With Earth Day just around the corner on April 22, students and faculty around campus are evaluating just how environmentally friendly the University of South Dakota is.
According to Cathy Wagner, USD’s director of Planning and Construction, the university has taken many steps to make campus more sustainable.
Wagner said USD has been working to meet the requirements of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. According to its website, LEED is a “voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings” meant to demonstrate “leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.”
LEED certified buildings on campus are the Sanford School of Medicine, the Wellness Center and the Akeley-Lawrence Science Center.
Wagner said although these are the only buildings with formal LEED certification, most of the buildings on campus were designed to meet LEED standards and remain uncertified due to a “cost decision” not to pursue the required certification process.
“We know that the buildings were designed to meet the requirements, they just didn’t get the piece of paper,” Wagner said.
Some of the LEED requirements include practicing recycling, monitoring temperature, using local materials to reduce travel and using natural light to reduce artificial light use.
USD Energy Engineer Matt Peterson said the university implemented a number of environmentally conscious energy changes in 2012 as the result of receiving a $3 million federal grant that was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
According to Peterson, the grant funded a number of projects aimed at making campus facilities more an upgrade to the campus-wide heating system, installing new windows in Patterson Hall and the Delzell Education Center and installing new lighting systems in many campus buildings. Delzell is one of the first buildings on campus using LED lighting, which uses less energy and lasts longer.
Additionally, Peterson said USD’s electricity is part of a Western Area Power Administration agreement.
“All of our electricity is part of the WAPA agreement, so it’s considered green because it all comes from the dams,” Peterson said. “Basically, the main campus is powered by dams. During times of high use, we purchase additional electricity, which is wind power, so both sources are green. And all heating is natural gas, no coal or anything like that.”
Meghann Jarchow, newly appointed oordinator of sustainability at USD, said she sees progress in sustainability on campus, but student involvement could be improved.
“There is some awareness, but there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement,” Jarchow said.
Jarchow said some of the main sustainability issues students on campus championed in the past — such as energy-use and recycling— have been moved out of focus as the students devoted to these causes have graduated. She said she hopes the sustainability program at USD will help increase continuity in concern for these issues.
Jarchow said environmental consciousness is something students would benefit from practicing now.
“There is so much low-hanging fruit of things we can do now as opposed to if we wait,” Jarchow said. “For example, we wait until gas prices get really expensive and then we worry about conservation. It’s not that if we don’t think about them now, we’re not going to have to end up dealing with them. We’re just going to have to deal with them in a worse form in the future.”
Jarchow said students might be spurred into action by the thought that most impending environmental issues will affect them in their lifetime.
“You could say older generations would be doing it for future generations,” Jarchow said. “But really, we’ll end up dealing with it. So it’s not even that we have to do it to be altruistic to the future. It will actually probably happen in our lifetimes.”
To raise awareness about sustainability on campus, USD’s Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning is partnering with Students Enhancing Resources for Vermillion Enrichment (SERVE) and the USD office of Environmental Health and Sciences to promote environmental outreach and awareness with their “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse” theme for Earth Day 2013.
Kevin O’Kelley, director of USD Environmental Health and Sciences, said he hopes students will glean the importance of environmental consciousness at the Earth Day events.
“I know this is a busy time for students, but if we can get them to change a little bit it could go a long way, environmentally,” O’Kelley said. “If anything, we just want students to consider environmental factors, and start thinking about these things.”