Students need to take part in ASU's sustainability initiatives

ASU is striving to be a net zero campus, and students should be an active part of that

With a current population of about 7.6 billion people, the Earth is subject to constant strain.

Although it may be easy and often lucrative to overlook the damages created by humans, students need to start paying attention, because they have a significant stake in the future of environmental health.

College campuses are historically significant agents of change — this should and can be true for sustainability efforts as well. 

College is one of the best places to learn sustainable practices because students have access to sustainable education. A large and diverse audience and faculty can easily implement change-making initiatives. 

Students at ASU have incredible potential to create change in sustainability. If students focus on a push for investment into sustainable efforts, we could see real change. Student awareness is a key component in this effort.

"Students need to be more aware of the resources they are using and, in many cases, wasting," Nancy Selover, research professor for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and senior sustainability scientist, said. "... Students need to spend more time outdoors outside the city to understand the natural environment around us."

There is a way for every student to get involved in sustainability, no matter the person's interests or abilities.

"For those technically inclined, we need more involvement in developing new technologies to make our electronic world less dependent on traditional energy sources," Selover said. "We need more engineers and entrepreneurs to develop technologies." 

As a leader in innovation, ASU should excel as a leader in sustainability as well.

ASU's School of Sustainability is committed to sustainability efforts, especially on campus. There are also a multitude of clubs for ASU students that are centered around sustainability and conservation.

In its sustainability operations outline, ASU highlights four overarching goals: "Climate neutrality, zero solid and water waste, active engagement and principled practice."

ASU has embraced this mindset, making progress in various areas of environmental protection. 

"ASU is taking quite a few steps in terms of energy consumption – we have the most on-campus solar panels in the nation," Wesley Herche, senior sustainability scientist at ASU, said.

ASU is trying to minimize energy usage through such measures as the Power Parasols.

"ASU is not just promoting sustainability but is practicing sustainability," Selover said. "The Power Parasols, which are shade structures with solar panels on top, provide some cooling around the Tempe campus and generate electricity as part of the University's strategy to use more alternative energy sources and fewer traditional energy sources." 

ASU is striving to become a net zero campus. While the campus focuses on larger scale efforts, students need to participate, which can easily be done through recycling and water conservation efforts. Students need to understand that the choices they make now will impact their quality of life in the future. 

The U.S. consumes a disproportionate amounts of resources, at least one fourth of almost every natural resource. People in the U.S. have more cars than ever before, which results in the emission of more fossils fuels, adding to the greenhouse gases that are depleting the ozone layer.

Herche said that the most effective way to combat environmental damage is through leverage. 

"Take classes, join clubs and meet like-minded individuals," Herche said. "We look for hacks – we need a more complete solution." 

The students and faculty on campus should embrace ASU's No. 1 in innovation title to develop greener and cleaner environmental conditions.

From recycling to big-picture change, everyone has the ability to have a positive impact on the environment. 

Reach the columnist at or follow @adrienne_dunn on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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