Sustainability initiatives affect all on campus

By Steven King

For a student in the School of Journalism, sustainability has not been in the forefront of my mind during my college career. Nonetheless, the environment is just as important for journalists as it is for scientists, and sustainability should be incorporated into all of our lives, starting with me.

Coming home from spring break, I realized that I must have left my lights on during the entire week, since I was in a rush on my way to the airport. I felt like I must not be the only one to make this type of mistake, and that eliminating my energy wasting habits can at least make a small difference so that my impact on the environment is minimal.

This is when I researched the many ways the University of Kentucky brings awareness to the practice of sustainability. Various programs make it possible for anyone to make changes in their lives in order to positively affect the environment, regardless of what they study.

First, the Common Reading Experience is an initiative designed to bring incoming freshman together with a common literary work, introduce the new students to academic discourse before classes commence and provide the students with a common intellectual experience, according to the Common Reading Experience website. This year’s assigned reading was “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan. The Assistant Director of New Student and Parent Programs, Michelle Ashcraft, said the book removes the mysticism of sustainability for students.

“The problem is that many students believe they cannot make a difference in the environment by changing their habits,” Ashcraft said. “This book shows that even little changes can make a difference.”

Jenny Zimmerman, a kinesiology freshman, says that the writing style indeed made the book more compelling.

“I like how the book isn’t just a bunch of facts,” Zimmerman said. “Some of it relates sustainability to happiness and fulfillment in life, and I appreciate that.”

“No Impact Man” also had an impact on K-Week, according to Ashcraft.

“Sustainability has been a topic discussed during K-Week since I’ve been here,” Ashcraft said. “When we chose ‘No Impact Man’ this summer, we decided to practice sustainable living conscious during K-Week.”

Ashcraft said between encouraging students to bring water bottles to avoid using tons of paper cups and the use of dining services’ recycled materials, K-Week is now more environmentally friendly than ever.

Making the knowledge of sustainability easy to implement is also the goal of empowered.uky.edu, according to the Sustainability Coordinator, Shane Tedder.

“Empowered.uky.edu offers a variety of interactive features designed to focus on how people can practice sustainable living,” Tedder said. “It has things that everyone can do to elevate awareness and make a difference.”

Now students and faculty from all majors have the opportunity to learn about sustainability in a comprehensive, fun to use website. The website offers data for the energy usage, carbon emissions, and cost of operating different household appliances. These same data are recorded for the buildings on campus, as well. The site also has facts about sustainability, the top ten things we all can do to practice sustainable living and the Campus Energy Saving Project.

Between replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones to save energy, avoiding the use of space heaters which are “energy hogs” according to the website, or just remembering to turn off the lights when you leave the room, the website has a comprehensive solution for almost any energy question.

UK’s different sustainability initiatives are likely to impact people and the environment in the coming years. Hopefully, they will help many people make changes in their lives. For me, at least, I am working on reducing my environmental impact as ­­­much as possible.

Steven King is a broadcast journalism senior. Email opinions@kykernel.com.