“The Dud”

UVM’s new Dudley H. Davis Center (which we should call “The Dud” for short) has reaped much praise for being the first LEED gold certified student center in the country.That is an impressive step towards UVM’s goal of being the “environmental University.” However, the environmental friendliness of The Dud and UVM’s environmental image have both been overblown.The building has reached the LEED certification level of “Gold,” which is one level short of the top ranking platinum level certification. A new project, starting from scratch, for the environmental University, in the environmental state, couldn’t aim for the top?It’s nice that UVM took at least some initiative in environmental awareness for their new building but a problem exists in the perception we all have about it. There is nothing green about constructing a building.New buildings require materials from all over. The Dud scored fairly high in this area by using as many local or recycled building materials as it could, but it is still large-scale consumption. The building still needs to be powered and heated, the rooftop is non-permeable, cement production is environmentally harmful and the engines in the construction equipment weren’t hybrids.The environmental friendliness of the University is weakened most significantly by the amount of single occupancy vehicles of the staff and faculty that drive to campus everyday, not because the rocks in the buildings come from far away. New dorms and buildings also mean more heating fuel needs to be burned. Road salting in the winter is bad, although it occurred at a reduced rate this year.We also just can’t seem to win “Recyclemania.” UVM has another problem by owning a significant student population that doesn’t fully grasp the difference between global climate change, ozone depletion and global warming. UVM has a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and departments in Arts and Science focused on the environment but most students in them already know about major environmental problems and are interested in solutions.In order to help realize the goal of being the environmental University, UVM should add a new course about the major environmental problems in the world today. It would be required for all degrees in all schools. It would be designed for those who know nothing about the environment. A required class on environmental problemswould be appropriate because it is the environment that sustains all life.The class would focus on different economic/social sectors’ (transportation, agriculture, industrial production,energy, all the really big ones) contribution to environmental degradation. Basically, it would explain why global climate change is occurring and why it is the largest environmental issue in the world today as well as hit on some of the other big environmental problems like overpopulation, ozone depletion, desertification, pollution and peak-oil. America is in bad need of a crash course on how our lives are hurting the Earth. What better place than at the environmental University to make sure that everybody gets one? I’m sure the environmental University could make the class a good one. Constructing buildings doesn’t make anybody greener. Educating young adults (and older ones) about the biggest environmental problems the world faces is a real way to start making a difference.