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HERO saves the sustainable day

November 30, 2007

Photo of the HERO "green team," at the San Francisco Green FestivalSprouting up in the on-campus housing community, TREO (Towers Residents' Environmental Organization) began as a themed living community in the Towers at Centennial Square, housing 58 residents interested in environmentally responsible lifestyles. Spearheaded this academic year by Jim Bolinger, associate director of residential property management, TREO immediately set out to involve the entire University Housing community and resulted in HERO (Housing Eco-Friendly Residents' Organization), a residence-wide project to promote "green" lifestyles among students.

"When I say we hit the ground running, we really did," said Aundrea Dominguez, assistant area coordinator for the Village at Centennial Square and senior staff member for University Housing. Through an agreement with Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI), the group wasted no time garnering 5,200 compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) through the Sierra Club, donated by PG&E. HERO organized an on-campus residential CFL-distribution program, encouraging each resident to sign a pledge to replace two incandescent bulbs with two CFLs.

Although most of HERO is comprised of original TREO members, the collective effort is growing. "We want to create a community of like-minded individuals to work toward sustainability," said Keir Johnson, resident assistant for TREO. "We're starting small, but hoping … to attract more members so that we can execute these larger-scale programs. That's our main focus: creating a buzz for ourselves."

Photo of Sarah Jennings, president of HERO, and Aundrea Dominguez preparing a garden bed frame for the HERO community garden After a few months of existence, HERO has started a community garden behind Mary Park Lounge replete with cabbage, kale, radishes, artichokes, strawberries, garden flowers and an assortment of kitchen herbs. The group also sent a "green team" of 10 HERO volunteers to the San Francisco Green Festival in early November, and HERO has proposed a myriad of other projects to encourage eco-friendly awareness on campus: a HERO Harvest Festival, recycling how-to stations, cleaner move-out procedures, a "Bike Kitchen" to promote zero-carbon emissions transportation, beach clean-up days and a campus-wide distribution of artistic, sculpture-esque recycling bins made from found materials.

"People have a really confused idea about what you can and can't recycle, what you can and can't compost," Dominguez said. "It's alarming the difference between how much can actually be recycled and how much trash you actually have left over."

Dominguez lives in the first "green" college student housing unit in San Francisco, an on-campus apartment equipped with energy-efficient appliances, furniture and carpet made from recycled materials and other green-minded features. The "Green Apartment," open since March 2007, is one of the University's many sustainability initiatives, including $1,057,177 in grants and incentives from PG&E; composting of food waste from the student dining center; and a pilot recycling program with a 75 percent diversion rate.

With approximately 2,500 students in formal university housing, Bolinger hopes to involve at least 10 percent of on-campus residents in eco-friendly HERO activities. "We want the residents to take this with them," Bolinger said. "This is a foundation for life: to learn how to be more sustainable."

--Student writer Lisa Rau with Ellen Griffin


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Last modified November 30, 2007 by University Communications