Students take part in ‘Climate Challenge’

Students who have seen Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" may be worried about global warming and want to take action in their communities. Now, many students have united to work toward a common goal — ending pollution.

There are more than 300 campuses across the nation working together in an effort to reduce their impact on the environment through a program called Campus Climate Challenge. The program's goal is to implement a 100 percent clean energy policy at the participants' respective schools.

According to the Campus Climate Challenge Web site, the program arose in September 2005 through a partnership of almost 50 organizations, including Greenpeace and the National Wildlife Federation, working toward a cleaner environment and a decrease in emissions across the United States and Canada.

Campus Climate Challenge has also partnered with national student organizations Energy Action Coalition and It's Getting Hot in Here to campaign for cleaner campuses.

Arthur Coulston, digital organizer of the Energy Action Coalition, said the coalition is focused on climate and energy change issues in the U.S. and Canada.

According to Coulston, the Energy Action Coalition convinces many organizers to help with environmental efforts and provides support to local groups throughout the country. The coalition's main project right now is the Campus Climate Challenge.

"The goal is to get a lot of students working to get campuses to buy renewable energy," Coulston said.

"Think MTV," the cable channel's initiative to get young people involved in domestic and international issues, is also working with Campus Climate Challenge to offer rewards to those who participate in the challenge. Prizes include funding for the group's environmental projects, an eco-friendly renovation of a campus hangout and an MTV concert at the winner's school.

Such incentives, and the cause of eliminating pollution, have drawn a large number of schools to participate in the Campus Climate Challenge, including nine Wisconsin schools. Marquette has not joined the national effort.

According to Coulston, most students are successful with campaigns to convince schools to reduce emissions. Usually, there are quick and ambitious shifts toward climate neutrality, he said.

There are many resources available to those wishing to make a change at their school, Coulston said. Campus Climate Challenge offers resources, skills and regional training.

"There are many different approaches to the problem," Coulston said. "Campus Climate Challenge unites and connects them all."

A local organization working with Campus Climate Control is the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group. There are WISPIRG groups at several Wisconsin schools, including the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

David Shaffer, campus organizer of the WISPIRG group at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has worked with the Big Red, Go Green! campaign at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the past, which was a model for the Campus Climate Challenge.

Shaffer said the Campus Climate Challenge is an educational campaign to get students to take action. He said the program encourages environmental policies, including purchasing programs for cleaner sources of energy, on-site installation of clean energy production and the updating of retrograde energy sources.

"This program shows that students are setting the standard and expect others to follow them," Shaffer said.

Aimee McGinty, co-chair of Marquette's Students for an Environmentally Active Campus and College of Arts & Sciences junior, said the group talked with the university last year about buying even a small amount of green energy, and was unsuccessful.

However, she is willing to try again, and feels it is something worth working on with SEAC.

"I don't think it's something we should give up on, but it's a challenge," McGinty said.

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