Expert Voices - Spring 2014

By Dr. Chuck McClaugherty
Professor of Biology, Director of the Nature Center and the Dr. John D. Brumbaugh Chair in Environmental and Ecological Sciences

The Mount Union Green Raiders, a group of students who are working to make the campus more sustainable and to educate other students about sustainable living, have adopted the slogan “Bleed Purple, Live Green.” Bleeding purple reflects the students’ passion for the purple and white of Mount Union. But what does it mean to “live green?”

The term “green” was first used in connection with environmental issues such as pollution, energy conservation and recycling. But our environment is inextricably related to both our economy and social systems. Thus, in recent years we have recognized that a vibrant economy, a just society and a healthy environment are all essential for the long-term well-being of humans and our planet. As a result, the term green has expanded to include this broader concept that is sometimes called sustainability. The concept of sustainability asks us to live in ways that provide for the needs of both current and future generations.

Mount Union, as an institution, has a solid tradition of being green. A central role for higher education is to prepare students for the future. This role is more specifically expressed in Mount Union’s three-fold mission: to prepare students for fulfilling lives, meaningful work and responsible citizenship. These three missions align closely with the goals of sustainability.

What does this look like in practice? At Mount Union, it comes in many shades of green. It can be found in a public health class where students learn about ways to create healthier communities. A theatre class may see how playwrights have used drama to portray social problems that either reflect the times or encourage viewers to action. In a business class, students can learn how sustainable practices may benefit the bottom line while also building a more positive corporate image. Civil engineering students learn how to construct water treatment systems in developing countries that ultimately save lives and allow the citizens to be healthier and more productive. The list is quite long. Green can be found almost everywhere, even if it’s not obvious.

For many years, Mount Union has demonstrated sustainable practices. Not only has wise financial management given the institution decades of balanced budgets, it has also provided an excellent return on tuition investment for students and an attractive and healthy working and learning environment. Mount Union’s President, Dr. Giese, has signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, and the University is working toward significantly reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, in 2010, our Board of Trustees adopted an ambitious and long-term sustainability plan.

Can we live green at home? What can a person or a single family do to be more green? The answers are neither simple nor obvious, but living green does not have to be particularly hard. There is no one best way to live green because your choices depend on your individual circumstances. But anyone can adopt a green philosophy that informs their decisions and actions.

Here are a few quick tips for living a darker shade of green:

Recycle less. Yes, analyze your consumption. Don’t buy things that you have to throw away or recycle. Buy less “junk” so you have less to recycle and less to throw away!

Save money. Put your energy use on a diet. Identify short-term and long-term ways to save on your electric, gasoline or heat bills. Insulate your home, don’t idle your vehicle more than 30 seconds, consolidate shopping trips, car pool, upgrade to higher efficiency appliances. Almost everyone can find a way to painlessly trim their energy consumption.

Build your community. Look around. What are the needs in your community? Pick one that really resonates with you and then work to meet that need. Donate money or services, volunteer your time, get together with your friends and do something positive,  buy local and keep your money in your community whenever possible. Stop complaining and start creating a better community!

Love your community! Learn what is good about the places where you live and work. Honor the good, enjoy the beauty, celebrate the locations, institutions and people that make these places special. Become a guardian and steward of these treasures and work to protect and enhance them.

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