Thursday, August 14, 2008

Spin, Not Green

Spin, Not Green

Here's another item out of the August 14, 2008 Inside Higher Education where again, a commenter immediately noticed what I had noticed:
As campuses across the country look for ways to reduce their own carbon footprint and the environmental impact of their staff and students, many have tried to add services (like offering loaner bicycles as an alternative to the use of gas guzzling vehicles) to change behavior. Few if any, however, are actually saying No.

But Bowdoin College is, by banning cars for freshmen.

Starting in the fall of 2009, first-year students, who like second-year students are required to live on campus, will no longer be allowed to keep a car on the Maine college’s grounds.

While some institutions have historically restricted freshmen from having cars to keep them involved in campus life or to minimize campus parking woes, Bowdoin’s ban, first raised by a member of the president’s Climate Commitment Advisory Committee, was specifically designed to make Bowdoin greener, says Tim Foster, dean of student affairs. “The driver for it, no pun intended, was really an environmental one,” he says.

Eighty-three first-year students had cars on the campus last year, Foster says, but most of those cars weren’t used much during the year. Instead, the freshmen primarily used their cars as a way to get home, especially on breaks and at the end of the semester.

Foster says Bowdoin has a number of transportation services either in the works or already in place on the campus. The Bowdoin Communal Bike Club provides community bikes for those wanting to ride from place to place. The college recently entered into an agreement with Zipcar and two vehicles will be available to students starting this fall. The Bowdoin Shuttle, which starts September 4, the first day of classes, will be an “on demand” service that will give rides to students from campus into town. (The campus is within walking distance to most needed things in Brunswick.)
So what, exactly, does this ban accomplish, except inconvenience students who will now drive to school at the start of the semester, force them to find a spot off campus to park their car, and then drive it home again at the end of the semester? Like most environmentalism today, it's about appearing righteous, not being protective of the environment.

UPDATE: A reader points out that the net effect is more likely that the freshman's parents will deliver their child to college, and then retrieve him from college. What was one round trip to school will now be two round trips to school--and with somewhat worse mileage, because the vehicle will have at least two, perhaps three persons in it for some legs.

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