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September 21, 2023

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Missouri students sign petition

Nearly 1,000 students at Washington University in Missouri signed onto a Green Action petition yesterday calling for university-wide carbon neutrality and greater sustainability efforts on campus

The Green Action drive is part of a yearlong effort to raise awareness about environmental issues and to educate students about how they can help make a contribution to sustainability efforts.

“We want to build this up so we can have a large part of the student body behind this movement,” said junior Lee Cordova, president of Green Action. “To be in the position where all we need to do is educate is a lot better than needing to change people’s minds.”

The Green Action effort comes as the university is beginning to undertake an assessment of its “carbon footprint”-the net amount of carbon consumed-and energy usage.

In addition to calling for individual commitments to energy-conscious lifestyle, the petition calls upon the university to “commit to 100 percent carbon neutrality through reliance on renewable, clean energy sources and a substantial cutback on energy consumption.”

Carbon neutrality refers to the ability of an individual or an institution to offset its carbon emissions so that there is no net contribution of carbon dioxide to the environment.

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, have been linked to global warming.

While the Green Action petition calls for a specific decrease in the amount of carbon emissions, the university has avoided giving any indication about what level of net carbon usage it is striving for.

“The university is not in a position yet to make a decision on what our greenhouse gas reduction commitments can be because, quite frankly, we haven’t even gone through the exercise of base lining what our greenhouse gas emissions are yet,” said Matthew Malten, assistant vice chancellor for sustainability.

When he joined the university this summer, Malten explained that he would spend his first year assessing the current sustainability situation on campus rather than taking immediate action.

The petition drive currently underway is meant to show student support for this environmental initiative.

“We really didn’t want to sit back and say that this was a year of planning,” said Cordova. “At the end of the year, we want to be in a position where [Malten] is saying ‘this is where the University is’ and with us saying ‘this is what the students want.'”

Green Action hopes that the show of student support will influence the University’s eventual decision to become fully carbon neutral.

According to Malten, while the University will not yet commit to any proposals, after finishing its benchmarking it will create a strategic plan based on realistic estimates.

To students who signed the petition, the Green Action campaign represents a way to express their support for environmental activism.

“Its definitely a worthy goal,” said sophomore Tim Shaw. “As long as it’s actually feasible, I think this is something we should work toward.”

“I believe in a balance between personal and institutional action,” said sophomore Elizabeth Murillo, an earth and planetary sciences major. “I would hope that this would inspire people because it is important to have large-scale action.”

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