Friday, November 30, 2007

Working on Improving the Environment Keeps Professor Motivated

By Courtney Westlake

A self-described "outdoor person," Dr. Tih-Fen Ting is still getting used to the cold winter weather of Illinois after having spent most of her life in Taiwan and also living in California. That hasn't stopped her, though, from gaining a fast appreciation for the plains and animal life of Central Illinois, particularly the UIS prairie, where she spends much of her time exploring nature.

Ting, who came to UIS in 2003 after receiving her Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environment, says that no matter the climate or location, the environment is always of utmost importance to her.

"Environment has always been something I have cared about and been concerned with; it probably started with my appreciation of nature," she said.

After getting acquainted with UIS, Ting quickly became involved with Students Allied for a Greener Earth, or SAGE, as the faculty adviser in 2004. The only student environmental club on campus, SAGE seeks to find a balance between meeting human needs while still maintaining ecological integrity, Ting said.

"The reason to do that is so that we can actually have a sustainable future with what we are doing with the current generation and not undermining what the future generations can do," she said.

As part of its strategic plan, the UIS campus is striving to be a model in promoting environmental sustainability and is now taking action with plans for a green roof on the new residence hall, Founders Hall, and more.

"The green campus is a huge movement in the nation," Ting said. "What UIS is doing is what a lot of institutions are doing, and what we are making sure of is that we are keeping up and doing a lot of the right things."

There are many small things that the individual can do to make a huge change in environmental sustainability, Ting said. This includes being aware of water conservation, turning off the lights and computer when not in use and being diligent about recycling.

"It doesn't take much effort to recycle and make it a daily habit," she said. "Don't be a passive bystander; an individual can make a difference if everyone acts."

The future of
the environment and nature relies on the actions of people today, Ting said, and there is no reason more can’t be done. Thanks to a grant from Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, UIS is now working to expand its recycling program. Ting also encourages people to buy more local food in order to support local farmers and producers and to promote organic farming, which will increase sustainability of local agriculture.

Ting said she hopes to eventually see all new buildings compliant with LEED standards (Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design), which includes being energy-efficient, being conservative in water usage, using recycled materials and having an interior with carpet and paint that have low emission of harmful fumes.

Students and others interested in environmental sustainability and keeping the campus green are encouraged to learn about SAGE, its mission and its future events, Ting said. (Check out more information on SAGE here).

"Humans are an integral part of the ecosystem,” Ting said. “What we are doing impacts the environment; I think it's very important we have to be conscious of what we are doing. Whether clean air to breathe or clean drinking water, those are services we get from having a healthy environment."