Skip the elevator, take the stairs

Chen-Pang Chang

On a rainy and bleak Wednesday afternoon last week, I went to the Perry-Castañeda Library to work on my homework. In the lobby, a large crowd of people was queued up for the elevator. Some looked rushed, others seemed impatient. I wondered why no one was willing to take the stairs. Instead of taking the elevator, taking the stairs benefits the environment and ourselves.

Taking the stairs reduces our harm to the environment. A typical workplace elevator may produce 0.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide per person per day. The PCL has over 1.8 million visitors each year, according to Travis Willmann, communications officer for the UT libraries. Potentially, we are looking at about 595 tons of carbon dioxide pollution generated by the PCL in a single year. This is equivalent to an average car being driven nonstop for 2.64 years. That is the PCL alone — imagine the combined impact of all the other elevators at UT.

What’s more, our body benefits from the exercise of taking the stairs. The U.S. obesity rate has quadrupled over the past 50 years. Texas had the 14th highest obesity rate among all U.S. states in 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 43.1 percent of adults report meeting the minimum recommendation for aerobic physical activity in Texas. Walking up stairs burns almost five times more calories than taking an elevator, according to the CDC.

Claire Hahn, UT work-life balance and wellness manager, helped coordinate a study which addressed the problem of people relying on elevators too much in 2013. The study suggests building coordinators should put motivational signs around elevators to encourage the use of stairs.

Yielding the elevators to students in need is equally important. According to Willmann, there is no policy in place encouraging students to use the stairs. “But we do have an occasional campaign, such as Longhorn Respect, mostly deployed around the exam period in the libraries to encourage students to be thoughtful of each other, and that appeal would certainly apply to (priority to disabled students),” Willmann said.

The library could put out more motivational signs to encourage people to use the stairs more. However, at the end of the day, it is still up to us to make the ethical decision — are we opting for the convenience of merely saving time and energy? Or are we going to reduce our harm to the environment, and at the same time, improve our well-being, by taking the stairs when we can? Make your decision, Longhorns.

Chang is a philosophy junior from New Taipei, Taiwan.