Hellie commits to fight global warming

Amber McKenna

features editor 

On Earth Day, President Thomas Hellie signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment as a step to combat global climate issues.

According to its Web site, the commitment is an effort to address global warming through neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions and motivating research aimed at restabilizing the earth’s climate. More than 500 colleges across the country signed the commitment, and the number keeps growing.

Fred Ross, senior adviser and assistant to the president, said Hellie’s decision came after six months of careful consideration by a committee set up in October. The committee, titled Advisory Committee on the Environment and Sustainability, is comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, students and a representative from McMinnville Water and Light. The group decided it would be beneficial to the school.

“Signing (the commitment) says to the world, ‘we will commit to reducing our greenhouse gases and set up options,’” Ross said. “We didn’t just want to doit for publicity.”

In conjunction with the commitment, the college has plans for the new constructions, such as the Northup Hall renovation and the future fitness center, to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. This will require using recycled building materials and sustainable construction practices.

Other goals of ACES are to replace residence hall and on-campus apartment appliances with Energy Star certified appliances, and to reduce the waste stream the campus produces, focusing especially on food waste.

Sophomore Duncan Reid is a student representative on ACES. He said it is important for colleges and universities to reduce their ecological footprint and become carbon neutral.

The committee was charged with weighing the pros and cons of signing the commitment.

“I value that (President Hellie) wanted to take the time to make sure this gets done correctly rather than hastily signing it and not being able to follow through,” Reid said.

Reid described the commitment as a tool for motivating institutions to reduce their impact on the
environment.

Ross said the hardest way to reduce gas costs is the transportation the college uses.

“What do you do when the football team needs to get in a bus and drive to Willamette (University)?” Ross said. “Or when the president needs to get to New Jersey?”

The change in environmentally friendly practices will be long term, but will start with small things such as low-flow shower heads, Ross said.

“The most exciting part about (the commitment) is that it is a concrete commitment to sustainability,” Reid said. “And (we get) to see the college as an institution embrace these values.”

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