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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2007

Going green on campus

COLLEGE students today are far more sophisticated about environmental issues than their predecessors in the 1960s and '70s. The "go-green" concept is becoming a part of campus life at northwest Ohio colleges and universities. What's more, school administrators have helped further popularize the issue by proclaiming they are running "green campuses."

In fact, administrators at some schools have been leading the charge for environmental action. Not only do they understand that institutions of higher learning should be among the leaders in the movement, but they get that by going green they can cut costs, something vitally important in these times of finite tax dollars.

College officials' efforts have the drawback of being less visible and less dramatic than demonstrations. Still, more energy-efficient lighting, replacing windows, and increasing insulation can go a long way toward reducing heating and electricity costs.

A "thermo-balancing" project is under way at a building at Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., and Lourdes College in Sylvania provides water for a geothermal system from an underground well.

Northwest State Community College in Archbold is considering installing a wind turbine to provide energy. Bluffton College and the University of Toledo are toying with new ways to cool buildings, while UT is also investigating other projects, including collecting rainwater to use in the campus sprinkler system.

Every effort to conserve and protect the environment is important. Recycling plastic bottles is about the easiest thing anybody can do, and there are clear signs that some schools are making a positive impact. Last year at UT, more than 54 tons of materials were recycled. At Owens Community College, they recycled more than 63 tons.

That means we've come a long way from the days when "tree-hugging" pretty much defined the growing interest in environmental awareness. While concern for the environment was very real, then as now, the general public seemed overwhelmed and confused by many issues, including the effects of insecticides and pesticides on our food and wildlife.

Fortunately, that widespread sense of helplessness has largely vanished. Today's college student would look, shrug, and then come up with a practical approach to the issue that might draw the interest of their grandparents.

Students are helping the rest of us understand that taking sensible steps to improve the environment is something all of us can, should, and must do - and their elders would be wise to learn from them.

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