Perisa Azhir was sitting in a lecture at West Virginia University as the speaker touched on chemistry’s relationship with the environment, including how automobile-generated compounds are shaping the world.
“I was sitting there, and I was like ‘Wow, I’m glad I take the bus and don’t have a car,’” she said.
One day this month, Azhir, 20, waited at the corner of University Avenue and Falling Run Road for her bus as rain dotted her hooded sweatshirt. The forensics junior from New Jersey admits she’s been late when the buses run slow, but she saves money by not having to purchase fuel for a car. She’s so committed to using an alternate form of travel that she’s convinced her roommate to ride the bus to campus instead of driving.
“The bus comes here,” she said. “You don’t have to pay for gas; you’re not destroying your car and destroying the earth by using the car.”
47 percent of all WVU students and visitors drive to campus
21 percent bike or walk
19 percent ride the PRT
7 percent ride a bus or shuttle
5 percent ride in a car someone else is driving
1 percent have some other form of transportation
Source: 2008 transportation study commissioned by WVU
Public transportation trips, Feb. 2010
-75,474 WVU students, staff, faculty
While Earth Day events held throughout the community this month urge consumers to be environmentally responsible, hundreds of residents like Azhir regularly avoid using a car to travel to and from WVU throughout the year. By doing so, they’re making one of the biggest dents they can make in personally generated carbon emissions, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
The organization’s industry data shows that those who live within one-tenth of a mile from a bus stop drive 4,400 fewer miles a year than those who don’t. It’s estimated that a person who takes the bus or other public transportation to work or school reduces carbon emissions by 20 pounds a day, which adds up to 4,800 pounds a year.
WVU’s Director of Transportation and Parking, Hugh Kierig, says the environmental benefits of riding the bus or the university’s Personal Rapid Transit system accompany financial, health and quality-of-life benefits.
For the WVU community, both the PRT and Mountain Line are free with a university ID. WVU contributes approximately $900,000 annually to the Mountain Line Transit Authority.
Then there’s the estimated 70 more minutes you’ll walk a week if you don’t commute using a car. In Morgantown, those who use the bus or PRT are easing congestion on streets in the city, Kierig said. Taking advantage of public transit also creates more periods of time that’s not tied up by driving.
Kierig, who takes the PRT to his office at Mountaineer Station every day, knows this first hand.
“I can read The (Daily Athenaeum) in the morning on the way here or I can do e-mails while I’m on the PRT and on the PRT platform,” he said. “It allows you some more productivity that you don’t have or you shouldn’t be doing while you’re driving.
“We’re just trying to reach out to people to encourage them for a variety of reasons: one is all the green reasons, but also the economic reasons,” Kierig said. “It’s cheaper for them to ride the bus or PRT or walk. It’s better for them to do that.”
Once WVU students, faculty and staff get to the university, they may not notice some of the environmentally friendly changes that have occurred behind the scenes.
Since last summer, WVU’s Facilities Management office has adopted greener practices that cut down on energy consumption.
Baron Smith, Facilities Management’s director of operations, said wax-stripping machines purchased in the fall use only water while sanding coats of wax from floors. Previously, maintenance workers used a stripper solution in the old machines. The new machines, called the Boost, use two-thirds less labor than previous technology, said Steve Bodkins, the assistant director of downtown operations for Facilities Management.
Smith said that translates into a labor savings of seven to 10 hours for every hour the boost machine is used while also eliminating the need to purchase the wax stripper solution.
When it comes time to wax the floors, two different types of wax applicators use less wax in less time when shining the floors. And when workers clean floors or other surfaces, they’re now using micro-fiber cloths that clean better and can be washed 500 or more times instead of being disposed of after every use.
WVU uses environmentally friendly products for all its cleaning with the exception of a product that contains bleach, which Smith said is used much less than it used to be and only when necessary.
When a soap contract expired, Facilities Management looked around for a new product and selected a Green Seal-certified foam soap that is biodegradable, a feature the old soap didn’t have. The hand and shower soap changeover will occur this summer. WVU just recently switched over to paper towels that are not only post-recycled but also cost less.
Smith said the department is pleased with the new changes.
“The Operations Department is constantly reviewing new products as they become available that are more environmentally friendly or have the ‘Green Seal’ certification while considering energy savings, cost savings and labor savings, which allow us to be more efficient while reducing costs,” Smith said.
By Diana Mazzella
WVU News and Information Services
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