‘Green’ lights positive

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Christmas trees shined brighter last year with the help of new LED lights, and soon, streetlights in various Wisconsin cities might as well.

The cities of Waukesha, Racine and Madison will be implementing the use of LEDs in their streetlights, then asking residents to express their opinions on the new lights. If the results are optimistic, many more cities in Wisconsin might use a portion of their federal funding to upgrade their streetlights as well. Waukesha is replacing 1,000 of its 1,400 streetlights and aiming to save $250,000 over the next year. Racine is replacing 1,000 of their 3,600 lights, and Madison will be testing out about a dozen different types of LED light bulbs on a section of one street, East Washington Avenue.

According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, the public likes the new streetlights so far. Apparently, the LED lights cast a brighter, cleaner white glow than typical streetlights’ yellowish tint. The LED lights also make it easier to view the vast night sky, as their sheen is directed straight down and hardly competes with the natural stars shining above.

What this valiant effort comes down to is the world’s latest trend of “going green.” Personally, I am a proponent of the green movement and do my best to contribute to the efforts being made.

I encourage others to do so, as well. The streetlight changeover has my full support, as I can readily see no disadvantages to the change. The new lights will save energy immediately and money in the long run, so it seems to be a logical choice. Ideally, many Wisconsin cities will follow suit, and hopefully Eau Claire will be among them.

While we’re on the subject, there are myriad other green ideas to be put to good use as a college student. A frequently heard complaint about the green movement, or an excuse to not participate, is the high cost of greener materials and the average college student’s inability to pay for them. Yes, LED lights cost more than normal bulbs, and yes, eating food that was grown locally and leaves a much less negative impact on the environment costs more than a processed-to-death bag of Doritos and a two-liter of Coke.

We’ve all been inundated with do-gooders urging us to decrease our carbon footprint, but it’s not nearly as difficult or expensive as one might think. In fact, college students are at an opportune age to become more environmentally minded citizens, as we are now old enough and wise enough to make our own responsible decisions for ourselves and our planet.

Small changes count, such as the transportation we choose. Many students don’t have access to cars in the first place, meaning we are using them less anyway.

When we do need to travel, a variety of better options are available to us: we can carpool with a fortunate friend that has access to a car, take the bus, and soon we will be able to ride a bike as the temperatures rise and snow retreats into the ground.

Recycling is also made easy, especially on campus. One can hardly throw away a dead cat without hitting a recycling receptacle, and that’s a good thing. Laziness is no longer an excuse, as the bins are neatly labeled to help you dispose of everything from yesterday’s homework papers to this morning’s glass Frappuccino bottle.

Even the cafeteria is a green place to be, as the brown napkins used are made from recycled materials and there are compost bins near the exits.

You can even help the effort by shutting down your computer at night and turning off your lights, fans, TV, radio, etc. whenever you leave the room. You can also wash your clothes with cold water, saving the energy it takes to heat it. This preserves the colors and requires less detergent anyway (saving you money). Speaking of money, switch to online banking. This paperless option saves you a lot of groans at the mailbox when you open it to find boring bank envelopes inside. You can also decline printing a copy of your receipt at checkout counters, saving even more paper. And speaking of paper, print on both sides of it! All software programs easily enable this, and I seriously doubt your professor will mind having a slightly less heavy stack of papers to grade. Spatial reasons alone prevent me from jotting down more eco-friendly ideas, proving that there are countless simple ways to decrease our daily impact on the planet.

If cities in Wisconsin are succumbing to the green phenomenon, college campuses can too, starting with ours. Since there’s really no downside to contributing to energy conservation and the health of the planet, going green is one bandwagon you can feel good about jumping on.

Kuether is freshman journalism major and copy editor for The Spectator.

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