UC Merced Connect: Student wins conservation award

August 14, 2012 

UC Merced student Martin Figueroa is being honored for his work in water conservation by a Berkeley nonprofit, the Earth Island Institute.

Figueroa, who coordinated last year's UC Merced Water Battle competition to see which residence hall could save the most water, will receive the Brower Youth Award, named for the institute's late founder, David Brower.

Figueroa was chosen because of his leadership in the campus movement toward water conservation, energy efficiency and sustainability.

The Brower Youth Award is highly competitive, the institute said, and Figueroa was chosen by a panel of judges that includes Energy Action Coalition founder Billy Parish, author Frances Moore Lappé and Riki Ott, director of Ultimate Civics.

The one-month Water Battle took place in Fall 2011. Figueroa led more than 600 fellow students to participate, and together they saved more than 14 percent of normal water usage, or 89,000 gallons. A cost-benefit analysis suggests a water cost savings of $11,000 over a nine-month academic year.

The competition was the first of its kind to use new water-monitoring technology to track progress and identify leaks in campus water lines.

Figueroa, a third-year student studying biology and sustainability, wants to make the Water Battle an annual event and is working to spread it to other UC campuses.

Figueroa will receive his award during a ceremony Oct. 23 in San Francisco. Five other award winners between the ages of 16 and 22 will also be honored, including environmental educators, filmmakers and others.

Book rental gives students instant savings

Like many students, UC Merced sophomore Demonte Hughes is gearing up for the fall semester. At the top of his list is securing the textbooks required for his courses, which he says is a good portion of his budget -- between $300 and $400 a semester.

"Students are all low on money in general, so it is hard to buy every book," Hughes said.

Kevin Storms, director of the campus's bookstore, said students like Hughes will be able to see some upfront savings this year. This is the first semester the Campus Store has launched book rentals, offering savings up to 70 percent off purchasing new.

For example, students can purchase the required textbook for Econ 1 new for $256.50, buy it used for $192.38; or rent it new for $125 or used for $90.

"Ultimately, we want to get the material into the students' hands so they can be successful," said Storms, who has been working on the rental program for three years. "Surveys have shown that some students elect to go without required books."

Renting textbooks isn't new to Hughes, a chemical sciences major. Through the Fiat Lux program on campus, he has been able to rent many of his books for classes. He is happy that other students will be able to do the same.

"Having the book for class gives you a better chance of getting good grades," Hughes said. "Renting will make students more likely to get the books they need to succeed."

Of the 619 titles available for the fall semester, 120 can be rented and that list will grow every year.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

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