Making the College green

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November 2, 2007

9:07 AM

The College is old. Beautiful, yes. Prestigious, certainly. But, according to a report card recently released by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the College received an overall score of “D-” in sustainability.

p. Suddenly, my midterm grades are starting to look a lot better.
The sustainability report card is based on several categories, ranging from “green” buildings to investment policies. Our dear College is not doing all it can to be eco-friendly and more open to alternative resources.

p. We received a failing grade in almost all categories except for dining services, green building and investment priorities. The report card mentions that there have been several proposals initiated by the College to conserve and use renewable energy, but no formal commitments or public statements have been made to put these plans into action.

p. Why?

p. Because the College is so old and the buildings were built such a long time ago — this is the way it has always been. We are an institution steeped in history. Blah, blah, blah. These are the various excuses I always hear whenever there is a complaint or suggestion about the College. There are only three buildings on campus that are Leadership in Environment and Energy Design approved — the Recreation Center and Jamestown dormitories. We are so firmly grounded in our majestic history that I fear we may be bordering on stubbornness.

p. One surprising category we failed was transportation. I figured that developing fuel substitutes would make it easier to facilitate programs that would encourage the use of alternative fuels.
More surprising is the big, fat “F” we received for administration. On several occasions, students have made proposals encouraging the administration to install recycling programs or pledge to support the President’s climate commitment, but few of these policies have been implemented.

p. The quality of education and the availability of resources can make a good college great. While pursuing quality education, the College should not ignore its impact on the environment. Other prestigious and aged institutions have scored much higher marks because of their adoption of eco-friendly alternatives. Simple changes, such as preferred parking for carpoolers, composting postconsumer food waste or starting programs for renewable energy, can make a huge difference. Harvard University, for instance, has a committee of professionals and students that promotes sustainability by steering campus organizations to seek reusable resources.

p. It would be wrong to say that the College has done nothing to improve conditions. Still, its efforts are negligible. Recently, a few students came to my door with plastic reusable mugs from Dining Services. Since that day, I have seen no more than a few students using those mugs in place of paper ones at the cafeterias. I’m sad to admit that I am not one of them. On the bright side, though, all the oil used by the cafeterias is recycled into diesel fuel, and the William and Mary Foundation does aim to invest in more reusable energy sources.

p. The only way to become a “green College” is through conscious cooperation among the administration, campus organizations and the student body. Receiving a “D-” in sustainability is not acceptable, especially during an age when environmental conservation has become a top priority. The next time you are at the Marketplace, remember to take your plastic mug with you. From now on, chances are you’ll see me doing the same.

p. Kalyani Phansalkar is a freshman at the College.

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