March 22, 2012

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dina El-Mogazi, director of the Campus Greening Initiative, discusses environmental sustainability efforts on campus.

Dina El-MogaziQ: What is the Campus Greening Initiative and what are some of its successes to date?

A: The Campus Greening Initiative is one of four major initiatives of the Environmental Center, which aims to bring people together from across the campus in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary projects around the local, the regional and the global environment. The goals of the Campus Greening Initiative are to provide models of environmental sustainability and to educate our students about the importance of environmental sustainability. || Related link: BUEC

The first Campus Greening success was a comprehensive environmental assessment of the campus. It involved more than 75 staff, students and faculty as well as some community members who are local experts, and it resulted in a 200-page report. The big trick was to prioritize all that information. We immediately started integrating the assessment with the new Arts and Sciences College Core Curriculum, working with faculty to propose an Environmental Connections requirement.

The next big issue we tackled was green buildings. We were getting good ratings in other areas but green building hadn't been addressed, so we worked with building committees to ask questions about LEED certification and push the point. As a result, Bucknell will pursue its first LEED certifications for two new fraternity buildings on south campus, and the Campus Greening Council has recommended a University policy that all Bucknell's new buildings achieve LEED certification.

Another major achievement was the signing of the President's Climate Commitment in 2008. It's a significant agreement that the University has signed onto, and we have specific ambitious targets for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in the future. Every two years we do a complete greenhouse gas inventory and report our progress in becoming carbon neutral.

Since Bucknell signed the Climate Action Plan, the University has created two more program areas with staff specifically working towards campus sustainability. One is the campus energy manager whose task is to analyze Bucknell's energy consumption, look for opportunities to conserve energy on campus and save us money. The other is a sustainability education program in the residence halls aimed at students regardless of major. Eco-reps for each hall will act as peer educators on recycling, energy conservation, consumption and product purchasing.

Q: What projects are in the pipeline?

A: The main new project has been a series of waste audits, through which students are characterizing and analyzing the waste in several dumpsters. Hallie Kennan '12 is developing the project into a senior honors thesis. Knowing what's in the waste stream is the first step to reduce our overall waste stream and promote reuse and recycling.

For example, the University's waste stream contains a lot of nonrecyclable plastic, partly because we're limited by what recyclables our waste management company can handle; so one possible strategy for reducing campus waste would be identifying a waste handler who could accept plastics 2-7.

The waste audits also suggest that the waste stream is dominated by items associated with food and food packaging, and there is also a lot of wasted food in the dumpsters. If the University wanted to choose one area to really work on making less wasteful, I would suggest food and food service products. Continue to look for ways to promote alternatives to disposables, such as the reusable to-go containers program implemented for Bostwick and created by a collaboration by the environmental club with Bucknell Dining

The success of these types programs depends on everyone's cooperation and willingness to change. For example, Bucknell Dining provides stickers for coffee cups that allow customers to get a discount for using their own reusable cups; they're also planning to start doing that for cold drinks.

Q: What are some of the best ways for a campus community and its members to become greener?

A: I believe the best thing anyone can do is to be aware of things that you frequently use up and throw away and see if you can come up with alternatives that don't constantly tax the planet's future. Our culture of consumption and disposal needs to be completely rethought.

Ideally I'd like see the University give people an alternative to buying bottled water in every location where bottled water is sold on campus. Consider that someone had to make the plastic bottles somewhere and that everything that goes into making plastic has significant implications for the environment because there are so many toxics associated with plastics. Plastic is made of from oil; the whole process is chemically intensive and releases a whole host of toxic chemicals to air, water and soil which we don't want, plus it creates something that's impossible to biodegrade. Then think of the fact that you have to take large quantities of water out of the ground in another person's back yard, filter it, bottle it and then transport it somewhere miles and miles away using air-polluting, climate-changing fossil fuels for transportation.

The other choice is to just turn on the tap and fill up a bottle.

Interviewed by Kathryn Kopchik

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