Environmental awareness, economics slowly driving local ‘green’ efforts

By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer

Although Earth Day was observed Tuesday, folks in Portales intend to keep on going green all year long.

Eastern New Mexico University is preparing to go green on a much larger scale. The university is working on a project design to construct the campus’ first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building renovation. Construction on the Music Building is expected to break ground in August.

“The university recognizes that green is the way to go and our Music Building will be a LEED building, as mandated by the governor,” said Lewis Reeves, director of the ENMU Physical Plant.

The LEED system of certification was developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council to provide a suite of environmentally sustainable construction standards and certification from a third party, according to the USGBC Web site. It was formed in 1998.

The campus also recently installed appliances that save water and reduce utility costs and has several water conservation landscaping projects under way, including automatic sprinkler systems that turn off when they sense moisture from rain.

“The university has always recycled paper,” Reeves added. “Also, we’re putting in a drip irrigation flower bed. It is designed so when it broadcasts in the air, you don’t lose any true evaporation.”

At the City Hall in Portales, paper and aluminum is being recycled on a regular basis. However, Community Affairs Coordinator, Nicole Wilkening, is dreaming green on a bigger scale, provided she finds a way to get some greenbacks.

“We have just applied for a $5,000 grant to do recycling and a public education campaign,” she said. However, she added, “It is difficult because of the high price of recycling and there are not a lot of places around here that will pick up recycled material, and so it has to be transported at long distances.”

In the meantime, the city of Portales is doing what it can, such as exploring ways to save fuel, largely because of rising fuel costs, but also to be environmentally conscious. That includes being water conscious.

“We are going to be doing a water conservation campaign over the summer. We’ll start with schools because we believe that if we educate youth, these conservation habits will be instilled in them as they grow up,” Wilkening said.