July 26, 2010

University of Colorado at Boulder plays with going Green.

A Leading Campus struggles to go Green.

CU’s Environmental Center is amazing. CU’s recycling center is world class. Its football stadium is zero waste, fer chrissakes. Still, there’s a few glaring holes in the web that is simple, basic eco-responsibility.

Named greenest campus in the US by Sierra Club? That’s a well-deserved honor—and one that our favorite local green campus should continually recycle, reduce, and re-earn.

I was on campus just last week, stopped by my friends at Pekoe Sip House, a great café on CU’s beautiful, pesticide-sprayed campus, and asked for a cappuccino for-here. You know, in porcelain, china, that stuff that’s been around for, oh, a couple hundred years.

Sorry, we only have to-go.

But you have a few mugs right there, can I use one of those? I don’t want to create trash for something I’m only going to use for two minutes. I’ll wash the dish myself?

Sorry, we’re not allowed to by CU.

Okay, I’ll go to Laughing Goat, I says to myself. I go to Laughing Goat, another great cafe on campus. I know the baristas a little bit. They have a bunch of for-here cups, but again the same story: we’re not allowed to serve for-here.

A young barista, a CU student, chimes in: we’re not even allowed to compost. And you know cafés have the best, richest compost on Planet Earth.

Yah, it’s a joke, she says, in the dining hall there’s signs once ever month or something that say, you’re allowed to compost today!

Now, to be fair, composting on campus would probably be high-maintenance. And sending compost through Western Disposal would likely be expensive.

Still, the fact remains that “green” CU apparently doesn’t love to compost, something that would benefit their own extensive landscaping and grounds. And they do love encouraging America’s disposable culture in young people. How’s that for education!

And then, ready to drop the whole thing (instead of blogging it up, as I’m now doing) I read a great little PR/Marketing tweet today:

“CU Boulder’s dining halls hope to be 25 percent organic by 2015.”

To which I say two things:

1.) Awesome! Kudos to Amy Beckstrom and team.

2.) And, how about now, brown cow? Why wait? Colorado proudly hosts some of the best farms and farmers markets. We could not only go, say, 50% organic, but do it now! And use UNFI, go to say 80% organic? Why not? Price? Wouldn’t you get millions of bucks in free positive publicity? Wouldn’t you win the love and gratitude of future alumni? Most importantly, wouldn’t you be protecting the health of your students, now?

After all, organic just means grown traditionally, the way our grandparents ate—grown without pesticides (a fancy word for poison).

Still, I know, progress is tough, and blame is easy. So here’s a little point-the-finger-at-myself action: I don’t garden, because I don’t really know how and haven’t tried hard enough to learn. I do take hot baths. I do fly in airplanes.

Still, I have xeriscaped the front and am working on the back. My house is solar-powered. I have got rid of my car, and bike every day. I do compost what little I know how to cook. I do only go through a trash can the size of my head once a month. I don’t eat factory-farmed meats when I dine out (or in). I do shop locally. I do avoid plastic as much as I can, but not enough. I dump my bath water in my backyard, by hand.

Still, I’m just one bloke. The University of Colorado is an educational institution, and its ivory towers could become inspirations and symbols for eco and financial responsibility and efficiency for a new generation.

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