From the Daily: Sustainable knowledge

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published February 25, 2010

Though University students have a reputation for being green, they have had limited academic opportunities to learn about environmental practices. But a new University program aims to provide students with a chance to study sustainability. The creation of the new Sustainability Scholar certification program in partnership with the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute will provide a series of courses to educate students in sustainability. The program shows encouraging progress in the University’s commitment to environmentalism. Students should take advantage of this opportunity to learn about sustainable practices, and the University should expand its efforts to promote sustainability among the student body and its graduates.

As reported by the Daily on Wednesday, the University recently launched the Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars Program with the help of the Graham Institute, which is focused on a sustainable campus. Students will be educated about the nuances of a sustainable world over the course of a ten-credit program. Seven colleges at the University are contributing to the project’s curriculum, giving this initiative a truly holistic approach to sustainability. Students who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion as well as a notation on their transcript as a Sustainability Scholar. The capstone course of the program is a "place-based course" at Camp Davis in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in South America or in East Africa.

Sustainable technology contributes to slowing the destructive progress of climate change and saves energy and resources. Sustainability reduces waste, which ultimately reduces the amount of harmful greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. It conserves limited natural resources. Here at the University, using sustainable resources could save money and reduce costs.

The University’s new program encourages environmentally-friendly action by educating students in the value of sustainability. Giving students the knowledge to encourage sustainability will lead to increased implementation over time. And including students from across disciplines in the program ensures that its effects will be widespread.

And the program is a valuable opportunity for students. The Graham Institute partnership will produce graduates who are knowledgeable about sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices — knowledge they can apply in everyday life and in their careers. And the sustainability scholars will graduate not only with classroom sustainability under their belts, but also with hands-on experience.

The Sustainability Scholar program demonstrates an important development in environmentalism at the University, but more can be done. Though the University has said that it is committed to environmental efforts on campus, it hasn’t always backed up its words with action. It has been surprisingly reluctant to make new buildings, like North Quad, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified. Only two University buildings have LEED certification. And the University’s Planet Blue program, which seeks to increase recycling and save energy, hasn’t been implemented in all campus buildings. The University must take more action to create a greener, more sustainable campus.

Initiatives like the new sustainability program sponsored by the Graham Institute give students the knowledge they need to adopt environmentally-friendly practices and help to preserve the planet. The University should start more initiatives like this and commit itself to implementing environmentally friendly measures on campus wherever possible.