistant chemistry professor and chair of PLU’s sustainability committee.

Naasz recalled the blank looks he received from a class when he asked them where the power comes from to run their laptops.

“They looked at me and said, “Out of the wall socket, of course,” he laughed.

One can talk about the chemical interaction that causes the depletion of the ozone layer, or, to make it stick, professors should focus on the socioeconomic forces at work, Naasz noted. For example in his class, he has his students look at the economic context of why some countries continue to produce products that harm the ozone layer.

Jim Albrecht, associate professor of English and Susan Harmon, associate professor of business, spoke of how they bring sustainability issues into their classrooms through books, or projects such as finding out why more students don’t take the bus.

Jill Whitman, professor of geosciences, has her students do an autopsy of PLU garbage cans to find out how much of the trash could really be recycled.

“These problems are overwhelmingly big,” Whitman noted. But by showing students how small changes can make a difference, it can make the problems more manageable, she said.

Chuck Bergman, English professor, said on his J-Term trips, he shows students how the lust for oil in U.S. has resulted in environmental devastation and higher cancer rates among residents in Ecuador.

Sheri Tonn, vice president of finance and operations, noted the university has topped the 70 percent recycling goal, which has saved 880,000 pounds of material from ending up in the landfill.

About 16 million gallons of water have been saved since 2001 due to retrofits in plumbing and 45 percent of the power used on campus comes from green, renewable sources, she noted.

Student Eric Pfaff reported on the bike co-op he was helping start, while other students talked about the GREAN efforts and PLU’s community garden.