Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Making USM environment-friendly

(This article was published in 2005 for my column, Envirowatch, in the college newsletter, Citadel. This was written upon return from my US graduate studies. Some of the ideas may still be or no longer relevant)
For the past two years, we have witnessed a stark increase of our population from merely around five hundred to over a thousand students. Our college has grown so fast that we need to keep up with our instructional facilities and equipment. An increase in population can be seen as a development for our college but can be a headache in environmental management.

This column is devoted to current issues and trends pertaining to environmental sciences and engineering. On the next few articles, I will be writing some topics ranging from Kyoto Protocol to our own Clean Water Act. We will also cite some worthwhile endeavors by our LGUs in their pursuit for clean and green environment.

But let us set aside first concerns in the global and national arena. Why don’t we look first at our own backyard? My first day of work in USM after two years of hibernation is full of “green questions”. I cannot help but notice the enormous problems that we have in our campus environment. I cannot help but say, “Are we environment-friendly?”

On this particular episode of my column, I will devote every byte of my thoughts to our current solid waste management as well as our current state of air quality.

Solid Waste Management in USM

The growing number of our students is equated to a considerable volume of waste generated. Our college serves as one of the service buildings of the university academic complex. As such, we also serve as a “disposal facility” for wastes generated by our faculty and students both from CENCOM and other transient occupiers. Needless to say, they turned our classrooms, lobbies, and hallways as virtual “dumpsites”.  Of course our janitorial services tried everything to cope up with the cleaning demand but still end up with a little “Payatas” right beside our Teakwood Park. 

This scenario is not confined in CENCOM. Other service college buildings followed the same fate as ours. We should not be complacent regarding this issue. Solid Waste Management is becoming a serious business in the Philippines. Did you know that a dozen mayors is facing possible fine and prison terms for not following the provisions of RA 9003 otherwise known as Ecological Solid Waste Management Act? What are the main reasons for their prosecution? They simply did not close their open dumpsites. What are open dumpsites, by the way? We will not go far. Our garbage pits near Babu’s canteen, is by technical definition, an open dumpsite. And RA 9003 says this type of dumpsite should be closed by now and should be converted to a controlled dumpsite. By February 2006, all these type of disposal facilities should be converted to landfills.  We even violate RA 9003 as well as the Clean Air Act by burning these wastes!

We simply need an Integrated Solid Waste Management in USM. We can implement two strategies - waste diversion and source reduction – to reduce our stockpile of solid waste. 
Though not thoroughly characterized, we can say that a large proportion of solid wastes are paper products. This should give us a happy thought since paper can be collected and sold to recycling plants. Other wastes are biodegradable in nature (e.g. leaves, yard trimmings). We can create a compost pile for these resources (I’d like to call them resources than waste). If we can implement this diversion tactics, we can significantly reduce our need for a disposal space.

Source reduction, as the name implies, is trying to reduce waste by not creating them. Some examples are:
a)   Imposing double-sided printing for our reports and documents.
b)   Encouraging students not to use cover sheets and folders for their term papers, etc.
c)   Use of single spacing for final reports.
d)   Why not submit draft theses in disk? In this way, an adviser will just edit the work and give it back to the concerned for final printing. It would save paper which would certainly end up nowhere.
e)   Encourage the use of reusable workbooks. Why not buy and sell used workbooks?
f)   Consider littering as cheating (?)

Worsening Air Quality in USM

You have to spend the first 15 minutes of lecture listening to the sound of… (music? Ha ha). The rush hour is simply a nightmare. Daig pa natin ang mga urban campuses sa ingay at usok.

Of course, we can certainly translate that to technical terms. An overloaded motorcycle can emit more particulates. Two-stroke engines are less efficient, thus, would only emit more burnt fuel into the air in every work they impart. In other words, only few drops of gasoline are being used to carry our butts around the campus, we inhale the rest. There is smog around the campus.

I must say that it takes political will and careful thought to address this problem. We have to consider livelihood. We can certainly not ask tricycle operators to stop servicing our university. But we can do a little to ease the problem:
a)  Encourage students to walk from their boarding houses to school. That means start walking at around 6:30 am or 12:30 pm. Sometimes, it will also take you 30 minutes riding a tricycle to CENCOM via IASA, ULS Science, CHEFS, and Annex
b)  Perhaps re-schedule some classes in a way that not all would start at 7 am or 1 pm. Some will start 15 or 30 minutes late. In this way, the polluted air can be diluted and dispersed.
c)   Why not implement a shuttle bus (multicab) system? Kung pwede sana electric jeeps!
d)  Use bicycles! Sa mahal ng pamasahe, bicycles are worth investing. Student governments may opt to implement a bicycle loan for students.

(A sequel will be written shortly comparing USM then and now, in terms of environmental consciousness)


  1. FYI: USM has a vermicomposting facility where most of the biodegradable materials (grass clippings, leaves, paper) are composted with the aid of African Nightcrawlers. The product of vermicomposting which is the vermicompost is sold as soil enhancer. A lot of researches has already been conducted on its utilization in many agricultural crops. The facility has also extended services to different LGUs, SUCs, NGOs, POs on how vermicomposting is done.

    Re: Air Quality. USM has already banned the entry of two-stroke tricycle inside the campus as approved by the Board of Regents.

    USM is doing its best to be an environment-friendly university. Thank you for your support. Let us all do our part!

  2. Hi Maam Josh! This article was written way back 2005. I am about to write a sequel comparing the difference between then and now. And the positive directions USM have undertaken. Thanks anyway for visiting this blog.

  3. Sa Cencom, update lang po, gumawa po kami last year ng MRF, improvised trash bin at vermi composting sa likod ng eng'g bldg. The purpose of which are: MRF-mabawasan ang basura at maging pera, Vermi-matanggal ang bundok ng basura at maging abono pag nabenta maging pera.
    Pero ang masaklap po ipina alis kasi po raw ito'y "eye sore", ang MRF po ay i-trinansfer na sa Cencom Demo farm.