Sustainable Earth urges presidents to go green

Across the nation, university presidents are signing the Presidents Climate Commitment, a pledge aimed at addressing global warming by encouraging institutional change. As of now, almost 500 schools are participants in the American College and University Presidential Climate Commitment program, including the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and Cornell University.

Sustainable Earth, an on-campus organization that promotes green initiatives, is hoping to make Carnegie Mellon next through a number of campus-wide efforts, such as petitions and skits promoting environmental awareness, before ultimately presenting the pledge to Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon in April.

By signing the commitment, a university president is agreeing to a number of environmental initiatives at the university.

Among the obligations, the president is required to create a committee that will guide the process of eventually eliminating a campus’ greenhouse gases and publish a plan within two years with target dates and milestones for the final gas elimination.

The president is also charged with keeping the campus community involved through publicized committee progress reports.

Other responsibilities include integrating sustainability into the curriculum of certain classes, in addition to completing an emissions inventory on campus with the ultimate goal of eliminating carbon and greenhouse emissions.

In November, the program announced a partnership with the William J. Clinton Foundation, in which five of the world’s largest banks, ABN AMRO, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS, contribute funds to allow universities to take on the commitment without increasing their expenses.

“This is an important place to start changing minds,” Clinton said in a press release. “It’s not true that green schools aren’t affordable.”

The partnership includes funding of $1 billion from each of the five banks, and allows colleges to enter into a purchasing consortium for energy efficient products.

Sustainable Earth has been hard at work promoting environmental awareness and preparing a petition to present to President Cohon in favor of signing the commitment.

This Thursday, Sustainable Earth will be tabling in front of Doherty Hall and performing a themed skit at the Fence to get more signatures for the petition.

However, students remain unconvinced as to the leverage of the commitment in actually changing universities nationwide.

“Many say that the [commitment] doesn’t have much grip and in a way it doesn’t,” said Austin Redwood, a sophomore Humanities and Arts Scholar and president of Sustainable Earth. “But as an idea, it has a lot of weight. It’s adaptable and makes sure that changes are institutionalized, something that both students and faculty can commit to.”

Sarah Strano, a sophomore civil engineering major and vice president of Sustainable Earth, agreed with Redwood.

“The [commitment] is a good first step in revamping the thinking.... Carnegie Mellon has done a good job to going towards sustainable practices with many different programs already implemented,” Strano said.

Redwood echoed Strano’s confidence in the green programs Carnegie Mellon currently has in place.

“Carnegie Mellon is making a great effort to make our school more sustainable. There are many green practices and recycling programs that are effective,” he said.

Strano and Redwood mentioned some of Carnegie Mellon’s existing green initiatives, from environmental organizations based on different majors and concentrations to green roofs and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) friendly buildings.

“[The Presidents Climate Commitment] is the next step or leap,” Strano said. “Many schools that have already signed have nothing and are starting their green practices from scratch. We’re already a few steps ahead of the game and just need to make greater strides towards the future.”

Many students agree that since global warming and other environmental issues are of growing importance in today’s society, universities and colleges are ideal atmospheres for change.

“We are turning out the world’s future leaders, in particular business leaders. In our world that is becoming more and more market based, we’re putting out those who will make bigger changes down the line and use their power to help,” Redwood said.

Strano stressed the importance of education on implementing these ideas for improvement — another reason that an academic setting is conducive to environmental change.

“In making an impact, education is one of the most important things. In tabling or holding petitions we’re educating people. Many don’t realize how big of a deal this really is nor do they understand the whole issue,” Strano said.

Strano and Redwood commented that regardless of whether or not a commitment has been signed, it is the duty of every member of the community to do what they can to live more sustainable lives.

“Our role as students is to do our part because there is still room for improvement.... Start a recycle-a-thon. Turn off the lights,” Redwood said. “Simple easy things can make a huge impact.”