Cost-effective ecosystem

— Courtesy of Rachel Sanders Courtney Tanner
(Photo Courtesy of Rachel Sanders)

(Photo Courtesy of Rachel Sanders)

U students may cheer on the red when it comes to football, but while they’re on campus it’s all about going green.

Students in the U’s Sustainability Committee want to make the U more sustainable and environmentally friendly. They headed out this summer with shovels and work boots in an initiative to be more “water-wise.”

Troy Bennett, a doctoral student in parks, recreation and forestry, as well as the chair of the U’s Sustainability Committee, said environmental initiatives are a good way to involve students from all academic disciplines.

The group worked for four hours this summer with the U’s landscaping personnel to replace approximately 8,000 square feet of grass with low-water-use trees and shrubs by the S.J. Quinney Law building. The change in foliage is estimated to save the U more than 100,000 gallons of water annually.

The project cost was $21,347, but the group says the initiative will save the U money in the long run in water costs. But the more immediate goal of the project is to be recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

“It’s a recognition of the [U’s] efforts to care for the trees on campus and helps it be a better experience.” Bennett said. “[It] gives students a sense of place.”

Bennett said many members of the community don’t know the U is the state arboretum, which includes Red Butte Garden. This means it houses hundreds of varieties of trees from across the globe, including a large collection of Russian olive trees.

He feels this makes the U a perfect place for a Tree Campus USA designation.

Elise Gatti, a doctoral assistant and graduate student at the U, said the benefits of this sustainability focus on campus are wide-ranging.

Gatti wants students to “experience volunteering, meet people with like interests . . . and get a feeling of accomplishment” through the environmental initiatives.

She hopes the U’s new water-saving design will help the community to become more aware of carbon footprints and the way we treat our ecosystem.

Rachel Sanders, who works with the U’s Sustainability Resource Center said students can join the committee or just volunteer with environmental projects throughout the year.

“Everyone is welcome to connect with us,” Sanders said. “This opportunity is open to everyone.”

k.mcdonald@chronicle.utah.edu

@KeithLMcDonald