So, the university is “going green,” it seems. I agree that constructing eco-friendly buildings is a step in the right direction, but I believe it is fairly ridiculous to declare that UM is going “green” solely because of its future construction projects and use of electric transportation carts; in fact, I find it almost ironic considering the state of current environmentally-friendly policies (or lack thereof) on campus. Constructing “green” buildings certainly reduces UM’s negative environmental impact and sets precedents for the future, but there are more important environmental issues affecting campus that must be addressed first-principally, recycling.
As you may know, UM does have a commingling (aluminum, glass, and plastic) recycling program in the residential colleges, as well as paper recycling at a few sparse locations on campus. The university also has programs to recycle used batteries, oil, tires, and other maintenance items. These efforts do reduce the amount of waste that UM produces, but not nearly as much as they could. Too often, I have walked by trash cans on campus and seen bottles piled up inside. I certainly don’t blame the students for this, as they truly have limited options for disposal. I believe that UM students believe in recycling and other environmentally sustainable activities, but they don’t have the adequate means to carry them out.
It is in my opinion that the university is going about this in the wrong way, and it’s possible that they care more about the public image than the substance behind it. Their plan is to build in such a way that the amount of natural resources used, pollution produced, and energy consumed will be cut down in the future. Why not right now? To successfully become an environmentally-friendly institution, UM must address all facets of the issue. Expanding the recycling program will certainly have its costs, but compared to the $90 million being spent on the first “green” building, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. Recycling, as one of the most important aspects of the environmental movement, should be at the forefront of the university’s “green” revolution. The benefits of recycling to the campus community most definitely outweigh the costs.
Miles Kenney-Lazar is a sophomore majoring in ecosystem science and policy and geography. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org