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'Going Green' Is Part of Today's College Culture

Reporter Standup: Good afternoon, and welcome back to our Sense of Community Series on College Life in the Ozarks. I’m Jennifer Moore. “Sustainability” has become a buzzword of today’s college generation. Taking care of and preserving the earth’s resources used to be a fringe movement, but now it’s become mainstream. Right now, I’m out at the potential site for one of MSU’s future sustainability projects—a campus garden will soon be a place for students to grow their own fresh tomatoes, lettuce and other produce. Also, this fall, incoming freshmen in the dorms were given aluminum water bottles to help reduce the waste created by plastic water bottles. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the so-caled “green college culture” here in the Ozarks.

“I’ve been to conferences all across the country and I’ve seen, you know, people our age in school, undergrads, graduate students, just fired up and excited about what we can do and how we can change the culture that we’ve created by things like water bottles and creating gardens, and different ways for everyone to change their lifestyle bit by bit,” says Holly Mills, a graduate student and the director of sustainability at Missouri State University.

She helps decide on major “green” projects at the university. MSU now has a Sustainability Fund that was proposed and passed by the Student Body. “This fund is a $2 per student per semester fee that is matched by the president’s office. That money is then used for Sustainability proposals which are submitted by students and then voted on by students as well,” Mills said.

Jacob Swett is MSU Student Body President. He feels it’s a university’s obligation to impart upon its students a responsibility to care for the earth.

“The university is supposed to be kind of the innovator in the nation, specifically in their own cities. I mean, take Springfield for example: Missouri State and the other universities in the city need to be the ones setting the example. And what better way to do that [than] by teaching the students at the universities to have these lifestyle choices? I know, at least for me, it caught on probably my freshman year. It’s just standard for me now, to turn the lights off when I leave the room, and to recycle everything in its proper location,” he said.

He says when he goes home now, he’s the one switching off the TV when no one’s watching it, and he tries to influence his parents and other family members to save energy, too.

“I think they’re still kind of in that mindset that we were in 10 or 15 years ago: energy is cheap, energy is limitless, and we can just use it without any consequences,” he says.

One university that has made caring for the environment a priority is Drury University.

[Sound: Key opening up bike shop. “This is the bike shop…”]

The garage to the president’s residence has just been converted into a bike repair shop. On the floor are random bicycle parts, and wrenches and pliers line the walls.

Drury has just started a program that lends 40 bikes out to students each semester—the idea is to encourage them to put their car keys away for awhile.

Mark Miller, a spokesperson for Drury, says students also pay a sustainability fee to help fund projects like this one.

“If you live on the dorms on the northwest end of campus and you have a class on the southeast end of campus, there’s no reason to drive. We’re not a very big campus. So this makes it a much quicker commute for you. It also reduces our carbon footprint, and helps with wellness,” he said.

[Sound: Bike]

One student who’s taking advantage of Drury’s bike program is Garret Shelenhamer, a triple major in criminology, psychology, and sociology from Bolivar.

“I definitely think our generation is, you know, getting more involved and wanting to have a part in making sure that the next generation has a better lifestyle, and that we do our part to keep it safe and clean for them,” he said.

Drury has also installed a geothermal heating and cooling system for Stone Chapel, and Drury students serve as interns at the university’s Ozarks Center for Sustainable Solutions. That’s a local program that helps businesses reduce their harmful effects on the earth.

At Ozarks Technical Community College, students are building a giant composter that will be able to handle up to two tons of composted food and trash a day.That came after OTC students conducted a waste audit on Earth Day that found 634 pounds of wasted food and paper in a single day.

Evangel University uses programmable thermostats, thermopane windows and energy efficient lighting across campus. And College of the Ozarks has done away with the trays in its cafeterias this year—that’s to save water, energy and detergent that would have gone into washing the hundreds of trays. C of O also uses lake water from Lake Taneycomo to cool many of its buildings.

Today’s college kids grew up in elementary schools hearing about the importance of recycling and not letting the water faucet run while you’re brushing your teeth. Those efforts are now paying off as that generation prepares to take on leadership roles across the country, where they will likely implement what they’ve learned on a grand scale.

Join us the rest of this week at 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. as we continue to look closely at College Life in the Ozarks. Tomorrow’s Sense of Community segments will be looking at how local colleges and universities are preparing students for jobs in the real-world.

I’m Jennifer Moore.