Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And on the University Front...

A couple of interesting initiatives by two universities on opposite sides of the US:

Nothing happen in academia without forming a committee, so it's good to see that UCLA 's chancellor Albert Carnesale "has chartered a permanent committee to advise his office on advancing sustainability."

"We want to continue building a culture of sustainability at UCLA and to provide leadership in addressing sustainability issues," Carnesale said.

As described in the charter, the purpose of the Campus Sustainability Committee is to promote sustainability in planning, development and operation of the campus environment and facilities, as well as in the development of sustainability initiatives in education, research and community engagement. The committee, comprising students, faculty and staff, has worked over the past several months to formalize a mission and to recommend adoption of the charter.

Committee co-chairs Mary D. Nichols, director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment, and Tova Lelah, assistant director of Campus and Environmental Planning, said the charter is an important step in institutionalizing sustainability because it articulates the concept as a campus priority and formalizes the committee's mission.

"The committee will seek to infuse sustainability into core academic programs and foster cross-cutting collaborations in research and community engagement to ensure that our graduates are fully prepared to face the global challenges of the 21st century" Nichols said.

On the other side of the country, the University of Central Florida is developing a comprehensive energy strategy for the campus:

Striving to conserve energy and reduce utility bills, the University of Central Florida is developing a comprehensive energy policy that will include new construction standards; improved heating, ventilation and air-conditioning performance; and expanded use of automatic sensors and controls for many systems.

The new initiative approved by President John Hitt also calls for increased education and awareness efforts to assist faculty, staff and students in becoming more involved in energy conservation and sustainability efforts.

"Simple actions such as turning off office lights and other devices before leaving for a meeting, lunch or overnight can make a huge difference," said Assistant Vice President Al Harms, who is leading the UCF Energy Task Force. "Fifty-five thousand faculty members, staff and students impact our energy bill. We want to make people smarter about energy conservation and increase their awareness of what they can do to help reduce a steadily growing expense for the university and take care of our beautiful state."

UCF leaders will pursue seven primary initiatives recommended by the task force. UCF is also examining opportunities to offer more energy-related courses and degree programs and to pursue expanded energy-related research efforts by the Florida Solar Energy Center and other departments. The conversion of UCF'’s vehicle fleet to alternative fuels such as ethanol or bio-diesel will also be considered.

Initially, I was tempted to label both of these initiatives as rather mild, given what we've seen happening on other campuses around the US, and I'm sure that relates to both coming from the universities' administrations (as opposed to from students and faculty). Still, both schools are looking at comprehensive measures combining both actual green initiatives on campus with corresponding educational opportunities. They may not be as sexy as some ideas we've seen, but they could make long-term, even sustainable, contributions towards improved environmental performance and heightened student knowledge.

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