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Energy events promoted

Brian McKenzie | Monday, September 24, 2007

Responding to an advocacy group’s report card that graded the University poorly for its sustainable policies, Notre Dame is aggressively promoting the upcoming Energy Week, which begins Oct. 7.

In February, the Sustainable Environmental Institute gave Notre Dame a D-minus – the lowest grade of 100 schools measured – for the University’s greening and endowment policies.

The Student Senate on Sept. 19 voted 24-0 to endorse a commitment to promote carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. The measure was a “strong gesture to work towards [those goals],” Stanford senator Ryan Brellenthin said.

“The first step to improvement is to measure carbon emissions,” he said.

Doing so would be an “eye-opener” that would encourage students to take small steps to reduce their environmental impact, such as using more efficient light-bulbs and turning off electronic appliances when they are not in use, he said. Brellenthin also said that the University’s off-campus efforts, such as planting trees in Uganda, would move Notre Dame towards carbon neutrality.

Frank Incropera, former dean of the College of Engineering, will promote ecological awareness by leading a discussion on Thursday. The event, “Charting a Sustainable Energy Future,” will focus on the world’s dependence on nonrenewable “fossil fuels” and the effects of projected decreases in the output of oil and natural gas. It will also discuss the evolving role of nuclear energy and coal and whether shifting to a hydrogen-based economy is possible.

Energy Week will feature several contests and events designed by the Energy Club’s student advisory board to create ecological awareness on campus – including energy quizzes published in The Observer that will award cash prizes.

Students will also have the opportunity to win cash prizes in a video competition. Glen Water, the video contest coordinator, said the best 30 second and two-minute submissions that “motivate and inform viewers” about environmentalism will win at least $100, though he hopes to raise enough money to offer $500 prizes.

Water said the main obstacles to environmental goals on campus are that students do not know what they could do to help the environment – or even why they should.

“I was inspired by a seminar offered by the Center for Social Concerns over spring break, Energy and the Environment,” he said.

Water called the course, which had only 12 students, “life-changing” and hoped that the video competition would offer the same experience to a campus-wide audience.

Junior Jon Poelhuis said that he might be interested in watching some of the videos, particularly if they were funny.

He said that An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, “got people talking” about environmental issues. An Inconvenient Truth will be one of the environmentally themed films screened on campus during Energy Week.