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Opinion | UI fails to fulfill sustainability promises | Part I – Daily Illini

By Safia Khan, Columnist

With a constant influx of news about climate change and its effects on the world, it’s impossible to be unaware of the state of our environment.
College students at the University have been spurred to action, prompted by feelings of climate anxiety and angered by a lack of accountability regarding fossil fuel divestment. 
On the weekend of Oct. 22, the ISR dining center traded its usual reusable plates and cutlery for disposable paper plates and plastic utensils. In my discussions with the dining hall workers, they were unaware of the sudden change and why they no longer had reusable dishes. 
Previous students recall that this unsustainable practice has not only been committed by the ISR Dining Hall but by other dining halls as well, such as the Ikenberry Dining Hall.
While the reusable plates and cutlery in the ISR Dining Hall returned after a few days, the issue of the University casually engaging in unsustainable practices remains. 
The University boasts a Sustainability, Energy and Environment Department, an effective public transportation system and a local farmers market. It seems like, compared to many other universities, the University of Illinois is far from being a climate criminal. 
However, with over $230 million invested in fossil fuels, the University is clearly not much of a leader in divestment from unsustainable practices. The University’s wasteful habits, such as diverting from reusable dishes in the dining hall, are only the tip of the iceberg when one does further research. 
Mainly, the constant construction projects are a testament to the University’s consumerism and desire for expansion. While development isn’t necessarily bad, the problem lies in their lack of consideration for environmental factors when constructing new buildings. 
The University is a leader in technology and ranks number 25 on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of on-site green power users. While securing a spot on the list is a notable feat for any institution, the University should aim for a higher ranking — especially since it prides itself on having a top-ranked engineering program that focuses on technology and innovation.
A positive manifestation of this reputation is the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, which is entirely solar-powered and has “43% less energy consumption than the minimum building energy efficiency standards.” This sustainable strategy should be adopted for all buildings within the University to lessen their climate impact.
Despite the steps the University takes in the direction of sustainability, its successes will be overshadowed as long as these violations continue to take place.
 
Safia is a freshman in LAS.
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