List of ways EMU sustains

EMU, at least within familiar circles, has a reputation for “making the world greener.” A big player in building EMU’s rep is the school-affiliated club entitled ‘Earthkeepers.’ This group is student led and run and organizes activities and keeps many of EMU’s sustainable projects up and running.  Below are some of the ways EMU tries to be sustainable.

Solar panels

Solar power. What is so great about it? It seems to be a hot phrase whenever someone is talking about “being green” or “sustainable.”

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity and is a renewable source of energy, unlike coal where nature doesn’t replenish it at a maintainable rate. Solar power was first used commercially around the 1980’s.  The world’s largest solar power plant: Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant located in Ontario, Canada, currently produces around 97 MW(megawatts) or 97,000 KW(kilowatts) at it’s peak power. In comparison, EMU’s solar panels can create 104.3 KW of electricity.

If you’ve been around EMU for any significant amount of time you probably heard the solar panels mentioned at least once. In the fall of 2010, EMU put into action the plan of installing solar panels onto the campus library. This was a pretty big deal in the commonwealth of Virginia since it was, to date, the largest project to be installed in the state. But after all the ‘hoopla’ of the introduction to our new panels, what do they do exactly? I mean, besides the obvious first step of soaking up the sun’s super rays. What’s next?

According to the solar page of the EMU website, EMU has paid in advance for ten years of power from the solar grid.  Although this itself is a lot of money upfront, EMU is making a wise investment because of how the power is generated: from the sun. Even though EMU does not actually own the panels, it owns the power generated by the panels.

Composting

Behind the Suter Science Center there is a large composting pile that Earthkeepers maintains.  Compost is basically a way that nature breaks down dead plants and animals to make rich, fertile soil that is great for putting most any type of garden plant into.

An interesting fact about the pile is because of heat given off by the process, the center heats up to 160-170º Fahrenheit.  Even in the winter, it gets to those temperatures because the pile is so large and breaking down so much bio-waste.

A negative to this massive pile of ecofreindly-ness is the stench that it gives off when ever there is a slight breeze when you happen to pass by or walk through EMU’s “Peace Park.” EMU Junior Elias Kehr says he “dreads” when he has to walk behind the science center saying: “I always hold my breath a little when walking near.”

What it all means: EMU and Earthkeepers are setting a good example of sustainable agriculture. By having and maintaining this project, they set the bar to what can be accomplished with a bunch of biodegradable (able to be broken down by natural means) garbage.

Food

It’s fitting that right after compost we talk about EMU’s sustainable foods.  For starters, Earthkeepers in addition to keeping the compost, is in charge of the campus garden.  This, located right across the road from campus is a place where students plant, maintain and harvest vegetables and fruit.

What’s good about the garden is that the campus cafeteria, through the sustainable food initiative, actually buys food that is grown there and by doing so creating a sustainable system of growing and buying local food which is a great example for the local economy.

Also, the food grown in the garden is very healthy and besides the labor it takes to grow, costs next to nothing for the students who work there.  This can be especially enticing to a college student on a limited budget.

Peace with Creation 

Peace with Creation is an academic initiative that involves all department around the topic of sustainability.  In other words, this plan creates requirements in every EMU major department to include classes that relate, in some way, to sustainability.  Much of this plan drives the word “sustainable” into the ground with it’s repetition.  While this may be the case, we shouldn’t let the overuse deter us from the idea that we should at least consider what we are doing to the environment. Even if we don’t chose to act on it, knowledge about an aspect of our lives is better than being naive.  As the old saying goes: “Knowledge is power.”


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