SMU making environmental strides
Published: Thursday, November 30, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Last fall, a few impassioned SMU students decided not only to alert members of the SMU community about the looming danger of global warming, but to rally them to take action.
The students organized a successful campaign that resulted in SMU becoming the first large university in Texas and the Southwest to join the EPA Green Power Partnership, a membership that requires at least 3 percent of the electricity SMU purchases to be "green" (i.e. comes from new renewable energy sources).
On Oct. 1, SMU purchased 2,100,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of wind energy certificates to honor its annual commitment.
Joseph Grinnell, the student responsible for coordinating the Green Power Campaign, said, "The whole idea was to get the SMU campus to do something that would help reduce climate change and essentially start to address the concerns of global warming."
The EPA defines "green power" as electricity generated from "environmentally preferable" renewable energy sources - including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas and low-impact hydroelectricity. Grinnell says the ultimate objective is "to offset individual pollution that our own admissions create by buying green energy, which is 100 percent pollution free."
In essence, the overall environmental impacts associated with electricity generation will be significantly reduced as more green power sources begin to replace coal plants in order to meet the rising demand for the non-fossil fuel electricity generation.
These renewable sources of electricity are currently being developed in Texas at a record pace, creating thousands of jobs and revitalizing communities throughout the state while reducing the energy industry's pollution and intensive strain on precious water resources. According to the EPA, SMU's participation in the partnership will have an immediate environmental impact, reducing nearly 3 million pounds of global warming pollution from power plants.
This diminution is analogous to removing at least 253 cars from the road or planting over 390 acres of trees each year.
Grinnell's idea to better the environment began when Dr. Bonnie Jacobs, Director of the SMU Dedman College Environmental Science Program, bolstered Grinnell's argument for the initiative, claiming it would attract more environmentally conscious prospective students to the campus.
The campaign assembled a petition drive that sought to convince at least 10 percent of the SMU student population to sign.
Armed with 1,100 student signatures, Grinnell introduced a resolution to the Student Senate in November 2005, asking the administration to adopt the Green Power Campaign's proposal.
In April 2006, Grinnell and the student body president received confirmation that President R. Gerald Turner accepted the proposal.
However, SMU's partnership alone with the EPA is only the beginning, as the student-led campaign promises to continue advocating its long-term aim of SMU becoming a leader in the partnership, which requires at least a 30 percent green energy commitment. According to Grinnell, "this effort is all about making the administration aware that if they really want SMU to distinguish itself with a clean energy commitment and reap the benefits of attracting more prospective students and enhancing SMU's image, they should make SMU a leader among institutions nationwide and join the likes of Harvard, Duke, Penn State and other prestigious institutions that are 'leaders' in the partnership, which demonstrates their commitment to aggressively spur clean energy development with their purchasing power."
To accomplish this, SMU's Green Power Campaign has united with the Campus Climate Challenge, a national movement encouraging college campuses to be the catalyst that drives America into sustainable, energy independence. In fact, Campus Climate Challenge has joined forces with think-MTV to host the Break the Addiction Challenge in which SMU environmentalists will compete for a $1,000 grant to fund their continuing efforts to reduce SMU's greenhouse gas emissions.
Grinnell's successor, new Green Power Campaign Coordinator Hanna Kolni says, "We want campuses to set a trend in taking responsibility for the stewardship of the Earth by getting into the cutting edge of free-market driven environmentalism today."