MU tries to stay on the cutting edge of sustainability

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Since 1990, MU’s energy conservation program has been leading the charge against unnecessary energy use and greenhouse gas emissions produced on campus.

The university has upgraded lighting efficiency, automated temperature controls, improved air conditioning systems, centralized equipment and made the campus more aware of sustainability.

As a result, there has been a 10 percent reduction in energy use per square foot, a 12 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per square foot and a total cost savings of $6.6 million.

"Mizzou has an incredible energy conservation campaign that’s been going on since 1990. They save several million dollars a year, both in cost avoidance and conservation,” said Ben Datema, MU student sustainability adviser.

Concurrent to these efforts, MU is also in the process of replacing one of the coal-fired boilers on campus with a 100 percent biomass fueled boiler by 2012.

“One of the primary ways that Mizzou is leading the charge, I would say, is replacing the boiler of the power plant,” Datema said.

The boiler will be able to use woody biomass, grasses, waste papers, agriculture residues and other forms of biomass fueled power.

This not only creates local jobs in the biomass industry, but it also dramatically reduces emissions and has the ability to provide stable long-term pricing compared to traditional fossil fuels.

“That will help a lot with the greenhouse gas emissions and making the whole system more sustainable,” Datema said.

But there is only so much the university itself can do without the support of students.

By keeping their eyes peeled for the energy-saving tips posted around campus and adhering to them, all students have the ability to help MU in its efforts to build a more sustainable campus. 

They can make smart choices by turning off lights and computers, using the energy wisely. Students also can propose ways to conserve.

“I think, in my experience anyway, that just about anything students dream up can happen at Mizzou," Datema said. "Obviously, it's not like we can snap our fingers and overnight it turns into this sustainable utopia. But, as far as getting grants and starting projects, getting involved in policy-making on campus – there are tons of opportunities for students.”

Sustain Mizzou is the largest on-campus sustainability group, and it aims to promote a sustainable way of life at the university.

The group will be holding new student orientation at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 on the Quad. Meetings are held every at 7 p.m. other Wednesday in Memorial Union, Walt Disney Room.

They generally last for an hour and include food produced around Columbia.

“Come to our meetings and learn about the different projects we’re involved in. We’re very nice and we can point you in the right direction,” said Tina Casagrand, president of Sustain Mizzou and MU Journalism student.

The MU Office of Sustainability also works with students. It is presently trying to launch a bike resource center. Datema said he hopes the center will feature bicycle rental and bicycle maintenance classes and teach the MU community about the rules and policies of riding bikes on campus.

"A lot of people have basic maintenance needs on their bikes, but don’t know how to fix them,” he said.

But sustainability isn’t just about ensuring renewable energy for the future and advocating alternative means of transportation.

It is also about engaging with the world.

Peter Miller, director of campus facilities, landscape services and the Mizzou Botanic Garden, said he helps students learn about their surroundings.

"If I could convince incoming freshman of anything, it’s that we are a botanic garden, we are here for you to enjoy, and I certainly hope you enjoy it,” Miller said.

"When you come by one of our 11 thematic gardens, or one of seven special plant collections that we have, or if you see some signage on one of our three tree trails, perhaps you look at it and think, wow. I didn’t know what that tree was that my mom and dad have back at home. And now I know."








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