I have a column out today in the Diamondback containing suggested sustainability initiatives for the University of Maryland’s new President Wallace Loh to undertake. Unfortunately space limitations shortened the column substantially, below is the extended version. The link I provided above goes to the published version.
As a member of the University of Maryland’s environmental community, I’m excited to see what steps our new President Wallace Loh will take to build on the progress made under Dan Mote. In some ways, Loh has much to live up to. During Mote’s tenure, the university took unprecedented steps in sustainability all the way from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to setting green building standards to increasing our recycling rate. At the same time, many students and faculty I know felt Mote was more concerned about promoting a green image, regardless of whether that meant taking bold leadership. Sometimes it did, but other times it meant hypocrisy. Here are five initiatives Loh can lead on to blaze a new path for the university this decade that’s far greener than the last:
Green East Campus: The nearly billion dollar East Campus redevelopment project now being undertaken by the Cordish Company is an opportunity to revitalize downtown College Park and lead the way on green development. Since East Campus is in its early planning stages, now is the time to make clear publicly what the university expects from Cordish. We can set a new standard for green development that goes beyond our current LEED Silver building standard, traps 100% of storm water runoff to protect the Chesapeake Bay, promotes local business, and isn’t car centric. Getting there is going to require leadership from Loh.
Support the Purple Line for Real: The Purple Line alignment has been an area where the university administration has butted heads with everyone else in the state! The university has given a myriad of reasons why they favor more expensive and less efficient alignments, and none hold up under a scrutiny. End the hypocrisy and support mass transit by supporting the Purple Line alignment that’s in competition for federal funding.
Put Solar On It: Although the university has begun to install a little solar such as on the South Campus Dining Hall, we aren’t being as aggressive with it as we should. One possibility is to enter into a long-term purchase power agreement with a solar company. Another suggestion is to analyze the recently purchased Washington Post Plant where the university will be relocating facilities for East Campus. That plant has a huge roof.
Less Plastic: Although we’re doing a better job of recycling it, there’s way too much plastic being given out at this university. Given that students can drink tap water from the university’s filter stations, there’s no reason we should have bottled water for sale on this campus. Another problem is unnecessary plastic bags given out by cashiers in the university’s stores. Students should have to ask for the plastic bags, and they should come with a five cent fee.
More Local and Healthy Food: There is strong support on the campus for the university to provide healthier food options to that have less of an environmental footprint. Some possibilities for action are providing more vegetarian options, using cage-free eggs, growing some food on campus, and setting ambitious targets for increasing the percentage of food which comes from within a day’s driving distance.
Loh has enthusiastic partners all over campus working on sustainability issues. If he can match that enthusiasm, and lead with us, we’ll all be successful.