Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Fraternity helps lead Greeks' green efforts
Phi Gamma Delta praised for actions
By Chiara Austin, Staff Writer

For Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, ringing in the new year and a new semester meant adapting to an environmentally sound lifestyle.

The fraternity's energy-saving efforts make it the first fraternity or sorority on UNC's campus to go completely green.

"We are not trying to change the world by going green, we just want to be responsible citizens in Chapel Hill and try to encourage others to do this, too," said junior Penn Clarke, Phi Gamma Delta's president.

The fraternity installed new shower heads that alter water pressure so less energy is wasted, and the amount of water used while showering is cut by 70 percent.

The fraternity also switched to compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of regular incandescent bulbs to cut down on energy use. Members also placed blankets around water heaters to reduce energy loss by about 35 percent, Clarke said.

"If everybody joined in and did this, so much energy could be saved," he said.

Becoming less wasteful in general, Clarke said, is also a big part of the fraternity's environmental consciousness.

Members regularly take leftover food from meals to a homeless shelter to cut down on waste.

"These are not necessarily huge steps or great, incredible things, but they are things we can try to do to make ourselves less wasteful," said junior Will Duckett, a member of Phi Gamma Delta's green committee.

The green committee meets weekly to discuss new ways to raise money and implement environmental change

This week the fraternity will begin a new recycling program to ensure that any disposed recyclables will be taken to a recycling center. Clarke also said members are working to get rid of all Styrofoam cups and replace them with recyclable cups at the house.

"I know people have tried this in the past," said Matthew Putterman, president of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity."

They're leading by example. (It) is really cool that someone is finally stepping up and doing it."

Most of the changes Phi Gamma Delta made can be done with little money, Clarke said. But in the future and with more funds, members said they hope to purchase energy-efficient appliances, such as washers, dryers and refrigerators to take the next step in energy conservation.

The idea to turn the fraternity into a more environmentally friendly organization came about after a few members realized how much money could be saved in reducing energy loss.

After getting support from the national organization, UNC's chapter elected a few members to its green committee.

"It seems like whenever you hear about fraternities in the news, you hear about hazing or negative aspects," Clarke said. "We wanted to change that."In exploring changes, one of the difficulties the green committee has encountered, Duckett said, has been trying to get people to change their behaviors.

"It's not easy, but everyone sees we are trying to do something different," he said."Everyone's on board - it's just going to be a gradual process - it doesn't happen overnight."