Weber State University was named one of the Sierra Club’s “cool schools” for the efforts it has taken to promote sustainability and save energy around campus.
WSU ranked the highest out of two schools in the state of Utah, the University of Utah being the other. WSU placed 74th on the list of “cool schools” in the nation.
Current operations and academic efforts were both factors in judging the schools.
“We’ve done a great lot with regard to energy projects and saving this university money,” said Jennifer Bodine, sustainability coordinator with Operations and Planning for Sustainability Projects.
According to Bodine, for the fiscal year of 2012, WSU saved $939,000 in electricity, water and natural gas. This was a success in accordance with the Climate Action Plan, under which WSU plans to be carbon-neutral by the year 2050. The plan will be updated to deepen the focus on saving energy in other areas as well, especially water waste.
“To be carbon-neutral, we’re going to need a lot more solar,” Bodine said.
Currently, more money is being put toward saving energy until more solar power is used. The solar power used generates a low percentage on the campus as a whole, but will increase in the coming years.
On the academic side, WSU offers a Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree with a focus in environmental studies, and sustainability topics are integrated into some of the courses. Newsletters about technology and environmental issues have also gone around campus.
Hal Crimmel, former chair of the Environmental Issues Committee, said students should get involved.
“A lot of the things that have happened on campus has been due to students getting involved,” he said.
Crimmel said one of problems is educating people about the environmental issues the community faces, energy consumption and emissions being two main areas of focus.
One group that has been a definite part of sustainability at WSU is the student Environmental Club. The club has taken part in projects to promote energy awareness and reduce energy consumption. The highest-impact event the club hosts is a light-bulb exchange table every year.
“You can come along, and you can bring in old light bulbs, and they’ll exchange for free, for every light bulb you bring in, a fluorescent light bulb,” said Dan Bedford, geography professor and faculty adviser for the club.
The club has taught children about recycling and other environmental issues. Bedford said the Environmental Club is an “important piece” at WSU in its efforts to save the environment, along with Facilities Management.
Bedford said he believes the university “lags” in curriculum on environmental issues and that students need to be more aware of what is going on in the world outside of where they are.
“We need to be making our university education relevant to the bigger-picture patterns that are going on,” Bedford said.
Those involved in sustainability hope to be ranked higher in the next 20 years.
“We’re way ahead of schedule, so in 20 years, we may be carbon-neutral,” Bedford said.