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U. hopes to better the environment

New office is aiming for entirely green, sustainable campus

Lindsey Sine, left, Lindsay Clark and Patrick Whiting discuss environmental sustainability at the University of Utah on Thursday.
Lindsey Sine, left, Lindsay Clark and Patrick Whiting discuss environmental sustainability at the University of Utah on Thursday.
Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

University of Utah students were introduced to a myriad of ways they can help make the environment better for everyone when campus officials on Thursday announced a new Office of Sustainability.

"We hope to mobilize the university to help impact societal change," said Lindsay Clark, a postgraduate fellow serving as a liaison between students and administration at the U. She got involved in the sustainability movement years ago when she decided the university needed a student garden.

"It failed miserably because there was no structure in place to deal with these kinds of initiatives, but we kept working and forming partnerships and took a collective approach," she said. The outcome, the new office, she hopes will "push forward environmental change."

The university has already begun to xeriscape pieces of land, which has decreased water use by nearly 20 percent. The campus has a goal to retain and reuse enough water that it will essentially be wasting no water.

A recycling program launched in mid-June at the university has gathered nearly 170,000 pounds of paper, which U. President Michael K. Young says has kept 50 percent of the paper used on campus from ending up in trash cans.

"There are ways in which this community has wonderfully mobilized to already start us on the path of becoming an entirely green and sustainable campus," he said.

In the works, Young said, is the construction of a co-generation plant that will return 15 to 20 percent of the university's electricity to the campus in usable form.

TRAX lines also help the community cut down on air pollution by cutting the number of people who drive and park at the university on a daily basis by almost a third, Young said.

"The effects of this, you will see, won't just be on the campus," he said. "They will really spread throughout the entire community as we work to take a real leadership role in this area."

The Office of Sustainability plans to promote environmentally responsible practices and behaviors among students, foster a culture and ethic of sustainability, as well as create a clearinghouse of information for campus activities. A student-run portion of the office is designed to help students formally present ideas for a better future for the campus.

Student body president Spencer Pearson said the idea has a lot of potential to make a big change.

"It's an opportunity to come together and make this a great place," he said. The new initiatives have been well-received by students and Pearson says the projects have created "good energy on campus.

"We're channelling the energy and people are interested in making an immediate difference on campus," he said.

The new office was announced on National Campus Environmental Impact Day. More information can be found at Young said the office will give students, faculty and staff, as well as the community, a chance to not only do the environmentally right thing but "do it in an economically reasonable way."