The month of April and specifically April 22, is used to celebrate the earth, however, we can all choose to celebrate Earth day each day. Climate change has affected the Earth in a multitude of ways, such as rising sea levels and an increase in carbon emissions. USM’s Environmental Science and Sustainability departments have been doing their part to be more environmentally friendly on both the Portland and Gorham campus. Similar to many other areas of the world, Maine has been affected by climate change. With notable changes in sea level, our economy, and biodiversity, it becomes clear that climate change has a negative impact. (Climate)
Robert Sanford, Dean of the Environmental Science and Policy Department at USM, said “the first indicators of environmental change are the disease vectors borne by insects because they can move so rapidly and are very responsive to change. Lyme disease increase is one of the most obvious examples.” Due to Maine’s winters becoming shorter because of climate change, has caused tick-borne illnesses such as “Lyme disease” to start to increase. (Climate)
Along with that, the sea level along the coasts of Maine has taken a turn as well. In 2017, a study was done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that found “showed low-level rise scenarios that predict at least six inches of sea-level rise by 2050” (Effects). With the sea level rising, it can cause more flooding and could possibly damage homes and businesses that are along the coast.
Knowing this, USM has taken steps to help do their part for the environment. One small thing is every building at USM having a recycling bin, just lookout for a blue bin in any of the buildings. Sanford stated that “Our ESP students also got the university to create a no-idle bus policy, reducing carbon emissions.” In 2013, USM’s ESP students created this to prevent any possible harmful effects that would come from carbon emissions. (Vehicle)
In order to move toward a greener campus, USM has LEED buildings like the John Mitchell Center, Wishcamper, and Abromson. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is the most used green building rating system in the world. USM is also a part of the University Presidents Climate Change accord, which is a pledge made by each America’s university president to be leaders in the response to climate change (PCCA).
USM also has a Sustainability department, which tries to make each USM campus more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. Their goal is to reach complete carbon neutrality by 2040, with three main focuses that are energy, material resources, and outreach and education. (Sustainability)
With the USM Sustainability department energy pillar, they plan to reduce gas emissions from the heat by 35%, from electricity by 35%, and from transportation by 20%, all by 2025. With their material resources, they want to increase waste diversion waste to 70% and decrease the overall waste by 25%. With the education and outreach goal, their plan is to develop a community around the idea of sustainability. With a link to their entire plan (Sustainability), you can see that most of the goals have been completed or are still in motion.
Hannah Lowell, a sophomore majoring in communication, from Gorham, suggested the idea that “the dining hall could not give us as much waste with the packaging for our food, instead they could give out more reusable items.” If the dining hall were to do this, it would limit the amount of trash that is taken out on a daily basis. Lowell also stated that to do her part for the environment, she recycles and carpools, which decreased the number of carbon emissions.
In honor of Earth Day, every single person can do their part to help make our environment more sustainable. It can be as little as picking up trash on the ground and throwing it out, every little thing matters. With the increased effects of climate change negatively affecting our environment, we all can do more to protect and keep our ecosystem alive.