[The following is a guest column by Rachel Hare of the UMD for Clean Energy]

No matter what the future holds for the University of Maryland’s East Campus development, students have shown that they are interested in making the project greener.

Last week, UMD for Clean Energy’s panel discussion, “Making East Campus a Beast Campus,” attracted some 70 attendees, consisting mainly of students.  Also in attendance were members of the College Park City Council, College Park Mayor Andy Fellows and Vice President for Administrative Affairs Ann Wylie.

“We absolutely rocked it tonight,” said Matt Dernoga, UMD for Clean Energy’s campaign coordinator. “It might not be quantifiable right now, but I can guarantee you, based on the reaction of the decision-makers in attendance, this development is going to be greener thanks to tonight than anyone was counting on yesterday.”

The panelists discussed how an environmentally conscious East Campus development would be in keeping with the university’s ambitious environmental standards. 

Tom Liebel, an architect and one of the first 25 U.S. professionals to receive LEED accreditation, asserted that the university could build an environmentally sound development that also fosters a sense of community by combining economic, social and environmental sustainability.
UMD for Clean Energy hopes that the development will be something that caters to the immediate area in order to reduce commuter congestion.  But the group would also like to see a development that is accessible to surrounding communities through public transit.

Enter Ralph Bennett, Director of Purple Line Now.  Bennett stated that by making the Purple Line accessible to the University of Maryland, the amount of incoming traffic to the university and the new east campus could be greatly reduced.

The new development should also be one that does not harm surrounding communities with dirty or inefficient waste- or storm-water-management. 

Everything running off the streets of College Park eventually ends up in local waterways, said James Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society.  During the panel, Foster discussed ways for the east campus development to recycle storm water hygienically, and manage waste effectively.

When confronted with student questions about the project, Ann Wylie, University of Maryland vice president for administrative affairs, said that the east campus project would be as transparent and environmentally friendly as possible.  Input from students would be considered during the planning as well, she said.

UMD for Clean Energy hopes that the event has educated students about the new development to open up this kind of dialogue between administration, developers, environmental advocates, and students.