Occidental students emphasize eco-friendly initiatives

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Author: Adrian Hairapetian|Adrian Hairapetian

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Occidental has taken initiative in becoming a more eco-friendly learning institution. This summer, Occidental used money from the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund to implement programs such as PeopleTowels and Green Tours to 
reduce the college’s environmental footprint. These programs are an addition to the other green initiatives by Occidental, such as the solar panel project.

A key force in implementing these environmental measures is the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund. All Occidental students pay student fees in registration, and a portion of that money is given to the Sustainability Fund. The fund’s aim is to provide financial support to environmental programs that clubs, programs, and students propose.

“Through the Sustainability Fund, we formed a resource conservation subcommittee,” Jacqueline Swett, treasurer of the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund said. These subcommittees make decisions regarding how to fund projects that help promote a healthy environment.

At the completion of the new solar panels project, the Occidental hillside will be comprised of 4,886 solar panels which will supply 11 percent of Occidental’s electricity and save the institution approximately $250,000 a year in electricity bills. Furthermore, bicycle cages on campus provide a free service and allows students to rent bicycles in an aim to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by motor vehicles in the atmosphere.

Occidental also recently enacted the Green Tours program to contribute to its goal of creating an eco-friendly institution. The tours were offered this year during Orientation Weekend.

“The initiative [of the program] is to tell students how they can take advantage of Occidental’s programs that protect the environment,” founder of the Oxy Green Tours program Lila Singer-Berk said.

The Oxy Green Tour program consists of presentations of the garden, bicycle cage and marketplace.

“[The tours] were engaging,” Singer-Berk said. ”The participants got to build connections with the tour guides.”

Not only did the tour members learn about Occidental’s various initiatives to promote a healthy environment, but they received a complimentary PeopleTowel at the end of the program. A PeopleTowel is a hand towel given to participants to be used instead of paper towels to decrease paper waste.

“The tours, which were funded by the sustainability fund, were successful in reaching our goal,” Singer-Berk said. Not all of students’ sustainability initiatives have been quite as successful, however.

 ”We met with ResEd and facilities to eliminate paper towel dispensaries, and it didn’t work out,” President of the Sustainability Fund Miranda Chien-Hale (senior) said.

In a compromise, Singer-Berk, Chien-Hale, Scott and the administration enacted the PeopleTowels program, and also purchased stickers (to be adhered to paper towel dispensaries) encouraging students to use minimal amounts of paper towels. Chien-Hale says that the stickers should 
increase the level of consciousness of the Occidental community about paper towel waste.

Moving forward, Chien-Hale and the rest of the Sutainability Fund will be working to maintain and expand on their current projects. According to Chien-Hale, the members of the Fund will be dividing into subcommittees to provide specialized attention to the areas of transportation, resource management, food justice, and educational outreach. Meanwhile, the Oxy Green Tours will continue to improve upon and promote their tours to a wider audience. “Our
goal is to educate the Oxy Community about the sustainability
initiatives on campus and increase awareness about how members of the
community can reduce their carbon footprint/combat climate change,” said Singer-Berk via email.
As these groups continue to move forward on their respective projects, Occidental students can expect to see even more green initiatives on campus in the coming months.

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