Office of Public Affairs

Maine universities' positive report on environmental sustainability noted by USM

Aaron Witham and Asia DiBenedetti, USM Office of Sustainability

Just in time for Earth Day 2017, a sustainability report was recently issued by the University of Maine System for its seven public universities, including the University of Southern Maine. Among the positive news is the System's creation of a new investment policy linked to sustainability. When allocating assets and managing investments, the System will take into consideration environmental sustainability, the effect on our carbon footprint, the treatment of workers and the transparency of their governing principles.

The universities also released a report that shows the seven-campus UMaine System has achieved a 34% decline in carbon emissions over the last decade. Maine’s universities also consume approximately 12% less energy per square foot compared to Northeast peer institutions according to data compiled by Sightlines, a leading education facility and campus asset management company. 

Aaron Witham, USM's assistant director for sustainable programs, noted that everyone is affected by climate change and his office plays a leading role in addressing the issue at USM. He said "Every day is Earth Day in the Office of Sustainability. We do what we do because it's imperative that students graduating in any major understand the importance of sustainability due to all of the challenges we're now facing with climate change."

Witham's office is currently working on a series of goals and initiatives to make USM a "green" campus, including being carbon-neutral by 2040.

One of USM's EcoReps and student, Asia DiBenedetti, spoke of the importance of reaching out to people and making sustainability part of their lives. "The damage to the environment affects not only the current population but future generations."  

She added, "We all have things we can do to change the culture. We just need to question why it is we do what we do, and address those subconscious habits, such as not putting just one or two items in a plastic bag at a store."

USM's EcoReps are students who work closely with the Office of Sustainability to train student leaders to engage and lead their peers in sustainable practices at USM. Projects encompass all manner of environmental subjects, including recycling and waste reduction, biking and alternative transportation, alternative energy and energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, pollution and stormwater, and sustainable landscaping.

To get involved with sustainability efforts at USM, visit the office's website

For more information on the University of Maine System report, you can visit Maine Biz

See a WMTW-TV story on the USM Bike Swap here.