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Friday, August 19, 2022

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Panel of experts dissects environmental issues


Some of Houston’s leading experts gathered Tuesday at UH to discuss sustainability issues.

Urban Harvest, a group that helps to build and nurture community gardens in urban areas, sponsored the event. The panel included professors from UH and Rice University, environmental lawyers and many other experienced individuals.

“Sustainability is important because we are in the process of bankrupting ourselves economically, socially, and environmentally,” former Urban Harvest executive director Bob Randall said.

Randall said that it would take approximately three and a half earths to support the level of consumption we are running on currently.

“Everyday choices really do matter,” professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Barry Lefer said.

He compares the current struggle with emissions of an elevator that is perpetually going up.

“We can stop it (the elevator) where it is, but we can’t bring it down, just like the Co2 emissions,” Lefer said.

Lefer said there are little things we can do to help. He suggests biking and car-pooling when possible.

Laura Spanjian, director of the office of sustainability for the mayor’s office, weighed in on what Houston is doing to be more eco-friendly. Houston is ranked eighth in the country in number of green buildings, jumping up in the rankings only within the last two years.

Another energy-saving initiative Spanjian’s team put into play was replacing all of the traffic lights with LED bulbs.  In less than two years, the city of Houston saw savings of $3.6 million and 65 percent in energy.

“With all the smart people in Houston, we should be able to draw startups and people who will focus on trying to get the solar technology to better and more cost effective,” Spanjian said.

Houston also plans on having a farmers market at city hall to provide local and organic food to the business professionals in the area.

Marketing Manager for University Services Maria Honey touched on what UH is doing to promote sustainability on campus.  Honey said the most important issue to tackle is recycling.

“For students to want to recycle it had to be visible and easy,” Honey said. “So we put a recycling container next to every trash bin on campus.”

She said another big issue for UH to tackle was green commuting.

“We are a campus of approximately 3,800 (commuter) students and we only have about 1,500 parking spaces,” Honey said.

University Services will be hosting a Green Commuter Fair to increase awareness and provide students with other options. Benefits are offered to those who participate.


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