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The Scarlet & Black

Update on College sustainability efforts

While a department of sustainability is yet to occur, students and administrators are pursuing alternative means of achieving sustainable goals on campus. Photo by Andrew Tucker

By Chloe Wray

Last May, the College decided against divestment from fossil fuels. This decision came after 13 months of discussion by a task force of the College Trustees and an advisory committee consisting of College staff and students. The task force investigated ways in which the College could positively impact climate change, and divestment was not determined to be exceedingly impactful. The task force instead recommended reducing the institution’s carbon footprint, an effort which has long been pioneered by campus groups committed to sustainability.

The rationale behind not choosing divestment reasoned that even if the College retracted their investments supporting fossil fuels, other investors would still invest with such companies, the result being a meager impact on the fight against climate change. An April 28, 2018 special campus memo announcing the task force’s recommendation to “maintain the current investment policy and not divest the College’s limited fossil fuel holdings” also included recommendations which sought to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint by implementing the College’s Sustainability Plan and by “creat[ing] a standing campus Sustainability Committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff that would make annual progress reports.”

While the Sustainability Committee was the recommendation of trustees, it will be overseen by College staff. According to Chris Bair, environmental and safety coordinator, the committee has yet to be formed but it is in the works to be established this semester and will consist of faculty, staff and student voices.

By creating a committee responsible for tracking efforts in sustainability, a level of accountability between the College and the Board of Trustees will enforce the commitment to reducing the school’s carbon footprint.

The College is currently pursuing the possibility of a solar farm, although Bair wrote in an email to The S&B that it has not been finalized.

By garnering a commitment to sustainability from the Board of Trustees, it is hoped by groups like the Green Fund and EcoCampus that concrete actions such as the solar farm will take effect and that perhaps the committee will lead to the establishment of an Office of Sustainability.

Elizabeth Queathem, a biology lecturer and member of EcoCampus, formally known as the Campus Advisory Committee on Environmental Concerns, said that the idea of an Office of Sustainability was suggested to Raynard Kington when he first took on the role of Grinnell College president in 2010. At the same time he was asked to look into the development of a wind turbine farm for the College and sign the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitment, a promise by college and university presidents to upholding sustainable practices on their campuses. While he signed the commitment and looked into a wind farm, which fell through due to conditions outside of the College’s control, he did not agree to create an Office of Sustainability.

EcoCampus’ most recent project is the installation of electric car chargers in the parking lot behind the forum and the parking lot behind South Campus. There will also be a charger at the new admissions building, all of which were funded by EcoCampus grant money in conjunction with funding from President Kington’s office.

Green Fund co-chairs Anabel Higgins-Houser and Quinn Ercolani, both ’20, have a new initiative in the works. Currently plans are being made to start-up a bike co-op in the Clark Hall pit. The bike co-op will follow work done by Green Fund last semester, which included installing solar trash compactors outside the JRC, the replacement of the lights in Burling Library to make them all LED and the installation of energy efficient hand-dryers in the JRC.

Any interest in aiding with the co-op, whether it be donating a bike or donating volunteer hours to fixing a bike should be directed to Higgins-Houser or Ercolani.

Work by EcoCampus is done largely through grants while Green Fund’s efforts are funded by the apportioned budget they get from SGA. The appeal of an Office of Sustainability it is imagined that more funding and support for such projects would be available, allowing for projects such as those piloted by Green Fund last year to become more widespread across campus.

While a department of sustainability is yet to occur, students and administrators are pursuing alternative means of achieving sustainable goals on campus.
Photo by Andrew Tucker
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