Pesticides cause for concern, student environmentalists say
Costa Rica Terrazu: It isn’t the name of a new plant species, or a hidden tropical vacation spot, but the featured coffee at Java City on campus.
Being a Fair Trade and Rainforest certified beverage, it is one example of the attempts on campus to be more sustainable.
From drinking a better coffee, recycling household products, using reusable grocery bags and water bottles, to opting out of pesticides, the list of things people do differently has been growing.
Central Michigan University’s organizations, alliances, clubs, and individuals have come together to push for what they believe are more sustainable practices on campus.
Senior Colleen McNeely said she’s concerned about CMU’s present and future campus procedures. She got involved with the Student Government Association after she saw the little flags in the lawns that caution people to stay off when newly applied.
“I’ve always considered myself sort of an environmentalist. And I thought ‘why are we using toxic chemicals on campus’?,” the Farmington Hills native said, recounting her experience freshman year.
During McNeely’s sophomore year, she worked against pesticide usage on campus in the form of a student government project. She referred to other successful models from universities like Harvard and proposed possible changes for CMU, changes she said were not taken seriously enough.
Chloe Gleichman is also a senior, and, like McNeely, said she’s concerned about pesticide use. She is the president of the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA), a registered student organization interested in environmental issues, and sustainability.
“I have seen flags placed on campus that are indicative of pesticide or herbicide use. While I have not investigated this any further, the flags are cause for concern,” the Saline native said in an email.
The mini flags on campus read “Caution: Pesticide application. Keep off until dry. Customer please remove after 24 hours.”
Gleichman also talked about the awareness SEA has raised.
“I am proud of how the club has grown into an organization that works on promoting sustainability on campus, but (it) also goes beyond that into the community, state, and nation, raising awareness and taking direct action against the industries that are destroying the planet,” Gleichman said.
According to the Facilities Management Annual Report for 2011 to 2012, CMU has received $156, 301.89 in energy rebates in 2012 from Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, and has received the national Grand Prize for Green Cleaning 2011 from American Universities and Schools Magazine.
Steve Lawrence, associate vice president of Facilities Management, said the Landscape Operations full-time staff are licensed by the state of Michigan and use herbicides in areas that have weed problems and do not spray everything.
“Herbicides are used throughout campus to control weeds in turf areas and flowerbeds and on sports fields,” Lawrence said in an email. “Comfront is the herbicide we use and it controls many different forms of weeds and broadleaf plants in turf. Glyphosate is used to control weeds in flower beds and hardscape areas.”
Lawrence also commented on the FM’s future plans concerning chemical use on plants, and said he is proud of the FM staff and the work they do everyday for CMU.
“We are starting to look at ways to use natural or organic means to control weeds,” Lawrence said.
The halting of pesticides or herbicides was not specifically listed on the primary goals section for the next five years in the FM annual report for 2011 to 2012, but may fall under the 2012 to 2013 goals which says they plan to ‘explore more sustainability options for landscape practices.’
FM is only one sector responsible for creating and maintaining a sustainable campus at CMU.
“Last spring, CMU’s SGA created a sustainability committee,” Gleichman said. “I think this is a good step, because sustainability should be at the forefront of every governing body.”
McNeely said CMU still has to take more steps to be above average. Steps such as more paper recycling in the library, better training for proper composting procedures, reusable water bottles at orientation, and other unique ideas like a bike share program.
“I think it’s mostly about student awareness of environmental issues and student engagement and (for) student engagement to work on projects,” McNeely said.
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