University must move toward eco-friendly dorms
Published: Sunday, March 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, March 5, 2012 17:03
Walking around campus over the past few years, students may have noticed signs of the university's attempt to re-brand its image. The Office of Communication & Marketing sure hopes you have, as "Dare to be First" encompasses an ambitious effort to move the university to even greater prominence. As I sampled members of the student body, undoubtedly a crucial demographic in this movement, their responses to the campaign were underwhelming. "It's like a middle-school presidential election," said a senior economics major I spoke with, alluding to the grand promises but lack of substance contained in the "Dare to be First" slogan.
Imagine if "Dare to be First" fueled bold initiatives instead of adding a fresh coat of paint to tired projects? Suppose "Dare to be a Blue Hen" was more than a ready-made set up for punch-lines? What if "Dare to be a Blue Hen" inspired the university community at large? Three questions is hardly a constructive way to address an issue, so I will "dare to" offer a declarative solution. The university can pave its path to prominence by implementing the first entirely environmentally sustainable dormitory in collegiate America.
First and foremost, it is important to consider how an environmentally sustainable dormitory helps fulfill the university's mission. "Dare to be First" is made up of six components. Of the six, the Citizen University piece is most applicable to an ecologically responsible dorm. The university identifies itself as being global, green, and engaged. By propagating a sustainable dorm, the university will actively engage in preserving green aspects of the natural environment, a global resource. An abundance of campus recycling bins is a start, but to thoroughly engage requires action beyond what is commonplace.
The idea of a sustainable dorm may sound appealing, but it would be hypocritical of me to suggest the notion without further clarification. There are variable components of dormitories whose environmental impact can be controlled. We all remember parents yelling to hurry up and get out of shower, and now it's time for the university to recreate that stern reminder. There is one practical solution to the problem of lengthy showers: lowering the water temperature. As anyone who has indulged in a resource-consuming shower can attest to, the sensation of melting away under soothing streams of hot water is addicting. By lowering the temperature of the eco-friendly dorm's hot water heater, the university will achieve the dual benefit of using less fuel to heat the water and reduce its consumption of clean water as showers become more efficient.
Electricity use can also be reduced in both individual dorms and common areas. For example, motion sensors should be installed in all public areas and hallways rather than just lounges, so as to limit light output to the instances when someone actually needs it. As for the individual dorms, student room keys can be used as a trigger for electricity. For example, electrical current should only flow when a room key is inserted in a slot inside the door, which will protect the environment against a careless resident leaving the television on when he goes to class, as the current would stop when he locks the door to leave. This may prove tricky for students with personal refrigerators, so electric wiring will need to ensure one outlet retains current even when the room is empty.
For this initiative to come to fruition, student living in the dorms must give incentives that align with the university's goals. One way to encourage the pursuit of environmental goals is to have prizes for the most ecologically responsible floor of the sustainable dorm. Prizes should be awarded based on quantifiable and transparent objectives, such as least amount of kilowatt hours used. Friendly peer pressure would drive the use of electricity down as residents pushed each other to win the competition. Alternatively, if sabotage between the floors becomes a problem, the university could set dormitory-wide objectives, such as keeping kilowatt use below a predetermined amount per week.
Finally, the university should take advantage of an opportunity to easily implement these changes. On East Campus, a new dorm building is under construction, slated to open in July 2013. Without deviating too much from current plans, eco-fitting this building is possible using the suggestions I outlined previously. Environmental sustainability certainly adheres to the university's Commitment to Delawareans, as a clean environment benefits all inhabitants of the state, and beyond. Another benefit of such an undertaking is the positive national publicity that would be generated. Environmental sustainability and ecological responsibility are an issue on the mind of the American public, and the university has a tremendous opportunity to establish itself as a leader in environmental progress.
Jake Buttery is a guest columnist for The Review. His viewpoints do not necessarily represent those of the Review staff. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.