By Natalia Asis, Staff Writer
Many exciting things regarding sustainability are happening at UMF this year as the Sustainable Campus Coalition works intensely on different projects.
Dr. Lucas Kellett received appointment as the new sustainable coordinator. He has many plans for the campus, the students and the community as he tries “to develop a reputation that UMF is a place where sustainability is important,” said Kellett.
“We are thrilled to welcome Luke to this leadership role at UMF,” said President Katheryn Foster in a press release. “UMF has a long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability and raising awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship.”
Kellett has already worked as a sustainable coordinator before in New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest. He said it is “a diverse job.” His main goal is to get everybody to “stay focused on its commitment to sustainability. We are going to try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our fossil fuel consumption, save energy, all of these things,” he said.
“We have a climate action plan, which basically says we want to get to carbon neutral… Basically, no CO2 emissions in 2035,” Kellett said. “But in order for us to have a chance, we need to make significant changes in energy consumption; and one of the things I’d like to do is to continue the work. We have some geothermal energy here on campus which is powering a lot of the buildings on campus.”
A big part of Kellett’s activities are related to the Sustainable Campus Coalition and to working with students. “We have a small group of leaders in sustainability trying to attract more students at UMF” he said.
There are several student workers at the Sustainable Campus Coalition. One of them is Liz Dunn, a senior at UMF. “I wasn’t aware of all the things you can do in your life to be more sustainable and I wasn’t aware about all the things that the campus does for sustainability and that’s what SCC is for,” she said. “I joined SCC in my freshmen year… It’s made me appreciate things more and not take things for granted,” she said. “We do all sorts of events which are super fun and rewarding and we are not extreme… We don’t live in zero carbon emission houses. We do what we can in our lives.”
Kellett’s challenge is related to “trying to rebrand UMF as a destination for students who want to come here who would like to study and work and volunteer in sustainability,” he said. “I’d like sustainability to be a new kind of an additional label we could put on UMF.”
“On my tour in high school, they showed us the Ed Center and told us some of its sustainability features and I thought that was really interesting,” Dunn said.
A big part of being a sustainable school is to have students who recycle. Kellett taught a class last year called “Garbology” in which some garbage from UMF was analyzed by students. This was “to see how well are we recycling, how well are we achieving sustainability goals” and “how well are students involved in that,” said Kellett. “Last year , we found out that the recycling rate was around 25%. That percentage of the trash could have been recycled. The year before that  we had a rate of around 35%. So we had about a 10% annual improvement rate in recycling. Hopefully we can see modest improvement every year,” he said.
Education and awareness are the most important reasons he attributes to this recycling change. “Students are coming to school expecting that there will be recycling. And five to ten years ago that wasn’t an expectation,” he said.
“I think for a portion of the students it [recycling] is very important and they are very committed. Another portion of the students think it’s optional. They don’t view it as necessary and especially valuable. Those are the students we want to get to,” Kellett said.
There are many ways to be eco-friendly without putting much effort. Dunn said, “I try being less wasteful in my life, to buy products that are more sustainable, not to waste food, to bike or carpool and to save energy by turning off lights and power strips.” She thinks that living on campus is easier because “you have so much access all kinds of recycle bins.”
Devin Kelsey, a junior, said, “I think it is important that we recycle and reuse products that we have already created because we don’t have unlimited resources. I separate my stuff, my trash. I have multiple reusable bottles; I turn off lights and unplug anything that doesn’t need to be plugged; I use recycled paper made from sugarcane and I limit my time in the shower.”
Kellett’s mission is related to getting “a large installation of solar panels on the outside of buildings so that people can see that we are committed to saving energy.” He said, “One project is to add to the energy mix of what we have which is electricity, oil and all these other things. But we are committing to solar power.”
SCC is going to continue working on composting, a project that started last year. “We have some students that are working on the compost which started last year and students are now trying to expand the composting project on campus which is basically at the dining hall and trying to expand the composting in buildings on campus and to the business in the town of Farmington,” said Kellett.
Most of the projects involving students will be related to helping in local food events. “There’s a Spring Fiddlehead Festival that we are going to be partnering with the community and other folks. Students will be helping with that. There’s another event this fall in West Farmington,” Kellett said.
“Having students go out, not just doing sustainability work on campus,” is what’s most important for Kellett. “Going out to the community and making bonds with citizens and non-profits.”