Friday, October 31, 2008

Environmental Sustainability Committee

The Lasell College Environmental Sustainability met for the first time yesterday. This was the first meeting I have ever been to in which I was the chair. My father-in-law always grades himself when he gives a talk so I will borrow his model of self-assessment and give myself a C. We discussed the important issue of recycling at great length and set in motion a sub-committee to re-evaluate the option of a single stream recycling system on campus. I am very happy to see this happening but I failed to provide adequate time to get other actions rolling in terms of campus sustainability so I score myself a C.

Let me share what happened during our meeting. Committee members first introduced themselves to get an indication of the background, interest, and experience committee members bring. I then explained the background of the Green Campus Task Force and
I also explained how the Task Force recommended the creation of the Environmental Sustainability Committee. The Task Force charged the committee with setting and reviewing the following sustainability goals:
  • increasing environmental eduction and outreach
  • increasing the practice of the 4R's: recycling, reusing, reducing, and rebuying
  • reducing waste
  • conserving water
  • conserving energy
  • purchasing green products
  • protecting natural resources
  • improving environmental performance of new construction
  • reducing environmental impacts of transportation

The Green Campus Task Force also made 57 recommendations that could be considered objectives to help reach the goals. I shared a list of the objectives and watched the overwhelmed look on all of the committee members faces. I quickly jumped in that we can't do them all in one year and we will pick a few to execute well. I also introduced the President's Climate Committment which President Alexander signed this summer. I shared the committment and introduced our resonsibilities as a college.

President Alexander then made an appearance to provide a further charge to the committee. He expressed that the priority for the committee is to focus on setting a course of action to help us reach our sustainability goals. He emphasized the importance of executing actions in the first year that would increase visibility of sustainability on campus. This led to a discussion of recycling as this is a highly visible aspect of sustainability. President Alexander expressed his support of a single stream recycling system on campus. I have been advocating for a single stream system as it simplifies the decisions people need to make with their waste and campuses are finding it significantly increases recycling rates. The committee agreed to establish a sub-committee to work with Plant Operations to evaluate operating costs and determine how we can make a single stream system happen.

Since the meeting I have had time to process things a bit. I've really been considering the point President Alexander made about visibility. We need to create a culture of sustainability on campus and things need to be visible to achieve this goal. While energy conservation projects will do much more for meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals, it may be more important that we start by working to create a green culture on campus. I started to brainstorm things we could do on campus to increase the visibility of sustainability and change the behavior of people. Here is my list of ideas:
  • create a Lasell College sustainability logo
  • create a lug-a-mug campaign. Sell travel mugs with our sustainability logo. Run a Spot-a-Mug campaign in which students spotted with travel mugs are rewarded with a coupon for a free cup of coffee.
  • conduct a waste audit and sort the trash in the middle of campus
  • conduct a food waste audit for one week
  • participate in Recyclemania and compete with other colleges to recycle the most waste
  • place stickers on all light switches reminding people to turn off the switch
  • partner with Dump&Run to collect items during move-out. Items can then be sold in a yard sale and profits donated to charity
  • gather green pledges from graduating seniors as part of the Graduation Pledge Alliance
  • Host a dorm electricity reduction contest. This is currently being done in the residential houses but it needs to be expanded to all dorms
  • place signs, posters, stickers, and balloons on recycling containers to highlight their presence and educate community members
  • place stickers and signs on all garbage cans reminding community members to recycle

There are so many more unique ideas we could do. Many of these are done on other campuses already. I am going to work to quickly execute these ideas. Unfortunately the Environmental Sustainability Committee has no budget so somehow we will have to find money to support these visibility programs.

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