We need to take our energy-efficiency to the next level

Aubrey Carr/ Staff Writer

 

Although FIU is the most energy-efficient public school in the state, a tour around campus is enough to spot immediate problems with the waste left behind by students and the overuse of water and electricity.

Very rarely are there dark days in Florida, and natural light can be implemented for about 10 hours every day in buildings and rooms with access to natural light, in lieu of turning on the artificial ones.  

Buildings around campus leave hundreds of lights on during the night when the buildings aren’t in use, like the Graham Center and the Charles E. Perry building.  There is the argument that leaving lights off poses a security risk, but there is always the option to choose a security system that immediately turns on the lights when a break-in occurs.

And though Florida’s official nickname is the Sunshine State, it’s also notorious for frequent bouts of rain during the summer, which means the grass is getting enough water as it is without sprinklers using literal tons of water every morning over the Modesto Maidique Campus’ 342 acres and The Biscayne Bay Campus’ 200 acres.  

When it rains hard enough, the sprinklers already in action are cut off but that doesn’t prevent the grass from being watered hours after it has already rained.  MMC’s irrigation system utilizes captured rainwater, and BBC employs graywater irrigation, but it’s still uneconomical and inefficient to overwater the plants.

Physical waste is just as much of a problem as the electricity and water. A petition made its rounds during the spring 2016 semester in an effort to stop restaurants on campus from using polystyrene materials, more commonly known as the brand name, Styrofoam.

Though an exact number varies, it can take Styrofoam a minimum of 500 years to decompose, and it’s very uncommon to find recycling centres that accept the material. Neither the city of Miami nor Fort Lauderdale will accept foam for recycling.

FIU has installed water bottle filling stations throughout campus to promote the use of non-plastic water bottles. A statistic from Discovery in September stated that “Americans alone use approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, only 23 percent of which are recycled.”

Like polystyrene, it takes plastic hundreds of years to decompose. It would be an even bigger step forward if the University stopped selling plastic bottled drinks, forcing everyone to use better reusable dishes. Another step would be partnering with companies that are actively working toward making dishes and cutlery out of materials other than plastic.

Agar, for instance, can be mixed with water and made into a mold for any kind of product, but is only a conceptual piece at present. Edible Cutlery makes plant-based spoons that can be eaten and are biodegradable if they aren’t digested.

It isn’t only up to the maintenance staff and FIU employees to solve these problems, either. As students and regular users of the campuses, we are obligated to take care of our University.

We must take advantage of the numerous trash and recycling bins, educating ourselves on what goes where in accordance with Miami’s waste policies. All too often, I see lights left on in dorms and offices where no one is working, water running when it doesn’t need to be and trash left lying about all over campus after a game or a party.

The University is doing more than other schools in Florida, by bringing its buildings to silver and gold standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an “internationally recognised green building certification system,” according to FIU’s Go Green website.  The dorms hand out recycling bags to each resident at the beginning of the year and another can be requested if, for any reason, a resident needs one.  

As mentioned, the irrigation systems are more environmentally friendly than others, the toilets have a 1.6 gallon flush, showers use low-flow shower heads and many restrooms feature air-drying stations rather than paper towels.  

Obviously FIU cares about its carbon footprint, but there is always room to improve. Hopefully, we will see more initiative from everyone involved in the University to make a more positive environmental impact.

 

DISCLAIMER:

 

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

 

Image retrieved from Flickr.

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