Environmental impact subject of cross-campus bicycle ride

Students will have a chance this afternoon to do more than just spin their wheels for the environment.The TCU Purple Bike Program is hosting Le Tour de Frogs from 4 to 6 p.m. today to start up the organization and educate students about their impact on the environment.

Le Tour de Frogs is a 20-minute bicycle ride, beginning on the lawn in front of Sadler Hall and continuing to three other stops on campus where students will take a quiz of 10 to 15 questions about the environment, said Keith Whitworth, a sociology professor and founder of the Purple Bike Program.

During the reception after the event, volunteers will grade the quizzes and award prizes to the winners, Whitworth said.

“The goal is to help students become more aware of their environmental footprint and what they can do to reduce their footprint,” Whitworth said. “The other point is to get students on the purple bikes so they can get used to them and test them out.”

The Purple Bike Program was developed two years ago in Whitworth’s applied sociology class as a project to decrease students’ environmental impact on the earth by providing bicycles for their use. Fifteen bicycles are available through the program, although Whitworth said he hopes to purchase 85 additional bicycles this year with a potential Vision In Action grant.

Kyle Amato, a junior environmental science major, is in Whitworth’s applied sociology class and worked on a team to create the program’s Web site, EnviroFootprint.org, which will formally launch today.

The Web site allows users to measure their carbon output and evaluate the number of tons they are emitting into the atmosphere, Whitworth said. To counteract the effects of the carbon emissions, Whitworth said, users can make donations to support the Purple Bike Program and purchase trees for the organization Plant-It 2020.

“I’m very excited about the event’s potential to raise awareness and help bring about some of the social changes that I think need to happen to start altering how people see the world and interact with the environment,” Amato said.

Following the event, Debra Rowe, president of the U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and co-chair of the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium, will be speaking about creating a healthier planet, people and economy at 6:30 p.m. in Sid Richardson Lecture Hall 1.

Whitworth first heard Rowe speak about issues of sustainability at a conference last year and said he was impressed by her intelligence and practicality.

“She is a pragmatic scholar and believes in making changes,” Whitworth said. “My goal is that, as a university, we begin thinking about sustainability issues and initiatives so that it becomes a part of our lives here at TCU.”

Whitworth said he believes students do not realize their individual impact on global warming and the environment or their ability to save energy by simply shutting down their computers at night or turning off the faucet while they brush their teeth.

“I think our students are incredibly sensitive, and they have all the elements to be socially conscious,” Whitworth said. “They’re just not aware. Once they make that connection, they’ll turn TCU upside down. I really believe that.