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Working towards a greener tomorrow

Ever since we became aware of the effects of human pollution on the environment and our world, we have begun working to reverse our carbon footprint. It’s our generation’s task to support conversation while still attempting to preserve the technologically advanced world everyone is used to.

Last Thursday, Sustainability Matters, an organization made up of both faculty and students who are working to make UMBC an environmentally-friendly campus, held a workshop on Green Offices. The meeting was part of a larger effort to educate the campus community on methods for developing green habits and conserving renewable resources.

As the organization’s name implies, Sustainability Matters works towards emphasizing the importance of good sustainability habits and preserving resources. Sustainability is an umbrella term that includes everything from turning off the lights when a room is empty to making full use of recycling and compost bins.

In 2007, President Hrabowski joined the American Colleges and Universities’ President’s Climate Commitment, signing UMBC to a more sustainable future as a green campus. With this commitment came a $1 million cut in UMBC’s electricity costs. Members of Sustainability Matters suggest that an extra 20 percent reduction in energy use would save UMBC an additional $2 million. A key program to this cause is the Green Office Program.

The program is straightforward: offices are encouraged to become “green office certified” by meeting a number of requirements on a sustainability checklist found online. If at least 80 percent of people in an office first accept the commitment to being a green office, then the next step towards becoming verified may commence.

The online checklist contains a list of suggestions which bring an office one step closer to becoming certified for every check obtained. The checklist is interactive. If an office is already performing a green action that is listed on the checklist, the action may be checked off. If the office is not yet performing this action, the office can make a pledge on the checklist towards fulfilling this check. The goal is to get at least 26 checks on the list. Ways to save energy and become a green office include using the auto-sleep function on computers (which saves $30 a year in electricity) and unplugging electronics when not in use.

Though this program is geared towards faculty offices, it can also teach students how to live more sustainably. Tanvi Gadhia, the environmental sustainability coordinator and a key player in developing Sustainability Matters’ Green Office Program, stresses the importance of adopting a green lifestyle and how to do so. “One of the best ways to adopt a green lifestyle is to set up defaults in your daily routine at work and home,” said Gadhia. “Once you have adopted conservation personally, it’s also important to encourage your family, roommates and/or colleagues to adopt these changes as well.”

These changes are important because of the bigger picture they fit into. “It’s also important that we promote systemic change,” said Gadhia. “This may be through policies, infrastructure or teaching and research, but creating changes in our system to progress towards resource conservation, efficiency and renewables is the best way to make greener lifestyles that we can all adopt with ease.”

Our ecosystem is not in the best shape. But on a local stage, Sustainability Matters is working hard to promote awareness and educate everyone at UMBC to the importance of conservation.