As temperatures warm and flowers bloom, members of the Student Environmental Action Coalition are preparing a number of projects to improve environmental sustainability on campus. Last year, the College received a D-minus in sustainability from the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
p. SEAC’s ongoing campaigns in energy, food sustainability and recycling are all lobbying for changes in the near future, including the green fee referendum on yesterday’s Student Assembly ballot. The proposed fee would add $15 to each student’s general fee for the semester, totalling approximately $225,000 annually for sustainability initiatives.
p. “That’s less than a one percent increase [to the student general fee]. By comparison, we pay more than $1,000 per year to fund varsity athletics,” SEAC member Josh Wayland ’08 said. “With just $15 per student, the College will be able to finally make some real changes, such as improvements in energy efficiency and maybe even renewable energy on campus.”
p. The plan for how the fee will be spent is articulated in detail on its website, GreeningWM.com, and includes a number of goals in renovations, student research programs and a green endowment.
p. “As a school with a perpetually tight budget, the funds raised by the fee will allow us to make capital investments that actually save money as well as the environment,” Wayland said.
p. In last night’s election the green fees passed with 82 percent voting yes.
Projects in food sustainability include a compost tumbler and an organic garden behind the Caf both which have received funding from the SA.
p. “The Student Assembly had been trying to solve problems by itself rather than reaching out to knowledge-based organizations such as SEAC,” SA President Zach Pilchen ’09 said. Pilchen has been an active member of SEAC for three years, and many of his and SA Vice President Valerie Hopkins’s reelection campaign goals focus on the environment.
p. “Valerie and myself saw a need to create a position as a sort of liaison between SEAC and SA, where they could get the money or administrative connections needed for projects,” Pilchen said. To that end, Pilchen appointed Caroline Cress ’10 undersecretary for environmental reform. Cress has been highly involved in the green fees movement.
p. The compost tumbler, which was approved for funding by the SA senate last semester, will sit behind the Caf and provide fertilizer for the organic campus garden, which will supply food directly to dining services starting this spring.
“The campus garden is tilled and ready to be planted when the weather warms up a little more,” Wayland said. “Currently, seedlings are growing in the Millington green house.”
p. Pilchen noted that dining services at William and Mary has been very supportive to the changes, including training staff on the use of the compost tumbler to helping to switch to recyclable to-go containers.
p. Another ongoing campaign by SEAC is the Presidential Climate Commitment, a proposal that, if signed, will commit the College to achieving climate neutrality within a certain number of years. The PCC, which has already been signed by over 500 universities across America, would require adjustments in areas from energy usage — the College currently spends over $6 million per year on energy — to class curriculums, requiring faculty to address environmental topics in class.
p. Former College President Gene Nichol was reviewing the PCC when he resigned, but SEAC members remain optimistic.
p. “As an organization, we had a very positive working relationship with the former president and his office,” Wayland said. “However, we are confident that our initiatives will continue to succeed and we are determined to continue working for a greener William and Mary.”