Biking for the Future: A Sustainable Dream

Colleen Henn, Santa Clara sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies
Colleen Henn, Santa Clara sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies.

           Here at Santa Clara, we like to think we have a reputation for sustainability. All around campus you find separate waste, recycle, and compost bins. The eco-tray program provides reusable to-go trays for students for a mere five dining points. Santa Clara’s homepage even touts “SCU Named on the Top Green Colleges List”  a list compiled by the Princeton review and the United States Green Building Council.

           But for sophomore Colleen Henn, that is just a start. She believes there is a lot of improvement to be had when it comes to sustainability both on and off campus. Henn’s mission is to reduce the use of cars by Santa Clara students by starting bike share program. Installing a program like this is a lot harder than it sounds, especially when there are plenty of other causes vying for University support. Henn is currently in her second year as a part of “SLURP” – the Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Project. “You target a behavior on campus and you try to change it,” she says. For Henn, that behavior is the use of cars rather than more environmentally friendly forms of transportation.

            Over the past two years, she has been researching current bike share programs to see what would best fit Santa Clara’s needs as a campus. Ideally, the school would fund and operate the program. “There have been ones in the past that have been student-run, but they have all flopped once those students graduate,” Henn says. She envisions a program that is run through Malley or transportation services. There would be several docks around campus where bikes would be locked up, and students could sign up for the program, pay, and reserve a bike – all online. In theory, it would be like Zipcar, but for bikes.

Similar bike share program to what Henn envisions at SCU.
Similar bike share program to what Henn envisions at SCU.

            Working as an undergraduate student to introduce a program like this is no easy task. Ask any student at Santa Clara, and they will say that the workload for any typical undergraduate student is nothing to be taken lightly. Henn cites her biggest challenge as not having a partner working on the project with her. “If I could work on this everyday, I would. But taking college level biology and calculus classes doesn’t really allow that.” Balancing her passion for this project and her desire to do well academically has proven tough, but not impossible for Henn, over the course of her sophomore year. Her main goal is to get some real momentum behind the project before she leaves to study abroad in the Galapagos Islands next fall.

          Why make such a push for a project that has yet to really take root on campus yet? “I just really like bikes!” she laughs, “I just thought of it one way and it just made so much sense to me. It’s flat, we’re in Silicon Valley – an innovation center- I don’t understand why we don’t already have one [a program]! It’s good for environmental health, human health, and it makes sense financially as well.” Not only are bikes much cheaper than cars, they do not require expensive gas to run – just your legs and a little bit of willpower.

Solar panels on the roof of several buildings here at SCU - an example of the commitment to sustainability.
Solar panels on the roof of several buildings on campus – an example of the commitment to sustainability at Santa Clara. 

          Bikes may also provide benefits that one would not expect, “my best friend from home over last summer had an internship in Boston and she didn’t want to bring her car, so she biked around the entire city. That really inspired me. She can literally draw out the entire city – and that is a huge city.” That kind of awareness would be good for Santa Clara students, to help them understand the area and appreciate all that Santa Clara is.

          Henn also found inspiration from another friend who didn’t get into a car for two months. It may not be the most conventional way of getting around, but it creates a culture of sustainability and habits that are mutually beneficial to us as students, the community, and the greater environment.

          “In 2100, scientists predict that the world is going to be one scary place if we don’t change our environmental footprint. Choosing to ride a bike is a small change that makes a huge difference.”

–Alli Kleppe



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