Baby Gator Steps to Sustainability
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Environmentally aware students generated what they are calling an eco-victory last week with the introduction of a compost program on campus, helping SF State become greener.

Many anticipate the success will push SF State toward developing a more environmentally conscious campus within the next few semesters.

Two food vendors, Café 101 and Natural Sensations, are the first to start sending their food waste to compost while other Caesar Chavez Student Center vendors will be receiving the green bins throughout the semester.

During the first week of the compost movement, deep in the student center’s basement, students primarily from the environmental studies program acted as organic watchdogs, taking note of inorganic material discarded in the compost dumpster. Only organics, materials that were once alive such as food scraps, can be decomposed and reused by nature.

“We were composting peacekeepers,” said Charlotte Ely, SF State environmental studies alumna. The peacekeepers gave the vendors space as they simply observed without interfering.

Carlos Davidson, second-year director of the environmental studies department, says he is inspired by the fusion of idealism and diplomacy he witnessed by the students who spearheaded the compost campaign.

“This has inspired me so much in just my first year at SF State for future projects,” said Davidson.

The environmental studies department hopes to see future sustainability efforts implemented into their curriculum, a solid way of making SF State a more environmentally conscience community while gaining priceless experience, said Ely.

For now, everyone involved in the compost campaign is excited, including Edina Bajraktarevic, manger of the student center.

“We are all enthusiastic to start this program,” she said.

Bajraktarevic said the composting may bring substantial savings to the school, as compost is cheaper to collect than regular garbage. But with the additional costs of green bins and dumpsters, future savings are still unclear, she said.

The student center is so large the campaign has been broken up into “baby steps,” with green compost bins to be distributed to all venders in the next couple weeks. With the help of students and faculty we are “doing it right and doing it well,” says Bajraktarevic.

Others on campus are taking their environmentally friendly baby steps a bit further. Glenn Fieldman, international relations lecturer, brings her own fork to work. Acknowledging it is always difficult to start a new habit, Fieldman said she realized eating in the student center two or three days a week for nine months of the year produces a large amount of non-biodegradable material, especially plastic silverware.

“It’s light, it’s cheap, and I can use it probably 20,000 times and it will still be fine,” said Fieldman while examining her reusable fork.

While the compost campaign and individual action is one step in the direction of Gator-sustainability, other universities across the country are making their efforts as well.

Last May, UC Santa Cruz students voted for 100 percent clean energy throughout their campus, according to a press release by the Campus Climate Challenge. More than 70 percent of students approved a $3 tuition increase per trimester in to pay for clean energy, such as solar and wind, according to the press release.

In 2004, the CSU East Bay campus purchased solar panels that generate roughly 1.45 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year – enough energy to power 255 homes and provide CSUEB with 7.5 percent of their annual electricity needs, according to a press release.

During the summer, these solar panels produce up to 30 percent of the campus’ electricity, saving roughly $200,000 a year in energy costs. And last April, Cal State East Bay received a check for more than $3.4 million from Pacific Gas & Electric Company for the solar installation.

PG&E has a self-generating incentive program, granting reimbursements to utility customers who install on-site renewable energy systems to compensate the costs of installation, according to PG&E’s Web site.

Some SF State students and faculty hope the campus will continue striving for similar projects. Ely and Davidson both said they want the environmental studies department to play a role in budding future projects and creating a healthier campus through sustainable design.

For more information visit www.campusclimatechallenge.org to see what other campuses are doing to become green.

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PHOTO
Gena Lindsay | staff photographer
SF State employees Alex Daos (left) and Dehilo Reyes finish their shift at the on-campus recycling center Friday. The center processes up to one ton of paper weekly.

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