Sustainability unrolls ‘Green Carpet’
By Jessica Herzog
Sun Star Reporter
On Earth Day, April 22, the UAF Office of Sustainability will host their annual Green Carpet Awards. The awards honor faculty, students and staff who are “champions for sustainability,” Michele Mouton, director of the UAF Office of Sustainability, said.
Last year, students Ben Abbot and Alexander Bergman won certificates. Faculty member Falk Huettmann, associate professor of wildlife ecology, also won.
The awards will help to engage campus in UAF’s sustainability movement, Mouton said. At least 30 people are expected to arrive for the festivities, social hour and free food. The event is on April 22 at 3 p.m. in the Office of Sustainability, located on the top floor of Lola Tilly Commons.
Mouton anticipates a successful event. “Everyone comes to something where there’s free food,” she said. The awards aren’t the only instance where UAF showcases and promotes sustainability. Student driven projects and enthusiasm make UAF a national leader in sustainability, Mouton said. Programs like Green Bikes and the Free Store encourage students to be environmentally conscious, she said. “Green Bikes is amazing,” Austen Whitney, a freshman studying geological engineering, said. “Everyone should ride a bike.”
Another sustainability project is the Renewable Energy Survey. UAF Cornerstone e-mailed the questionnaire to students on April 13. As of April 13, 90 people took the survey. Mouton hopes at least 500 people “take the time” to participate, she said. According to the Cornerstone e-mail, those who participate are eligible for a drawing to receive prizes, including a solar charger from REI. They also help the Office of Sustainability and UAF Renewable Energy Subcommittee develop projects as part of “a plan to meet 25 percent of UAF’s energy demand with renewable sources by 2025.”
“I took the survey,” Whitney said. I support geothermal energy. I recognize UAF is limited, but it’s important to work towards sustainability,” he said. This push for renewable sources is part of UAF’s Sustainability Plan, approved in January of 2015 after a yearlong process of development by UAF’s Renewable Energy Subcommittee.
The committee is composed of Alaska Center for Energy and Power engineers and UAF students and faculty interested in sustainability. The plan outlines 13 strategies to make UAF more sustainable, Mouton said. These strategies include reducing energy usage and UAF’s carbon footprint. The Office of Sustainability upgrades lighting to LED lighting on campus and off campus sites. Furthermore, campus buildings are assessed for water and energy use to determine efficiency, Mouton said. The strategies allow UAF to see “what renewable energy technology makes the most sense” and where on campus it is best implemented, she said.
“It’s good for us to know how campus feels about sustainable energy,” Mouton said. “If there is enough support for renewable energy, we can make energy changes on campus,” she said. Determining campus-wide feelings before making changes is the purpose of the survey, Mouton said. We want to know if anyone currently uses sustainable energy and what their attitudes are towards implementing it on campus, Mouton said. We are looking for student ideas for sustainability projects and how we can replace fossil fuels at UAF with other types of energy, she said.
David Dwyer, a sophomore studying natural resource management, supports sustainability. Solar panels would be feasible to improve energy consumption at UAF as well as using propane operated shuttles rather than the current diesel operated ones, he said. If, like Dwyer, people have ideas to promote sustainability, they should take the survey, Mouton said. They can submit their ideas and opinions. Sustainability should be pushed more on campus, Dwyer said. “If people don’t see it, they forget.”