People around the world took a moment yesterday to think about the environment in observation of Earth Day, but through a recent University program, environmental action is a yearlong activity.
The University has begun moving toward the use of more environmentally-friendly products and is looking into implementing these changes on a wider scale. One example of this movement is Greening Princeton, an initiative launched this year to encourage Princeton University Dining Services to begin serving organic food, eco-friendly seafood, antibiotic-free meat and products from local producers in dining halls.
Kai Chan, coordinator of Greening Princeton and a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, cited the many benefits of the switch on the environment, personal health and social issues.
"There's so many positive results from this type of initiative," said Stu Orefice, director of dining services. "The food quality can be improved. We're educating our customers, it's better for the environment. The list goes on and on."
Chan said that the University has been "totally on board with everything" his group has proposed. Changes that entailed little or no additional cost, such as abandoning bleached flour that contains poisonous dioxins, were adopted immediately, he said.
Greening Princeton and dining services are currently sponsoring a survey to assess general interest in more costly initiatives to purchase organic food and eco-friendly seafood.
"To justify higher expenditures, we must show that there is concern about these issues," Chan said. "We will incorporate results into a request for funding."
Preliminary results indicated that over 60 percent of students were indeed worried about these environmental issues, Chan said.
"It helps to work with students who are so familiar with these issues," Orefice said. "It's like having a separate research department within our department."
He added that the initiative will be an ongoing effort. "We're taking it one step at a time," he said. "As time goes on, products will be more readily available, and changes will be easier to make."
Efforts are also underway to increase the use of 100 percent recycled paper in printers and copiers around campus. The recycled paper is slightly more expensive, costing about three dollars extra per ten reams.
Though OIT recently switched to recycled paper for cluster computers, most departments still use "virgin paper" containing no post-consumer content.
Ilya Fischhoff GS, who leads this initiative at Greening Princeton, explained that the benefits of recycled paper are twofold.
"It reduces how much forest we have to cut down. However much we can reduce that, we're preserving endangered species and habitats," he said. "It would also require less energy, so it would reduce fossil fuel emissions."
The University is currently conducting a series of randomized trials to determine the quality of recycled paper and negotiating with a supplier to reduce the price.
"As long as the purchasing department can show it's the same quality, they're serious about making the switch," Chan said.
The University would set an example for other institutions if it decides to take these steps, Fischhoff said.
"What's really exciting is that it's a collaborative effort between students, faculty and administrators," Fisch-hoff added. "The administration is very open, willing to talk about these things, willing to consider options. We're making a lot of progress, but there's lots of room for improvement."
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