As we celebrate Earth Day April 22, 2022, dedicated to the theme “Invest in Our Planet,” CU Denver continues to invest in concrete measures to help mitigate the effects of climate change and create a more sustainable future for our campus, city, and planet. Highlights of our efforts over the past several years include:
City Heights Residence Hall Certified LEED Gold
The City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons opened in August 2021. And just this month, it became the fourth CU Denver building to apply for and be granted a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, following the Business School, Student Commons, and Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center. LEED-certified buildings are designed, constructed, and operated to incorporate advanced energy-saving systems and eco-friendly products. Among other environmentally sound features, City Heights sports a green roof, with a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing system. Green roofs reduce roof temperatures and help moderate the urban heat island effect.
Promoting Bee Research
In 2021, Christy Biles, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and her research team added new beehives to the green roof of the City Heights Residence Hall. The bees were the latest addition the bee health research team made to the 15 hives they spread around the Denver Metro area in April 2017, including placing five hives on top of the CU Denver Student Commons building. The latest addition contributes to a continuing effort to learn how to better support and protect pollinators that play an essential role in food supply and have been threatened in recent years by environmental pollution and climate change that has led to habitat loss.
CU Denver Adds Composing Bins to Buildings
When CU Denver students returned to campus for the spring 2022 semester, they found new composting bins in all CU Denver buildings as part of the continuing expansion of composting services by the Auraria Sustainable Campus Program(ASCP), founded in 2004 to reduce campus ecological impact and dependence on fossil fuels. Composting breaks down organic materials that would otherwise end up in landfill and create methane, a major contributor to greenhouse gases and driver of climate change. Compostable items include produce, cooked and raw meat and fish, eggshells, paper, some food packaging, and more.
Ongoing Auraria Sustainable Campus Program
For more than a decade the ASCP, a growing network of students, faculty, and staff from CU Denver and its sister institutions Community College of Denver (CCD), and Metropolitan State University (MSU), along with community members, have fostered and furthered projects and programs to combat environmental damage and climate change. ASCP strives to reduce Auraria’s dependence on fossil fuels while reducing costs and improving campus quality of life through projects such as providing water bottle filling stations, bike fix-it stations, LED lighting upgrades, and composting.
CU Denver Researchers Explore Possible Climate Change Factors
CU Denver researchers continue to contribute in a variety of ways to a growing body of scientific understanding of the possible causes and prevention of climate change. A few examples include CU Denver scientists Katharine Keslsey and Brian Buma’s $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to determine how to define “climate refugia” for the Front Range; evolutionary biologist Sara Branco’s NSF grant to study metal tolerance in symbiotic plant-fungal systems; and associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering Mark Golkowski’s research using lightning storms to measure and diagnose earth’s upper atmosphere.
Building Bike Structures to Combat Theft
Architecture students in the CU Colorado Building Workshop spent their 2020 fall semester constructing two badge-access bike pavilions on the Auraria campus capable of protecting about 100 bikes belonging to students, faculty, and staff. Designed to help promote the use of bikes as an environmentally friendly form of transportation while preserving personal safety, the structures are equipped with security cameras and LED lighting and accessed with a badge activated through the ASCP.