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USF Makes Strides Toward Greener Campus


Students Kevin Tam and Shilla Lee, members of the ongoing "Trust the Tap" campaign, challenge fellow scholars at Harney Plaza on April 3 to a taste test between tap water and bottled water, with many choosing tap. The campaign aims to dramatically reduce the amount of bottled water consumed on campus, saving on petroleum and greenhouse gases used to produce water bottles.

The University of San Francisco is stepping up efforts to reduce its environmental impact, with initiatives to cut bottled water consumption on campus, improve recycling, and increase the amount of solar power generated by photovoltaic cells.

The initiatives, along with the appointment of a new administrative committee to support and promote the various campus programs, come as environmental concerns about global warming have made headline news over the last year.

Chaired by Glenn Loomis, community relations director, the "Green Team," as the committee is known, has met several times since forming last October. "The Green Team's purpose is to look into how we can make USF more sustainable by lessening the carbon footprint of the campus so that we are a better citizen of the world," Loomis said.

At the top of the "to do" list, when it comes to greening USF's campus, are plans to cut water bottle consumption by increasing reusable container sales through Bon Appetit - including at Club Ed Cafe, Crossroads Cafe, Kendrick Cafe, Market Cafe, and Outtakes Cafe - and installing water refill stations around campus, increasing the amount of recyclables captured from the general waste to 75 percent, and expanding the university's solar power capacity by nearly six fold.

Other programs underway include efforts to increase bicycle commuting to campus through promotion and by providing more racks for secure bicycle parking, a pilot composting effort in residence halls, and the replacement of light fixtures and light bulbs in classrooms and offices to gain efficiency.

Once viewed as a "hippy-dippy" trend by some, campus greening efforts are now a growing consideration for prospective USF students and parents, said Joe Murphy, environmental safety manager for USF and head of USF's recycling efforts for the 10-member Green Team.

The recently launched "Trust the Tap" campaign, being managed by students, is meant to educate the USF community about the environmental harm caused by drinking bottled water, said Kevin Tam, one of about 80 Principle of Accounting II students involved in the service-learning program for the Green Team.

Drinking tap water, proven by scientists to be just as clean as the bottled variety, will help reduce the 17 million barrels of oil and 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide needed to produce bottled water containers, according to Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research group devoted to creating a healthy, sustainable planet.

On the recycling side, Murphy hopes that ongoing public "dissections" of USF dumpsters will increase the amount of recyclables captured from 63 percent currently to 75 percent. Recent inspections have shown that almost 25 percent of the garbage found in USF general waste dumpsters could be recycled or composted saving landfill space, he said.

To illustrate his point, he plans to fill Harney Plaza with clear trash bags full of dumpster waste on Earth Day, April 22, to show just how much of what is being dumped in the general waste should be going into recycle bins.

Probably the biggest single environmental improvement will come in late April or early May, however, when new solar panels on the Koret Health and Recreation Center, University Center, Cowell Hall, and the renovated Kalmanovitz Hall are turned on. The additional solar tapping cells will increase USF's power generating capacity from a maximum of about 71 kilowatts per hour to 420 kilowatts per hour, said Everette Ersery, assistant director of facilities.   

"It will significantly reduce our carbon footprint and electrical bill, while reducing the amount of energy we and PG&E use," Ersery said.

Written by Edward Carpenter »usfnews@usfca.edu