Green U: Referendum will increase recycling, decrease food waste and energy use

Graphic by Sagette Van Embden

Now that Green U has the green, where will the money go?

The recent Student Government election passed the popular Green U referendum, which will raise the student activity fee and allocate $5 towards environmental initiatives.

“It passed by the largest margin of the three referenda,” SG Press Secretary Ryan Aquilina said.

Though the referendum does not take effect until fall of 2012, the organization is already planning how they will use the funds.

“As it stands now, the money is going to be allocated towards green funding and green initiatives on campus,” Sustainability Coordinator Ian McKeown said. “There may be a trustee and a committee that will steer and guide where the money will go.”

Green U and its innovative ideas are fairly recent developments. The program started in 2005 when the university decided to look at how it could reduce the university’s energy usage.

“Myself and a couple others decided to audit the university and identify initiatives,” said Ken Capezzuto, director of environmental health and safety of the university.

Over the years through Green U, the university has seen tremendous growth in its recycling program. The latest Green U recycling project turns palm fronds from around campus into mulch.

“We’ve done a lot to increase recycling,” McKeown said. “When I started, you couldn’t walk from one building to another to recycle.”

However, there have been recent rumors questioning the legitimacy of the recycling program. One claims that the university throws away the material it should be recycling because it does not reach a certain weight limit. Green U is taking action to dispel such myths.

“We’re working with the Knight Center to make a recycling video about the process at UM,” McKeown said.

Another new initiative on campus will help reduce food waste in the cafeteria.

“One of the projects we’re working on reduces dining food waste with the use of a digester,” Capezzuto said. “It takes organic food waste and reduces it to water by using microorganisms that eat the waste.”

Green U also hopes to reduce energy usage throughout the campus.

“We want to put in devices that can generate an energy dashboard for our Web site,” Capezzuto said. “Through this, occupants of a building can see their energy usage.”

Though many of the Green U projects are still in the early stages, students are supportive of the focus on environmental issues.

“I’m glad the school turned its attention towards being green and sustainable,” senior Erin Kelly said. “Everything is a step in the right direction.”

Kylie Banks may be contacted at