By Ben Kleppinger

Changes are on their way for how Eastern deals with the environment.The Eastern Committee on Responsible Environmental Stewardship (ECRES) developed a plan to create an Office of Environmental Stewardship at Eastern. The office would be at the same administrative level as offices like Facilities Services and Student Affairs.

Some of the other changes proposed by the plan include adding an environmental education requirement to the general education curriculum at Eastern, increasing fees for parking tags and reducing fees for students who don’t drive to campus and “exploring alternatives to parking lot expansion and sprawl.”

The plan also proposes all future construction at Eastern should meet specific environmental standards, and Eastern should attempt to purchase local products whenever possible.

The original plan was for the Office of Environmental Stewardship to be created this semester, said Alice Jones, director of the Environmental Research Institute at Eastern.

But when President Glasser left, she said the process slowed down.

“We’re kind of treading water at the moment,” she said.

Jones said President Whitlock is aware of the ECRES plan, but is waiting to move ahead until funding is available. Jones said the recent change in university presidents means it is unclear when the ECRES plan will go into effect.

But it is possible the new environmental office could be created by fall 2008, she said.

Jones said Eastern’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable are in step with other universities around the nation.

Jones said there were about five universities in the nation five years ago with a director of environmental stewardship or equivalent position. There were 100 universities as of last year, Jones said.

“This is a movement that is happening nationally, and it has really taken off in the last three to five years,” she said.

The purpose of the plan from ECRES is “to see environmental sustainability considered,” Jones said.

Environmental sustainability should become a regular part of how Eastern functions, from what Eastern buys and where it buys it, to how much Eastern throws away and where the university puts it, Jones said.

Lots of little things are already being accomplished at Eastern to improve and maintain environmental sustainability, but those things are going in their own direction without any guidance, Jones said.

Jones said a director of environmental stewardship would give vision and focus to Eastern’s different attempts to have an environmental conscious.

With an environmental stewardship director, “those things would actually be moving towards a central ideal,” she said.

Jones said most universities that are successful at environmental sustainability have had strong support from students.

“The universities that are on the cutting edge had active student bodies.that created energy on their campus,” she said.

“If students tell the administration that it’s a priority it will become a priority. I don’t think students realize they have that much power sometimes, but they do.