Earth Week: UNO celebrates sustainability and education


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Trent Ostrom

Each student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha has the opportunity make a profound impact on the world in the area of sustainability. All that is required of living a more sustainable life is a few life-style changes and a conscious effort in decision-making.

Sarah Burke, University of Nebraska at Omaha sustainability coordinator, said students can make an impact by using refillable water bottles, shopping local for food, leaving the car at home, recycling and reconnecting with nature.

Students often buy a bottle of water on the way to class for the sake of its convenience. According to Burke, these plastic bottles come back to ultimately harm the environment. By bringing a refillable water bottle to class, you not only help the environment but you also save money.

“If you spent $1 to $1.50 each day on water, you could potentially spend more than $500 a year on water,” Burke said. “The United States is a privileged country to have water that’s clean, inexpensive and regularly available.”

Many of UNO’s buildings have water fountains equipped with filling stations to help students fill their reusable bottles.

Burke explained that when going out to eat, one should consider how far a dish traveled to arrive to their plate. By shopping and eating local, you eliminate some of the toxic air that would have been used when transporting the food to your plate.

“It’s not uncommon for our food to travel farther to us than we will ever [travel] in our lifetime,” Burke said. “We can’t eliminate the travel of an item like a banana, but we can still do our best to look for what’s produced locally.”

Many associate local eating with Saturday or Sunday morning stops to the farmer’s market, but there are other opportunities to support local food. Tomato Tomato offers local food all year round.

In Omaha, individuals love their cars. However, more vehicles on the road not only means more
greenhouse gases being released to the environment, but also more congestion on the roads. UNO’s MavRide program allows students to use Omaha public transportation, as students can swipe their Mavcard to ride on the bus for free.

By living by the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, students have the opportunity to give back to the environment. To help students best apply recycling, Burke is working on site-specific signs for UNO buildings.

“Throwing away something into the trash is easy because you don’t have to think about it,” Burke said. “With recycling, you do have to consider whether or not something can be recycled.”

Burke is currently creating signs that are site specific to UNO buildings such as the Milo Bail Student Center to help students recognize what can and cannot be recycled from that building.

In the digital age that preoccupied college students live in, it can be difficult to reconnect with nature. Burke explained that reconnecting with nature isn’t as difficult as some make it out to be.

“Often when people hear about connecting with nature, they associate it with activities like hiking and white river rafting,” Burke said. “By simply taking a walk and looking at the trees around you, you have the opportunity to become more refreshed than what you were.”


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Sarah Burke’s name. We apologize for the error.