10 ways students can help Radford University reach carbon neutrality
As Radford University embarks on its quest for carbon neutrality by 2040, it’s imperative that everyone from the campus community chips in.
Our communities depend on it. Our world depends on it.
“Climate change and other sustainability challenges are profoundly human problems. They are problems that are created by humans, are negatively impacting humans and must be solved by humans,” said Radford University Sustainability Manager Josh Nease. “The good news is that we know what to do. We have the science to thoroughly understand the conditions and the technology to do things differently. The solutions exist. Now, we simply need to do it.”
In November 2021, the President’s Task Force on Sustainability began work on developing a new sustainability and climate action plan that aligns with the university’s strategic plan and master plan and provides a pathway for achieving the goals set for in Radford’s Carbon Commitment.
The commitment, which was signed on Nov. 13, 2020, by then-President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., recognizes the increasing pace and detrimental impacts of climate change and the need for colleges and universities to exercise leadership in addressing the problem. At the core of the commitment is the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040 and integrate sustainability and climate action into the university curriculum and culture.
How can students help lead the way along the Path to 2040? There are a number of ways, Nease said, starting with these 10:
1. Advocate for the transition to renewable energy on campus. “Students can advocate for renewable energy on campus by contacting our university president and letting them know that it is important for our campus to lead by example in our community,” said Stockton Maxwell, Ph.D., associate professor of geospatial science and a member of the President’s Task Force on Sustainability. “The transition to renewables might provide some cost savings over time, allowing the university to invest more in our programs and people.” Students can make a difference on campus through participating in organizations such as the sustainability leadership team and the Green Team.
2. Try vegetarian meals and snacks. “Testing out a vegetarian or vegan diet is an easy way to reduce carbon emissions associated with the foods we eat,” said Andrew Richmond, a senior geospatial science major from Warrenton, Virginia, and a member of the sustainability leadership team. “Tofu is an easy replacement for meat in most dishes and is easily accessible at nearly every grocery store.” Also, “check the Dine on Campus app daily for meatless entrees,” said Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Mary Jean Miller. “Protein options in a balanced salad include beans, nuts and seeds at the Dalton salad bar. Look for black bean burgers, tofu or veggie stir-fry options at other campus locations.”
3. Turn down heat or air conditioning. Dress appropriately, of course. “The majority of our heating and air conditioning is powered by fossil fuels,” Maxwell explained. “If we all adjust our thermostats by just a couple of degrees, we prevent the burning of coal and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And hey, get cozy under that blanket!”
4. Take sustainability and climate-related courses; these are relevant in every field and profession. “Explore our newly created website to identify programs that have sustainability-related courses and contact your academic advisor if you would like recommendations for your area of study,” Maxwell said. Sustainability leadership team member Abbi Green recommended GEOG 140, Introduction to Environmental Studies.
5. Don’t waste food. Take only what you’ll eat. “When eating in Dalton, only take as much food as you can eat,” said Green, a freshman mathematics major from Elkton, Virginia. “It is always better to take multiple trips rather than take too much from the start. If you're trying something new, just take a small portion at first, then go back for more if you like it.”
6. Talk about climate change with your family, friends and colleagues. “Discussing climate change with people can help spread awareness of the fact that the way humans currently live is unsustainable,” Richmond said. “The sooner we all know, the sooner we can find a solution.”
7. Walk, bike or bus to campus. “Our community is very bikeable because we have few hills,” Maxwell said. “Most campus buildings have bike racks outside, and our campus has repair stations to help you out. Visit the local bike shops to explore used bike options.”
8. Take shorter showers. “Taking shorter showers may take some getting used to at first, but speed showers can save gallons of water,” Richmond said.
9. Unplug devices when not in use. “It’s that simple,” Nease said. “Our electronics consume a lot of electricity when they’re turned on and plugged in. So, get in the habit of shutting down your computer and turning off the lights when not in use. Also, devices that are left plugged in still use electricity. Consider unplugging at the end of the day or using a surge protector with an off switch. Pro tip: don’t fall asleep with the TV on!”
10. Go with reusable instead of disposable. This goes for bottles, cups, plates, dining ware, bags, etc. “Did you know you can get a 10% discount at Starbucks if you use your own cup?” Green asked. “All you have to do is make sure you bring a clean, reusable cup, and you're good to go! Also, challenge yourself to get a reusable silverware set and carry it with you around campus. You'll be surprised at the amount of plastic utensils you can save.”