Sustainable energy measures need to be continued, expanded across campus

Taking the initative of “going green” may be a fad or a bandwagon CMU is jumping onto, but along with positive PR, it is actually producing results.

Though it has been in constant use since 2001, the best results-based proof of the initiative to use clean and sustainable energy on campus is Facilities Management’s burning of wood chips instead of natural gas for 70 percent of heating on campus.

The process, which brings in local wood scraps and chips and burns them, has saved the university $1.4 million each year, according to the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems.

As natural gas prices continue to rise, this program proves to be of great value and should be expanded as much as possible.

Another major part of the “green initiative” is the Education and Human Services Building and its recently-announced solar panels, which will be added to help power the building in January.

While most alternative energy strategies are considered costly, the solar panels on the EHS building are going to cost a whopping $800 a piece in equipment.

A pressing question remains, however: If solar panels are a low-cost, effect method of producing electricity on campus, why only use it for one building? Much ado has been made about the environmental friendliness of the EHS building, but what of the dozens of other buildings on campus? What would be the cost to power these buildings with solar energy and would that be outweighed by the benefits?

The university needs to be clear and outspoken on what its goals are in these “green” energy projects; environmental concerns, cost effectiveness or the positive press that comes from it.

The university has taken large steps toward using efficient, renewable and sustainable forms of energy on campus. What they need to do now is prove they are in it for the long haul and they are not in it for the PR leverage.

What further steps are they going to take? Is solar power or other alternative energy sources being considered for the rest of the campus? Why or why not?

CMU is ranked as the 96th best in the “100 Greenest Schools.” Being listed among the top “green” campuses in the country is great recognition.

But what kind of effects would it have on the environment to become one of the first, if not the first university in the country to be powered entirely by alternative and sustainable energy sources? Wouldn’t the university like the recognition that would come from that, as well?


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