Guest column: A chance to lead
By Lisa Piccinini
With the news the Wooded Hillock may be saved from development, the campus is abound with positive attitudes — thinking maybe, just maybe, the university can truly be receptive to environmental concerns. This past September, the adoption of the university’s Climate Action Plan, a plan required by the American Colleges and University Presidents Climate Commitment that university President Dan Mote signed, signaled we may be on the right track.
This momentum has also spread into College Park. Last semester, working with District 1 Councilman Patrick Wojahn, activists from the student group UMD for Clean Energy vetted the idea of an energy efficiency loan fund to the College Park city council. The loan fund would create a pool of money that could be loaned out at a low interest rate to finance energy efficiency upgrades and home improvements. Borrowers could then repay the loan fund with their energy savings and eventually reap savings after the loan has been paid back.
UMD for Clean Energy has already met this semester with representatives in Annapolis with regard to changing a state law to make establishing this fund legal for municipalities and hopes to push forward with an energy efficiency loan fund for College Park.
The loan fund was one of many ideas UMD for Clean Energy pushed in last fall’s city council elections. In our ongoing “Green for College Park” campaign, we plan to continue pushing both the city and the university to adopt policies and make decisions that realize our vision of a prosperous sustainable future that arrives sooner than expected. We certainly weren’t the first.
Other communities are surging ahead. A new “green street” in Edmonston is set to showcase environmental responsibility through plans for a native tree canopy, use of recycled materials, and bioretention and filtration systems to manage stormwater runoff. The 9,100-acre community of St. Charles is another example of forward-thinking development in the state, with developers looking to double the community’s size while reducing its carbon footprint through green design, creating thousands of green jobs in the process.
So what’s next in store for College Park? UMD for Clean Energy students have made their voices heard on issues such as the energy efficiency loan fund, which will affect the whole city. But even in our campus bubble, the chance to encourage a sustainable future is great. The university is reevaluating plans for a 38-acre East Campus redevelopment. Will it reflect the same low sustainable development standards like Route 1? Or will it look more like St. Charles? Will we lead, or will we follow?
As of now, those questions will be answered behind closed doors by university officials. But as College Park falls to the back of the line, perhaps the doors should be opened and students should be given an opportunity to throw in their two cents as well.
We’re looking forward to doing that this semester. You can follow our efforts at http://www.umdforcleanenergy.com or join our meetings each Monday at 7 p.m. in the Jimenez Room in Stamp Student Union.
Lisa Piccinini is the media director for the student group UMD for Clean Energy. She can be reached at lpiccinini88 at gmail dot com.