USI relishes clean campus

Paola Marizan

Chelsie Ours thinks USI’s campus is clean, but said she would like to see more student involvement.

“I know USI has different programs, but maybe if they gave organizations more incentives for students to get involved and more notice that would be helpful,” she said. “It would give students more pride on campus knowing that they helped clean up.”

Ours, who is in a sorority, said she would be interested in being part of educational material involving environmental health and awareness.

Indiana ranked No. 10 in a North American year-round particle pollution investigation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Approximately 7 million people died globally in 2012 because of air pollution, according to a new report by the WHO.

The most dominant and rapidly increasing pollution in the last 30 years is air and water pollution. WHO has linked air pollution to the cause of some cancer cells.

For this report, WHO researchers gathered data regarding household air pollution (like the gas from a stove indoors) and ambient air pollution (such as fumes from a car exhaust pipe outside) from every continent.

Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs and Assistant Treasurer Steven Bridges said USI boasts a clean environment.

“An approach from the students to help the environment is vehicles, driving and definitely not pouring things down our drains,” Bridges said.

The university offers education on how to preserve and maintain the environment, and the environmental and health department would be willing to educate students, he said.

“The Office of Public Safety is also involved in this process,” Bridges said. “We work closely with them and the Physical Plant.”

He said the university is conscious and always tries to be environmental friendly.

“We are listed as a small-waste generator,” he said. “We can’t be compared to big companies who dispose more waste.”

The main focus of the environmental and health department is compliance (conforming to environmental laws, regulations, standards and other requirements).

“We always try to comply,” Bridges said. “Then we go into teaching mode and educate everyone about the regulations.”

In 2010, Indiana discharged more than 27 million pounds of toxic waste into rivers and streams, said Paul Doss, USI geology professor. 

He said there are many different types of pollution. Air, water and solid waste pollution are increasing daily.

“There’s a big difference between USI and Southern Indiana,” Doss said. “The (Southern) Indiana campus is a clean space; however, the atmosphere in Southern Indiana is not.”

Southern Indiana is surrounded  by one of the highest densities of coal fire power plant in the nation.

“The air quality is low (in Southern Indiana),” Doss said. “It affects campus at times – often during the summer.”

In terms of water quality, Doss said rain produces small streams of water that are relatively clean, but are affected by motor oil, gasoline and solid waste once it reaches the parking lots.

“Indiana is one of the most polluted states in the country from a water, air and solid waste perspective,” he said.

Coal mining creates its own sources of solid waste and adds to the effects of other types of pollution.

Doss said USI employees who are in charge of environmental health do a good job of maintaining the campus.

“They are very thoughtful about environmental pollution and have made efforts to reduce the amount of chemicals that are used,” he said.

The environmental department has made improvements in the efficiency of materials so that less are used in landscaping to avoid the use of fertilizers and drainage is always kept clean.

Doss questions the effectiveness of recycling and said it depends on the student body – the largest single group on campus.

He said there is still not enough awareness about how important reducing solid waste is. Students should know that throwing a plastic bottle away in the trash can increases the amount of solid waste.

Doss said it’s important for students to remember when they do something as an individual, there are many others doing the same thing, and in the end, it affects all of us. He said students should be aware of their footprint and try to reduce it.

“Stop driving so much,” Doss said. “It’s that simple.”