Sustainability summit kicks off semester’s environmental events

By Ciara McCall, Chattanooga, TN—Students and faculty may attend a free sustainability summit at UTK Feb. 15.

Photo by Mary Gower
Going green: Larissa Hofstra, a junior from Murfreesboro, Tenn., locks up her bike at Lupton Library. Riding bikes is one way to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint.

Lisa Darger, sustainability coordinator, said “sustainability is conserving and using resources wisely for the availability of future generations.”

At the one-day UTK summit, Darger will be on a panel to discuss bringing sustainable practices to schools. There will also be vendors for students to learn about alternative energy sources, water conservation, system-wide sustainability planning, student engagement, environmental health and alternative transportation methods.

When it comes to sustainability around UTC , Darger said the University is taking steps towards becoming more environmentally friendly.

She said the school has found ways to be more energy efficient by switching the central plants from electric to natural gas in order to save 67 percent of energy, cutting down on major utilities and by having the first geothermal system test on campus for heating and air conditioning.

“If the geothermal system test works, the human resource center will be geothermal powered within the next few months,” Darger said.

The sustainability office has also worked with the students of EDGE, the student-run environmental group, to help reduce the carbon footprint around campus.

EDGE is the Ecological Decisions for a Global Environment. According to their mission statement, the program’s purpose is to “inspire the UTC student body and the faculty and staff to do their part in making the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga a more sustainable campus and a more environmentally friendly place to work and study.”

EDGE secretary Erik Hearn, of Nashville, Tenn., said, the most important thing to remember when it comes to being sustainable is to recycle. “It’s the easiest thing to do,” said Hearn, “All it takes is for you to put a bottle in the recycling been instead of the trash can.”

On campus, one of the projects that EDGE is working on with the UTC Sustainability is “Recycle Mania” Feb. 8 through the end of March.

Darger said, “we are always looking for students to help tell us where we need more recycle bins and to help us label the bins.”

Hearn said the reason that recycling is important is because the school gets money for the recycled material. In return, that money is used to fund other environmental problems.

Another upcoming event is Earth Week, which will lead up to Earth Day on April 22.

“We would love to have organizations get involved with this week,” Darger said. “We’ll have prizes for the best recycled projects.”

Not placing recyclable materials into trash bins is the most important way for students to be sustainable, according to Darger and Hearn.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 50 percent of recyclable material ends up in a landfill because it is neglected and not properly disposed of.

“Our goal is to make recycle bins simpler to use than trash cans,” Hearn said. “That way people will be more inclined to recycle.”

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