University holds second month of sustainability of 2012
It may seem a bit ambitious for the Office of Sustainability to ask everyone at Washington University to dump his car for a month and bike to campus. But this isn’t its first time attempting that this year.
“Car-Free Month,” a university-wide sustainability initiative, challenges students, faculty and staff at each of its four campuses to help reduce the University’s carbon footprint by using alternative modes of transit for the month of October.
The University’s last Car-Free Month in April was minimally publicized, leading some to question its long-term significance.
But by specifically targetting bikers, this iteration of the sustainability challenge has had a more notable impact on campus. Over the past week, the Office of Sustainability has installed a number of new Fixit bike tune-up stations, which provide tools to fix and tune bikes and even places to hang them up while working on them.
Fixit stations are located at the Clocktower, South 40 bike racks, north of Olin Library and the northeast corners of the Danforth University Center and Joseph B. Givens Hall at the Sam Fox School.
Amid a controversial decision by the Student Union Senate to pass a resolution encouraging a plastic bag ban, the car-free effort aims to engage more community members in sustainable practices and spread awareness of the University’s impact on the environment.
Will Fischer, coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, has been an active proponent of alternative transit during his six years attending and working at the University. He biked each of the four years of his undergraduate career.
“We see Car-Free Month as a great opportunity to showcase and highlight members of our community who are true heroes of alternative transportation,” Fischer said. “It’s a way to engage people across the institution in a meaningful way.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 23, Big Sharks Bicycles will offer free tune-ups at the DUC Fixit station from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In addition to encouraging people to use bikes instead of cars, the University is also having teams of individuals work together to maximize calorie burning and minimize carbon dioxide emissions. Signups for the team Car-Free Challenge will remain open through this week.
Trophies awarded at the end of the month include “Consistent & Committed” to the team with the highest percent of car-free trips, “CO2 Destroyer” to the team with the greatest total car-free miles and “The Bowie” (“Ch-ch-ch-changes”) to the team with the greatest change in commute. A celebration and award ceremony will be held Oct. 29 in Goldfarb Commons with light snacks provided.
“It’s a great opportunity for folks who have never tried a car-free mode of transit before,” Fischer said.
In April’s Car-Free Challenge, 17 percent of the 220 registered participants reported to have only taken cars to campus before the challenge.
Other University sustainability efforts include Green Cup, a four-week competition to reduce energy consumption among residential colleges, on-campus apartments and fraternities scheduled to take place this February. Offices on campus may attain green recognition by participating in the Green Office Program.
This November, the University will host climate change expert Bill McKibben as part of this year’s Sustainable Cities Conference.
Alternative transit doesn’t always get such a good reputation on campus. For many students, bikes may pose a nuisance or even a danger as inexperienced or distracted riders sometimes collide with pedestrians.
“I’ve almost gotten run over several times by bikers speeding to class,” freshman Talia Rubnitz said.
“Bikers simply need to let pedestrians know where they are and what side they are passing on,” Rubnitz added. “With this communication, there will be fewer accidents, and people will stop hating on the bikers.”
On the other hand, junior Alisa Li said she has never experienced a biking accident.
“I usually bike to the art school because it’s far away. It takes a lot less time,” Li said. “Sometimes I will bike back at night since it takes less time. It’s definitely convenient.”
The strained relations between pedestrians and bikers on campus notwithstanding, many see biking as an accessible means of reducing environmental impact. Although students may not have a say in alternative energy or environmental legislation, Bear Bikes and some tuning stations lie just around the corner.
With additional reporting by Sahil Patel.