PCP: UMass an eco-impersonator
“UMass is now a green campus!”
You must have seen it, the picture of our shiny new and environmentally friendly central heating plant on the main University of Massachusetts webpage with that text over it. It was there for months. But, what constitutes being a green campus and does UMass really fit that definition?
The Sierra Club, an influential grassroots environmental organization that has been around since 1892, this year published its third annual list of the top 10 eco-friendly universities in the U.S. (of which UMass was not on). Being an eco-friendly campus consists of properly integrating eight categories: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste and administration.
So how green is UMass? Does our administration care more about building a green campus or building a reputation of being a green campus? I would argue for the latter.
Our new Central Heating Plant, according to the University of Massachusetts Amherst New Construction Green Building Initiative, will be emitting up to seven times less greenhouse emissions than the old plant. This is great news, both for our environment and for our campus’ reputation. Aside from the heating plant, how many of UMass’ claims to being green are happening, and how many claims are empty?
Remember that spiffy UMass drawstring bag you got at the DCs at the beginning of the semester? It was chock full of goodies, like 100 calorie Oreo packs, peanuts, a razor and a folder full of DC material that almost certainly went right into your (I hope) recycling bins.
In this folder was a 2009/2010 UMass Dining Directory of Services and in that was a full spread devoted to our campus’ social responsibility and a bulleted list of the many things our campus does to be green. The third bullet states that UMass Dining, “Serves sustainable seafood in accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines.” Fortunately for us, dining services provided these guidelines in said folder.
The guidelines are separated into three categories: best choices, good alternatives and avoid. Under the avoid section is “Cod: Atlantic.”
Since reading this pamphlet during the first week of the semester, I have seen Worcester Dining Commons serve atlantic cod on three different nights. Why was the “good alternative” to Atlantic cod, bluefish or even better the “best choices” alternative of barramundi not served instead of the Atlantic cod that’s clearly under the harsh red “avoid” section of the list?
Then there are the little things. How often do you walk past the new studio arts building? Every night the lights in the main lobby, the colorful lights at the very top, are kept on. Every night, all night. The library keeps its lights on at all times as well. Is there really someone on the 22nd floor of the library at 4 a.m.? These lights should be shut off to save energy.
According to a study done by the Princeton Review, two-thirds of university applicants now say that a school’s environmental report card would influence whether or not they would enroll. With such a high percentage of prospective students concerning themselves with how green our campus is, I am convinced that our administration is more worried about building a reputation of being green rather than building a green campus.
Think about it. If you have a campus meal plan, I’m sure you’ve seen the effect that “UMass Family Weekend” has had on our DC’s. Suddenly Worcester, Franklin, and every other DC is filled with fancy, locally grown food cooked and displayed in a way you will never see again until the next family weekend. Our campus is run like a business.
It’s not my argument that our campus isn’t trying to become environmentally friendly. However, I have been attending school here for four years and I have become accustomed to the administration’s propaganda. I can see that in certain ways, such as the DCs’ eradication of trays and paper cups, our campus is attempting to be greener. However, the Atlantic cod entrées at dinner is enough for me to wonder what other fishy green claims are occurring.
Ashley Lesperance is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.