With the increasing prices of gasoline, the diminishing polar ice caps and our stagnating economy, it is clear that our society is not paving the road to Oz.

The global environment is in a desperate state, and the rate of destruction is growing exponentially. It is time that we, as educated and capable youth, consider other options for our future. We must learn to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This is known as sustainability, and there is a lot you can do to contribute to its cause right here in UR.

You do not have to start from scratch either. There are already the beginnings of a considerable initiative in practices and development being spearheaded by students, professors, staff and even the administration. What has been accomplished so far is proof that everybody can play a role in protecting our future.

The student group Grassroots is the lead campus organization for promoting sustainable practices. With an impressive list of achievements, they are continually looking to build on their efforts. “Grassroots co-sponsors the City Cycles program and the Oxfam Change Initiative here on campus, both of which aim to give students the opportunity to make choices, whether it be how to get out on a sunny afternoon or who their cup of coffee comes from,” Co-president of Grassroots and sophomore Carl Adair said.

The group also hosts a clothing exchange every Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Wilson Commons and is developing a program with facilities so that students can recycle their used inkjet cartridges and use the proceeds to plant trees on campus.

Currently, Grassroots is working with university architect Paul Tankel, several deans and the Students’ Association Senate to create a university-wide sustainability policy to help foster a culture that honors the environmental, social and economic value of practices. Such a policy would be the beginning of great changes for UR and might encourage other campuses to develop similar policies. In order for this to be successful, the momentum of the student body is needed.

Learn how you can get involved with this exciting project by dropping by the Grassroots meeting in the Ruth Merrill Center on Mondays at 8 p.m.

The administration is also doing its part through a series of projects, including but not limited to the Cogeneration Project led by Professor Morris Pierce. As many students know, our utilities are in part provided by the university’s own plant fueled by natural gas.

The majority of our electricity, however, comes from local power plants that use unsustainable production methods. When complete, the new cogeneration plant will, as stated on the university’s Cogen Web site, “produce more than half of the annual electric requirement of the River Campus and Medical Center while lowering air emissions from the local electric utility that are directly attributable to university energy needs.”

The university has also invested in the construction of a new Biomedical Engineering and Optics building that will emphasize environmental consciousness on campus. In 2004, facilities recycled 100,000 pounds of used electronics, and the Medical Center now uses micro-fiber mops that can save up to 35 gallons of water per day.

Professors are doing their part as well, such as Professor Eldred Chimowitz who offers a class called Chemical Engineeing 150: Green Engineering and Professor Ben Ebenhack who is trying to start a chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World on the River Campus.

Let the administration know that you support these initiatives through e-mails and organized meetings.

Take classes, join and start clubs that will help you to learn more about these practices, and most importantly, make yourself aware of the world around you. This is your campus and there is no better place to start taking steps toward a better future.

Remember, with environmentalism, it’s the little things that count. Hold on to that soda bottle until you pass by a recycle bin. Bring your own cup or thermos to the Pit instead of using the styrofoam cups provided.

If you are going to buy coffee at the coffee shop, make sure to buy only the Fair Trade varieties. You may think that there is too much to be done and that one person cannot make a difference, yet remember the words of Gandhi, “Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”

The world is in our hands now. Let’s leave it better than the way we found it.

Frankel-Goldwater can be reached at lfrankelgoldwater@campustimes.org.

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