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University shapes direction of green initiative

Solar energy and recycling are just some of the efforts that UH is undertaking to clean up and "go green."

More than a dozen students, faculty and staff met Feb. 19 to discuss how to shape UH’s “going green” movement.

Later that day, a ride-sharing program was approved — a major step toward offering the service to students.

Bringing solar energy to campus, debuting the UH fiscal year 2009 Carbon Footprint Report and UH’s preliminary rank in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System were among many topics discussed at UH’s February Sustainability Task Force meeting.

Physics professor Alex Ignatiev acknowledged that Houston is one of 24 solar cities in the U.S. However, he said there are “no real incentives (to use solar) in Texas” compared to places like California and New Jersey.

Ignatiev recommended placing solar panels above parking garages, so they would not be blocked by trees and suggested tracking the amount of solar power generated.

“All that is a part of the educational component,” Ignatiev said. “It’s a good time to capitalize on that momentum.

“It’s the right thing to do.”

Barry Lefer, an assistant professor of atmospheric science and atmospheric chemistry, introduced three scopes of greenhouse gases in the UH FY2009 Carbon Footprint Report.

These scopes represented greenhouse gases created on campus, indirect emissions from sources such as power generated off campus and emissions created by commuting.

It takes 300 years for carbon dioxide in the air to shift in equilibrium with the oceans; even after 10,000 years, nearly 10 percent remains in the atmosphere, Lefer said.

Lefer said the next step is to use the FY09 Carbon Footprint data to create a climate action plan. This plan would work to reduce UH’s greenhouse gases emissions.

Assistant Vice President for University Services Emily Messa introduced the STARS program, detailing each category from sustainability related curriculums to waste minimization.

The STARS program helps universities rank their progress toward sustainability.

Messa said co-curricular activities were considered in the ranking, including UH Green Day and the Earth Day Carnival in April.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included creating a university policy aimed at purchasing recycled paper and the UH Community Garden’s partnerships with local organizations.

Ideas to incorporate sustainability into education through freshman and faculty orientations were also shared.

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