For UT students like Maria Rosales, green is the new orange, as the search for environmentally-conscious alternatives is taken up by a new, determined generation.

Rosales, a senior in environmental studies, hopes to accomplish her green goals for campus through the Million Dollar Green Challenge. The challenge aims to set up a green fund to provide up-front capital for eco-friendly sustainability projects on campus.

“Any student could propose a project to reduce energy consumption and save money,” Rosales said. “The money would then go back into the fund to help pay for more projects and continue savings.”

With Knoxville gas prices reaching a nine-month high of $3.65 per gallon and an unseasonably warm winter closing with no cumulative snowfall, evidence for the need for conservation efforts is hitting right at home for many students. According to Rosales, it is up to these young people to be the primary movers in the green crusade.

“College students have the resources we need to make a difference here on campus,” she said. “We have the research to spark new green technologies, the business students who will measure the benefits of clean energy, the political science students to implement the policies, and the science behind it. All of us together can bring green alternatives to the forefront of our policy.”

For Rosales, making UT green is a cause especially close to her heart. It was on this campus that she discovered her passion for ecological safeguarding in the first place.

“Growing up, I was always concerned with social and international issues,” Rosales said. “It wasn’t until I got to college and took a geology class with Dr. Michael McKinney and later participated in a rally for the Kingston Coal Ash Spill in 2008 that I learned the urgency of climate change and the need to move towards a clean energy future.”

McKinney, professor of geology and environmental studies director, believes that we have no choice but to change our wasteful ways.

“The way we are living is clearly and measurably unsustainable,” McKinney said.

Growing up in Orlando, Fla., McKinney has seen first-hand the rapid and harmful effects of human industry on the environment.

“Since I was a teenager, I always liked the outdoors,” McKinney said. “I watched Orlando become a sprawling, urban, tourist mess from a nice little town with lots of natural beauty.”

Like Rosales, it is within the younger generation that McKinney sees the potential to give temperance and order to humans’ current destruction of nature. He points to Rosales herself as a prime example of his reasons for encouragement.

“Students like Maria have always been the foundation of change in any society,” McKinney said. “She is a real inspiration to myself and many others who realize that changing the future requires challenging the laziness of the status quo, and that takes work, vision and passion.”

This passion is being put to practical use in the upcoming months, as Rosales and other students work tirelessly to get the Challenge’s revolving fund signed into effect by the chancellor. Along with fellow coordinator, junior Nick Alderson, Rosales is currently organizing a forum about the future of energy efficiency at UT. This will hopefully raise public awareness about sustainable issues, especially the Challenge.

Until the Challenge’s revolving fund is assumedly implemented, UT students can do simple things to better their environment and work toward making orange green.

“Bike more and drive less, ask for organic and local foods from restaurants, and think about a career that makes the world a better place instead of mindlessly accumulating money, to name a few,” McKinney suggested. “Most importantly, don’t give into the temptations of apathy, cynicism or despair. They won’t get you anywhere and certainly won’t help the problems we face.”

Rosales has faith that UT students can and will avoid these pitfalls and step up to the conservational plate.

“Students have always led social movements; think women’s rights, civil rights and the anti-war movement,” she said. “Every major social revolution has been led and driven by young people. It’s time for the green movement to be added to that list.”