Sustainability Director updates community on new initiatives

Andrew Sheeler / Sun Star Reporter
June 7, 2011

Michele Hebert is the Director of the Office of Sustainability. Photo by Todd Paris.

Slightly fewer than 20 people showed up Tuesday night, June 7, to hear Michelle Hebert, UAF Sustainability Director, discuss the projects that her office is undertaking. The lecture was part of the Alaska’s Land and Sea Lecture Series held each Tuesday at Schaible Auditorium.

“I know that many of you will say ‘She’s preaching to the choir,’” Hebert said, as she polled the audience on how many of them shopped using cloth bags and how many were aware that UAF students voted to create a 10-year fee to fund sustainability initiatives on campus. That fee, paid by every UAF student taking 3 or more credits, will amount to $2.5 million over the life of the fee. Chancellor Brian Rogers has pledged to match that amount, granting the Office of Sustainability a $5 million budget. Hebert said that she and her students were trying to cram as much as they could in to that “10-year window.”

Among those projects was the recycling program at UAF.

“This is probably our most visible, and our most popular program at this time,” Hebert said. “Last week we hauled 32 tons of garbage to be recycled.” Currently, UAF accepts paper, glass and a variety of plastics, as well as cell phones and batteries, to be recycled. Hebert said that most of the recyclable waste that shows up in the Nenana Parking Lot bins comes not from UAF, but the community. She called this part of UAF’s public service.

Hebert also highlighted the extensive composting that takes place on campus and the growth and usage of local, organically grown vegetables and herbs in the campus dining halls. In the Lola Tilly Complex alone, mushrooms are grown in the basement, lettuce is grown in the front using hydroponics and there is an herb garden on the third floor.

While Hebert spoke optimistically about future plans, including plans to install solar panels on the rooftop of the Student Recreation Center, the optimism wasn’t infectious.

“I’m kind of pessimistic about sustainability in Fairbanks,” said Avery Africa, a senior geology major from western Washington. Africa said that her pessimism came from an institutional inability to be sustainable despite the best efforts of motivated individuals. An example of that would be the university watering the grass in the middle of the day when it would be more efficient to do it at night, she said. Despite her pessimism, she said that people like Hebert are “making an effort. They’re trying to do the best they can.”

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