On Oct. 12, NewWest writer Amy Linn asked “Is UM Green Enough?”
As a senior at the University of Montana working toward a Climate Change Minor and very involved in a number of sustainability efforts, we are greener than Linn lets on.
The blackened deciduous leaves may be falling around campus and Missoula, but a closer look shows sustainability at UM is blooming, and it’s doing so because student activism is sprouting along with new educational efforts and priorities of UM faculty and staff. Just as honeybees pollinate flowers, many student activists are pollinating the minds of their peers with new sustainable ideals. The student activists on campus are helping the university find its green thumb and have been amazingly successful so far.
Two years ago President Dennison signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment; this commitment is aimed at achieving climate neutrality on campus, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, and equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed to address climate change. This commitment requires planning and action. To develop a plan you need to know what you have to work with!
We conducted a greenhouse gas inventory of the entire UM campus and completed the first round of energy audits -– something not done for 15 years. Now students are working with UM’s Sustainable Campus Committee and the ASUM Sustainability Office is drafting our Climate Action Plan. This plan will lay out the future of UM’s sustainability initiatives and help UM prioritize its greenhouse mitigation projects.
As mentioned by Linn, UM has now launched its new Climate Change Studies minor program, the first of its kind in the nation. Last spring, the Green Thread Initiative held its first workshop to help professors introduce climate and sustainability topics into their curriculum, allowing more environmental dialogue throughout campus. Faculty members across campus are directly addressing different aspects of climate change in their own work, creating an interdisciplinary curriculum and minor through departments from economics to journalism, forestry to ethics, and science to law.
Students like me are gaining valuable skills through this strong education in science, society, and solutions to climate change. The Environmental Studies Department is even funding two of us to represent UM at the international climate treaties in Copenhagen this December. My environmental studies major together with this climate minor are providing me critical advocacy skills, and I know that I am not the only student that UM has helped become empowered in enacting change.
There are many other ways students are now involved in promoting sustainable initiatives. The student group UM Climate Action Now (UMCAN) is spearheading many different activities on campus, including a Green Griz basketball, recycling campaigns, and Take Back the Tap. UMCAN traveled to DC for Powershift last spring, where we argued for strong comprehensive climate change legislation. UMCAN headed to Eugene, Oregon, last weekend with 18 students to attend the Regional Powershift conference, which will continue our advocacy training.
This semester, four climate change practicum students, including myself, organized a campus-wide 350 event, part of an international initiative to demand strong global warming action. UM has taught us the many skills necessary to pull off a hugely successful event.
But there’s more — last semester students created the Revolving Energy Loan Fund, an optional $4 student fee that will generate money for energy saving and waste reduction projects on campus. Revenues each year are expected to be around $80,000, and funds will become available at the end of this year. Again -– the hard work to get new programs up and running has begun, funds are being raised and “flashy” sustainable activities will be visible on campus soon!
Another student-run initiative is the UM Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (UMFLAT), an experiential house demonstrating the practicality of sustainable living. This initiative provides hands-on experience with new home technologies from solar panels to installing insulation.
UM has been creating its own model green buildings over the last few years. For example, the new Native American Studies building on campus was built according to LEED standards, and is likely to achieve at least LEED bronze requirements. The University has even made a commitment that all new buildings will be built according to silver LEED standards.
We may not be the first university considered “green” in the U.S., but we cannot be considered out of the race; we are on the fast track of becoming one of the top green schools in the nation. Students, faculty, the administration and the community are all working to become a model sustainable college campus.
To learn more about all the sustainable initiatives happening at UM visit Greening UM or to learn more about the climate change minor click here. If you are interested in UMCAN please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yaicha Bookhout is a senior at the University of Montana, majoring in environmental studies with a minor in climate change studies.
The Climate Change Studies Program is offering a variety of talks and events this fall. On November 10 at 6 p.m., Dr. Scott Mills, UM Professor of Wildlife Population Ecology, will address “Wildlife in a Changing World,” in the University Center North Ballroom, with a reception to follow. The event is sponsored by the Provost’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series.
On November 17 at 3 p.m., the UM Office of Sustainability will host a Climate Action Plan Open House in the University Center Theater to help UM analyze and prioritize strategies to reduce and neutralize its carbon emissions.
On Nov. 18 at 8 p.m., Dr. David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, will give a talk entitled “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse,” in the University Center North Ballroom. The speech is sponsored by the President’s Lecture Series and Brennan Guth Memorial Lecture in conjunction with UM’s EVST program.