Bethel faculty address the school’s approach to environmentalism

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March 15 marks the annual World Consumer Rights Day. For the past week, the Bethel Beacon has published a series of stories regarding consumer rights and environmentalism. We’ve discussed Bethel’s building a Unity Garden on campus, as well as Dave Warkentien’s solar house right off campus. We’ve also asked what students and faculty feel and think about climate change at large. But what’s the boots-on-the-ground reality about environmentalism? In other words, what does Bethel do to take care of its environment? “Bethel works diligently to ensure proper use of our utilities, recycling, lighting, water, etc,” wrote David Armstrong, vice president for business services, in an email to the Beacon. “Some examples include: LED lighting (we are currently transitioning our old lighting to LED), Dyson hand dryers (in Huffman) as a first step toward paper-towel replacement (no further action has taken place here), Unity Garden (an innovation project among Bethel faculty/staff) – already in progress behind the Art Building, motion sensor water facets in various restrooms on campus, cardboard recycling (dumpsters on campus for paper products) (and) we have an Energy Management System that manages our thermostats in larger buildings (Wiekamp, AC, DC and ER).” “We recycle,” said Butch Breedlove, physical plant director. “We recycle paper and plastics and aluminum and so on and cardboard. We just put it in one dumpster down there by Sailor (Hall.) It's dumped pretty regularly, and it's specifically separated from our other trash. And we put it in a clear plastic bag, so the recycle people can see it.” When asked if it’s a priority or more of a side project, Breedlove said, “I would call it a side project. Because a lot of people are interested in recycling, so we just do it, and we do it as a courtesy, I guess, as much as anything. But...unfortunately, we don't make it a priority.” Still, recycling isn’t the only environment-centered move Bethel has made. When asked if he felt that Bethel was a sustainable campus, Breedlove said, “Well, (it's) sustainable in that we do what we can to save energy. We've changed light fixtures around campus.  We are going all LED campus-wide or as much as we can. So, we do what we can, and, number one, it benefits our electric bills, and number two, it saves power for the grid. So, that's one of the main things we do. We also install high-efficiency heating systems whenever we can.” President Gregg Chenoweth, in his inaugural address in the fall of 2013, presented what he called the “GREATer” program, which placed focus on five major areas for campus development, represented by the acronym GREAT:  Grow, Revival, Encores, Aesthetics and Testify. I asked Breedlove how the GREATer agenda fits into Bethel’s environment. “Well, aesthetically, we want to make the best first impression, whether it's pulling weeds, picking up trash, making sure windows are clean (or) things like that,” he said. Bethel is a community made up of not just faculty and staff, but, of course, thousands of students as well. I asked Breedlove if he felt there was anything students could do to help Bethel become more sustainable. “Other than recycling, probably not,” he said. “I mean, we've talked about composting with the Dining Commons, and I think that they may push for that now that we're going to have that Unity Garden. So, there may be something that comes out about that, too.” “As for what students can do to help increase sustainability on campus,” wrote Armstrong. “I heard (there) used to be a student group that was focused on recycling and other sustainability interests. Maybe those students, who have concerns, can play a role in addressing those concerns through reforming this club/group. They could start by contacting student life and finding out what it was and maybe they can pick-up where it stopped.” Finally, when asked if environmentalism is something that is brought up on campus, or if it should be, Breedlove said, “It takes money to do that kind of thing, it really does. If you're going to really go into a full-blown recycling program, (then) it takes money to do that. It takes money to save energy. It takes money to be sustainable. It really does.” Armstrong continued, "I have not heard any environmental concerns from students. I have not heard students bring this up as an issue at Bethel.” I asked if he felt that it’s an issue that should be brought up. Breedlove said, “Sometimes I think we're ‘committee’d’ out...I really do. I think it can be, but I think it almost has to be...that has to be student-led...as staff and faculty-people, I think we have enough on our plates."
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