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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

October 4, 2010 - 6:45pm

One of the policies Greenback U. has implemented, as it strives to be more environmentally and economically sustainable, prohibits vehicles from idling on campus for more than one minute at a time. Except in emergency situations, it applies to all cars and trucks -- university-owned, personal and commercial. The lawyers well me we can't restrict county- or city-owned vehicles, but signs at appropriate spots on campus don't make that exception explicit; if the driver of a Backboro city car thinks (s)he's covered by the policy and switches the motor off, I'm certainly OK with that.

What I'm less OK with is the low level of compliance from certain departments within the University. Many physical plant employees got in the habit long ago of leaving the motor idling when they park outside a building (especially if the truck they're driving has some sort of equipment mounted on the back), or sit at the curb waiting for someone or something. Truth be told, if that habit weren't widely shared, we probably wouldn't have bothered to institute the policy in the first place.

Delivery drivers tend to comply. Drivers waiting, in the evening, for a spouse or such to come out of work tend to comply. Students tend to comply, at least many of them. But physical plant folks are pretty much hit-or-miss, regardless of the number of trainings we conduct or the number of times their supervisors remind them. In fact, I recently compared fuel usage to mileage logs for a number of the physical plant trucks, and it's pretty obvious that they're burning more fuel standing still than moving around campus.

I don't know, just yet, whether I'll push for greater enforcement or not. Given the way these folk work all around campus, the ad hoc fuel-vs-miles comparison is indicative but wouldn't make a good continuing management metric. (I don't want to incent folks to drive more miles, just to better hide the time spent idling.)

But I'm thinking that I might try to recruit some form of student oversight here. Cell phone videos. A Facebook group, maybe. Maybe an article in the student newspaper. Nothing I'd want to take responsibility for, as a staff member. But, perhaps, the right hint whispered in the ear of the right undergraduate . . .


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