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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Red and Blue needs to be more green

    Courtney Smithcolumnist
    Courtney Smith

    I love my bike.

    I love my bike not because of its seven-speed versatility, the way it glides over the pothole-plagued Tucson pavement or even because of the nostalgic joy my Hello Kitty bell brings to my ears. I love my bike because it is how I take personal responsibility.

    The unprecedented demand being placed on natural resources, the political turmoil brought about over resource acquisition and the recent public acknowledgment of the threat of global warming have all resulted in a pressing need for the re-evaluation and subsequent renovation of resource consumption.

    Resource overconsumption is not a new problem. But college students across the nation are exploring new solutions.

    From solar-paneled rooftops and on-campus wind turbines to entire fleets of biodiesel-fueled vehicles, environmentally sound initiatives are sprouting up on college campuses everywhere.

    While many campus initiatives aimed at being environmentally conscious seem, at best, nearly impossible to implement on a mass-scale – Warren Wilson College touts a 36-room EcoDorm, complete with a “”99 percent edible landscape”” – many schools have turned to technologies that are actually feasible for a population greater than the 15 members of the University Environmental Club.

    Alternative fuels, including biodiesel, E85 fuel and electricity, are one of these promising technologies.

    As a result, alternative fuel has become one of the fastest growing campus initiatives: Harvard, Michigan State, Middlebury College, Ball State University, Cornell and the University of Georgia are just a few of the schools that have already jumped on the alternatively-fueled bandwagon.

    The UA is no exception – it too has begun to offer alternatives to the transportation status quo.

    So no, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

    And if it is, it certainly isn’t due to a lack of environmentally conscious programs provided by the UA.

    Monday marked the beginning of the use of alternative fuel by the UA Motor Pool. A ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled the new 4,000-gallon E85 ethanol storage tank that will be used to fuel approximately 75 Flexible Fuel vehicles.

    The move to use E85, a motor fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline, was a green idea. Derived from corn, ethanol burns cleaner – it has a 39 percent to 46 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

    It is also a renewable, domestic product, which is not a bad idea for a country that imports more than half of its oil while overall consumption continues to increase.

    But the UA’s green scene doesn’t end there.

    The University’s CatTran shuttles already run on biodiesel fuel.

    Seventeen of Parking and Transportation Services’ golf carts, which are used by garage staff and for the Daytime Disabled Cart Service, are electric, according to David Heineking, associate director of operations for PTS.

    PTS offers students many alternative transportation programs, including U-PASS, Park and Ride, RideShare, and the Carpool Parking Program, all of which are aimed not only at addressing student parking needs but also at minimizing the UA’s environmental footprint.

    Additionally, PTS maintains the bike parking spaces and paths on campus, allowing students to avoid consuming fuel all together.

    As impressive as all this is, it is expected.

    As one of the largest consumers of energy in Tucson as well as a community leader and technology authority, the university has a responsibility to use and promote technologies and programs that are not only socially and economically sensible but also environmentally conscientious.

    The UA is on track to fulfilling that responsibility.

    Students, as members of a global community and as the posterity due to inherit the task of future resource management, also have a responsibility to explore and incorporate ecologically-smart practices into their daily life.

    UA students are coming up short, however.

    The UA offers a myriad economically viable, convenient ways for students to change their daily transportation habits, but this serves little purpose when they remain underused by the people they intend to serve.

    For instance, more than 18,000 parker permits are sold each year. As of Aug. 25, only 12 carpool permits were purchased, according to Heineking.

    Additionally, 1,398 subsidized bus passes were sold. While this seems like a large number, it pales when one learns that our 35,000-person student body is comprised of an astounding 29,500 commuters.

    The ability to combat the environmental and political threats resource utilization creates cannot be achieved by mere technological advances and economic incentive – it requires individual responsibility.

    The solution to global issues such as natural resource consumption and global warming requires individuals to evaluate their personal choices.

    It is time for students to start questioning not what the government, the community or the university are doing to combat the natural resource crisis, but to start questioning what they are doing to take responsibility.

    I ride my bike everywhere. What do you do?

    Courtney Smith is a senior majoring in molecular and cellular biology and anthropology. She can be reached at

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