Who is the Greenest of Them All?

By Babongile Zulu

They say that charity begins at home and, since Rhodes will be our home for about three or four years, it’s time we did charitable things right here to lower our carbon emissions and make Rhodes a better and greener place. Activate investigates how green we really are on campus.

Going green. Save the earth. These are both slogans that are creeping into our everyday existence because now, more than ever, there needs to be a movement towards saving the earth’s natural resources. Sadly, they will all run out one day and then we’ll be left with nothing. There is a definite move towards being environmentally friendly, but how does our own fine campus fare in this endeavour?

“Rhodes is not perfect, but it is not a hellhole either,” comments Kyle Langley, SRC Environmental Representative. He says that, while our campus may be lacking in being more environmentally conscious, there is some good work being done in order to improve the state of affairs. He is, for example, worried that the University’s recycling material is not being fetched often enough.

Head of the Department of Environmental Sciences, Charlie Shackleton echoed Langley’s sentiments, saying, “Many dimensions exist to being eco-friendly. Therefore, it is not surprising that the University does well in some and poorly in others,” he says. Examples of being on the road to full environmental awareness, he mentioned, are commitments to a green campus and indigenous species. Other areas of progress include the ground and gardens department using bio-diesel in their lawnmowers. Another, less physical, development is the student forum’s approval in 2007 to introduce an environmental portfolio to the SRC body. Unfortunately, there is a lack of institutional commitment to reuse and recycle paper and envelopes, as well as inadequate infrastructure to monitor water and energy use per building. As a department, however, they are doing their bit. “For example, we have had a postgraduate look at paper streams within the University and make recommendations on how paper use can be reduced,” says Shackleton.

The department is also currently in the process of calculating their personal carbon footprint and when the results have come through, they will look at ways of reducing it. Additionally, they have set up recycling bins in the department and have invited other buildings on the St. Peter’s campus to recycle along with them.

Another step towards being an eco-friendly university was the appointment of Environmental Officer, Nikki Kohly. At the moment, this it is on a temporary basis. “Being eco-friendly is something which needs to filter into everybody’s consciousness,” says Kohly. She feels that it is not a problem that can only be tackled by an individual, it needs institutional and student support. Kohly says that a good place to start would be Orientation weeks, when the first years are still very receptive to many issues.

In terms of energy consumption, some highlight the Tickertape around the Africa Media Matrix as a contested issue. Joe Alfers, technology manager at the department, says that the Tickertape is a device designed to run at all times. So, as much as people would like to see it switched off at night, it is just not possible. “It is part of the design concept of the whole building. In fact, the systems and technology were designed to run continually,” says Alfers. There is streaming media projected onto the plasma screens around the department and also projected onto computer screens. In terms of energy efficiency, the department uses florescent light bulbs which consume 30% less energy. The rule in the department is that all personnel and staff must switch off the lights in their offices before going home. “In short, energy efficiency was always in mind when this building was being planned,” concludes Alfers.

So what can you and I do in order to become more eco-friendly, you might ask? Next time you are browsing the Internet, go to http://www.carbonfootprint.com. Find out what your unique carbon footprint is and how you can go about lowering it. Print using the recycling paper at the computer labs – it will only cost you 10 cents! Do not leave heaters burning through the night. Do not leave your lights on when you are not in your room. The possibilities are endless.

A wealth of environmental information can also be found at the University’s website under the “Environment” tab.

Langley has this advice: “Think twice and educate yourself. We have a beautiful campus, so just appreciate it.” Now in his second year of being the SRC Environmental Representative, Langley hopes to collaborate with residences more intimately, to work closer with Green Revolution and Social Solutions (GRASS) and to generally raise awareness. “We just need to stick and work together,” he says. Shackleton’s advice is that students need to both support and challenge the SRC environmental councillor to be active. Langley also needs to constantly communicate concerns about inadequate environmental performance across all University structures and committees. However, as Kohly poignantly puts it, “change does not happen fast”. But, Rhodents, we will get there.


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