Haupt circle, Old Morrison’s sweeping lawn, the shady trees – these are important and measurable goods. In a rapidly developing world where the environment is threatened by so many human factors, campus green space is vital to sustainability for both physical and social reasons. To students, a university campus is a place of education which is transformative and influential in their social/intellectual development as citizens. The physical elements of a campus, and of any place, mirror the formal or ideological, and will impact the mindsets and lifestyles of individuals who will be in positions of power in our country and our world (us!).
The new Back Circle is a hot spot for frisbee, volleyball, hammocking, and other social events, as well a study space and a haven for those who feel the need to get out of dorm rooms and classrooms for more than their 10 minute walk to class. While the green spaces set Transy apart from its urban/suburban environment and help to define the bubble, they also welcome in families, joggers, and dog walkers. Unbeknownst to many, Transylvania also has a garden behind Poole, and partners with Seedleaf in the London-Ferrill community garden, at the corner of 3rd Street and Martin Luther King Drive. Increasing participation in both of these locations by both Transylvanians and members of the community could do wonders for the relationship between the two, and thin the bubble. In addition to positively influencing lifestyles and mindsets, green space enhances mental health of students. Many studies have demonstrated a statistical relationship between green space usage and reported quality of life.
Along with the above benefits, there’s the most obvious positive of having green space: physical sustainability. Transy’s green spaces help to absorb and offset water and air pollutants and prevent soil erosion – an especially virtuous quality given the age of many of Transylvania’s buildings. They slow surface water runoff from the city into lakes and streams, purify the air, regulate the temperature, and replenish ground water (rain doesn’t penetrate concrete). Trees measurably decrease cooling and heating costs when planted near buildings (anywhere from 2-4% for deciduous trees) by providing shade in the summer and insulation in the winter (Environmental). For Transy, that adds up to thousands of dollars saved each school year, the conservation of natural resources used for energy and a decrease in emissions from the use of that energy. Green space conserves both the environment and university funds. Energy savings could go towards great things like scholarships, student organizations, faculty and staff development, facilities, academic programs, student research grants… the list goes on.
While the tendency is to rail on all the Transy quirks people can’t stand, like the long lines in the Raf, difficulty of many GE classes, or Styrofoam cups (now switched back to paper), sustainability and green space improvements at Transy often go unnoticed or unappreciated, simply because they’re unadvertised. In addition to the obvious physical changes on campus such as the recent renovation of Back Circle, invisible changes are going on constantly. The Green Revolving Loan fund supplies the school up to 150,000 to spend on renovations that will reduce energy costs. The fund is revolving, because the school replenishes the fund with the energy costs that are saved with the purchase of more energy efficient items. An example: the decades old ice machine in Forrer was putting gallons of water down the drain, and when the school invested $9,000 from the fund in a new machine, they saved $10,000 in water costs in the first year. The investment paid itself back in a year, and the $9,000 was put back into the fund within the year to be used for other projects.
These improvements are happening all over campus thanks to the fund – new and efficient LED lighting in Beck’s main gym, the pretty new LED lamp posts in Back Circle, motion sensor lighting in bathrooms, low flow toilets… this list of good things that save money and energy also goes on. Have hope for the future, faith in Transyland, and appreciate the grass beneath your feet – it’s not something to be taken for granted in today’s world.