Green Week: UM recommits to ‘climate neutrality’

04231405 Green WeekThe University of Mississippi collectively committed to “climate neutral” operations on Tuesday when Chancellor Dan Jones marked Earth Day and the campus’ Green Week by signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State University, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Jones County Junior College are the state’s signatories of the Climate Commitment. Some 680 institutions nationwide have made the same pledge.
Jones’s endorsement of the agreement renewed a pledge that his predecessor, Robert Khayat, had previously made on behalf of Ole Miss.
“A lot of good things happen on this campus and our university every day,” Jones said. “Students’ lives are changed. We make an impact on our state, but as we are doing that in a modern society, consequently, we have negative effects on the environment, on the Earth. This is simply a commitment to joining with lots of other universities in saying we want to be the best stewards we can be.”
Climate Commitment signatories “are deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects,” the document states. They hold that the scientific consensus is that global warming is both real and human-caused, and they advocate for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by mid-century.
Signatory institutions also agree to take several specific actions:
• Complete an emissions inventory.
• Within two years, set a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral.
• Take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions.
• Integrate sustainability into the curriculum and make it part of the educational experience.
• Make the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available.
One of the major actions since Ole Miss’ original sign-on to the Climate Commitment was the establishment of the Office of Sustainability.
“Sustainability is about efficiency in all things; it’s a smart way to live,” said Ian Banner, university architect and director of sustainability. “Do as much as you can with as little as necessary. Try not to waste, pollute or destroy. Respect what is around you and preserve it for coming generations.”
In addition to both everyday and special event recycling initiatives, the Office of Sustainability has begun a composting pilot program which is diverting food waste from landfills to the campus garden at Residential College South. The office is also pushing “green” construction standards on campus to promote energy and water efficiency and environmentally conscious uses of building materials.
On Wednesday, Ole Miss hosted a Sustainability Fair on the Union Plaza, where exhibits ranged from the produce of Yokna Bottom Farm to the Oxford Electric Department’s portable solar power system and an environmental engineering class’ explanations of methane generation, greenhouse gases, auto emissions, recycling and landfill management.
“My teacher encouraged us to come here and learn about alternative energy and other ways we can help the environment,” said Daniela Souza, an English exchange student from Brazil. “We have a lot of problems like climate change.”
Joanie Sanders, a sophomore journalism major from Kensington, Md., said, “Green Week is a great chance for students to learn more about local food and local culture. This fair is an effective reminder for students to be careful about what they recycle or throw away.”
Ole Miss will culminate Green Week observance this morning with an 11:30 tree planting in The Grove.
University of Mississippi Public Relations contributed to this story.

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About Errol Castens

I'm a news reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Focusing on Oxford and Lafayette County, I've been a part of the L-O-U community since 1991.