Friday, May 15, 2015

Environmental Awareness at La Universidad de Murcia

by Steven Beardsley

Wastebasket for cardboard, paper, newspapers, notes, etc.
Wastebasket for glass, bottles, jars, and cans
Studying at a "Green Campus" in Spain
I’ve received the unique opportunity to study in Spain at the University of Murcia from the end of January to the end of June. This gives me the chance to explore Spain and see how the country deals with issues around the environment, environmental education, and water. One of the first things I’ve noticed since arriving is that the university prides itself on being a “green campus.” During the first day of orientation, our coordinator talked about finding different documents online to minimize the amount of paper used. Additionally, much like Hamline University, La Universidad de Murcia and the city of Murcia have established different waste containers for dealing with a variety of waste.

Diagram showing flushing for wastes versus liquids

Color-Coded Wastebaskets for separating waste
At the university there are colored wastebaskets that correspond to different types of waste. The wastebaskets are colorful with different sketches of cartoon people on the front. Brown corresponds to “organic waste” that gets composted; green corresponds to different kinds of glass such as bottles; yellow corresponds to different kinds of metal and plastics, and blue corresponds to paper and cardboard. I especially like the design of the wastebaskets since they make sorting trash fun and memorable. The university also uses dual flushing like some of the restrooms at Hamline University, where pushing in one direction uses less water for liquids.

Conserving Water & Battery Recycling Stands
"Put used batteries here to make Murcia greener each time"
There are nice messages that talk about the importance of responsible water usage. In addition to the wastebaskets and flushing at the university, there are large green stands where people can recycle used batteries. This particular one is at the University of La Merced, but I have also seen several others around the city. Along the city streets are also large color-coded bins that correspond to specific kinds of waste. Like at the university, green is for general garbage while yellow is for plastics and glass. An interesting fact is that garbage actually does not get collected during the morning like in the United States but during the late evening around 11 p.m. to midnight. This became apparent to me when I was trying to sleep and heard the garbage truck going down the street.

"Water is an essential resource for life"

Anyway, Spain also benefits from having the most sun of all European countries, so they take advantage of this by line drying their clothes and not using dryers. This is true even during winter when it gets colder. My experience so far is that clothes take longer to dry in the winter (about 2-3 days), but it’s much more energy efficient. I have also heard about homes in rural areas that take advantage of solar energy, but there is some controversy since that creates more competition with electrical companies. All in all, I feel like la Universidad de Murcia and the city itself is very conscious about dealing with certain kinds of waste in addition to using energy in an efficient manner. I hope to learn more about the environmental initiatives of the city in the later months but otherwise this looks like a good start.

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