Campus sustainability is the result of student efforts

Chair of the Student Sustainabilty Committee, large contributor to the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) and treasurer for Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS) are among just some of the accomplishments of Suhail Barot, graduate student.

Barot lectured on “Student Efforts for a Sustainable Campus” at the Univeristy YMCA on Tuesday afternoon as part of the Know Your University lecture series.

His speech gave an overview of student initiatives, how they have impacted the University over the past years and how students will affect it in the future.

Students at U of I have a particular drive towards sustainability, Barot said, with 77 percent of students voting for an increase in the Green Fee.

“That is the highest approval rate of anything on the ballot,” he said.

The annual revenue of the Green Fee is over $1 million, which is a very large amount compared to other schools, Barot said.

The fee is used to fund things like the construction of the wind turbine, solar arrays and green roofs at the Business Instructional Facility, light emitting diode (LED) lighting at Krannert, the Student Sustainable Farm and the student biodiesel initiative, among other things.

Another noteworthy accomplishment is iCAP, which had a large student initiative backing it, he said.

One of the major goals of iCAP is to completely eliminate coal use on campus by 2017, but Barot said with the current progress, it could be accomplished by 2013.

“We could probably run without coal nine out of 12 months of the year right now,” he said.

This is important, Barot said, because the University emits large amounts of carbon dioxide annually, which negatively affects the planet.

“Seventeen of the past 20 warmest years have been in the ‘90s or the 2000s,” he said.

Barot suggested we switch to cleaner, more renewable sources of energy.

“Coal is evil,” he said.

Barot said student efforts have largely contributed to the sustainability of this campus, and continued efforts will only further this.

“The administration has been dragging its feet for a long time on these sorts of issues,” said Jack Baxter, professor emeritus in crop sciences.

“If it hadn’t been for the students, a lot of these things just plain wouldn’t get done” Baxter added.

Kasey Umland, program director at the YMCA, said students need to continue to take initiative because if they don’t, nobody will.

“I don’t have any pretense that the Univeristy wouldn’t be doing anything (without student efforts),” she said.