Students, faculty voice sustainability ideas

Some suggestions will be used by the city's sustainability office.
Students discuss ideas for improving environmental sustainability on campus at a Wednesday night forum. The MU Sustainability Office and the Columbia Office of Sustainability will consider the suggestions for possible future projects.

Gary Grigsby's big idea is batteries.

Kari Weis wants to know more about public transportation.

Mike Burden carries his own dinner napkin everywhere to avoid using disposable ones and encourages others to do the same.

All three were part of a group of more than two dozen students who turned out Wednesday to discuss ideas for promoting environmental sustainability on the MU campus and throughout Columbia.

Participants defined sustainability and brainstormed projects for different campus groups to recycle and conserve resources and promote such practices among students. Burden, a journalism graduate student, said sustainability means living in a way that does not consume all available resources as quickly as they are now.

"We have to be conscious of the potential effects of our lifestyle on future generations and factor that into how we live," he said.

Burden said the Department of Residential Life should have a training session for incoming freshmen to encourage them to look for ways to conserve energy in their residence hall rooms and resources around campus.

Grigsby, a radio-television journalism professor, said one way to change students' behaviors would be to set up recycling bins for disposable batteries similar to the ones available for used printer ink cartridges. He said they could be placed in every hall and computer lab, and students could be routinely reminded to recycle batteries, rather than throwing them away.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates, on average, each American discards eight batteries per year, about 2.43 billion batteries nationwide. According to the environmental search engine Earth911.com, there are two battery-recycling locations in Columbia, but none is on the MU campus.

Weis, a freshman studying agricultural journalism, also wanted to see more education among students, particularly focused on public transportation like the Columbia bus system.

Weis said the information would be especially helpful for freshmen, who, like her, do not have cars. She said she did not know where to find route maps and schedules for the city busses or where to catch them.

"I'd see them go by and I'd wait for them at the corners, but I never knew where to catch them or where they drop off," she said.

Other participants were able to give her advice, but they said if Weis didn't know where to get the information, it was likely other students are also unaware.

The students first divided into two smaller groups to discuss ideas among themselves before gathering to discuss common themes between all the student ideas.

They then shared the ideas with Student Sustainability Coordinator Cherith Moore. Moore said she would share the ideas with recently established Columbia Office of Sustainability.

Moore, a doctoral student studying human environmental science, said the MU Sustainability Office is gaining power to affect change on campus and in Columbia as the eco-friendly movement gains popularity.

"We want to be the facilitator for those good ideas to reach the city," she said. "I think we have tremendous power because people are thinking and talking about sustainability a lot more now."

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