Students should be more sustainable

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By Grant Regen

In December of 2014, The Loyalist reported Loyola’s positive transition from incandescent, or classic tungsten filament Edison lightbulbs, to energy efficient fluorescent and LED lights, but is Loyola closer to achieving environmental sustainability needed to combat one of this century’s largest issues—climate change?

Mr. Michael McDermott, Senior Director of Facilities Management, commented in 2014 on the school’s plans for the future. “In the next two years we are planning to slowly phase into LED lighting throughout Loyola, starting with exterior lighting. First, we plan to convert the parking lots to fully LED lit areas,” said McDermott.

With a new school year, Loyola has secured these plans. “The perimeter lights will be transitioned to LEDs first because those are the most cost efficient to convert right now,” said McDermott earlier in the year, “We will be looking at changing them during Christmas, semester and Easter break.”

LED bulbs will soon replace the old fixtures in the parking lots and surrounding buildings, decreasing the school’s energy consumption and setting a precedent for an LED revolution. While this initial change significantly reduces Loyola’s carbon footprint, the school administration needs to focus on providing more funds to advancing the LED transition. Current fluorescent lights used at Loyola will slowly “burn out” over the next five or so years—more than three times sooner than certain rated LED lights. The slow, periodic deaths of these lights provides a premiere opportunity to transition all of Loyola’s lights to LED technology in an economically sustainable fashion.

Lasting longer, LEDs provide the major benefit of manufacturing less material, curbing factory emissions. The design is mainly plastic, as well, which makes the lights incredibly safe compared to the mercury-filled fluorescents or the older glass incandescent bulbs. Rated an extremely low power consumer, the lights pay for themselves through saved electricity costs even with their greater prices. All of these benefits coalesce to make the switch from LED a practical and environmentally responsible choice.

Past the periphery of the school, current social trends destine Loyola to become fully LED dependent. “[Transitioning all of Loyola’s lights to LEDs] will take quite a while. We’re talking about thousands of fixtures. In Berendo alone there are probably four hundred fixtures,” said McDermott, “We will get there, and currently, we are lucky to be using the best technology of fluorescent lights which saves energy and reduces mercury and lead. But, eventually, Loyola could go LED.” This first step toward greater energy efficiency remains a meaningful start toward sustainability, but Loyola falls behind on key environmental technology like solar power and water conservation systems.  

Light fixtures present only one facet of the complexity of a sustainable campus; solar power, recycling, and responsible water usage each continue the environmentally friendly path. McDermott said, “We only have a couple of buildings that solar would make sense to use because you need flat roofs. The buildings that we do look at are the gymnasium, weight room, and Pinney Hall, but all three of those buildings also have air units on the roof that break up the roofing for those solar panels.” Pushing a new master plan, Loyola hopes to incorporate sustainable technology in new projects.

“Right now the school is in the midst of a master plan that started with Hannon/Ardolf then the courtyard, and now we are looking into remodeling Xavier Center,” said McDermott, “So with the master plan going into the design of some of these buildings, we are looking at things like solar panels and sustainability within those. Our future buildings will be sustainable as far as using solar and water programs. I would say within five to eight years Loyola will be substantially more sustainable.” While future buildings provide ideal opportunities to transition into a self-sustaining campus, only imminent action will label Loyola as a  sincerely “green” high school.

Students hold the responsibility toward society to push for more sustainability through supporting technology like LEDs along with recycling on their own parts. Climate change remains a prominent issue whisked aside while its effects continue to intensify. Just as Loyola has continued on their LED promises, the school should push toward a near sustainable future.

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