Interim College President Taylor Reveley unveiled the William and Mary Sustainability Policy during an Earth Day celebration on campus last Saturday.
“This commitment reflects the College’s understanding of the importance of wise use of finite natural resources,” Reveley said. “[It] considers the consequences of present use on long-term priorities.”
The announcement came nine days after Reveley said he would not sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.
The new sustainability policy establishes goals in seven areas: energy, land use, water use, waste management, transportation, purchasing and education. It also calls for the creation of a committee on sustainability to replace the Landscape, Energy and Environment Committee.
Reveley has stressed that the new policy is meant to build off what the College has already done in the field of sustainability.
“We aren’t starting from scratch,” he said. “[Vice President for Administration] Anna Martin has been working on projects for a few years now.”
New and renovated buildings on campus, such as the Jamestown dormitories, the Recreation Center and the new schools of Business and Education are all being built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
Facilities Management has begun installing occupancy sensors to turn off lights in unused rooms, as well as more energy-efficient light bulbs.
The College also employs an energy manager to monitor conservation efforts.
According to Martin, efforts like these have reduced the College’s energy costs by 10 percent, or $600,000, during the past fiscal year. Carbon dioxide emissions have been cut 1 percent overall.
Some of the projects that Martin proposed in her presentation to the Board of Visitors last Thursday include a 12-year carbon reduction plan that calls for a 27 percent decrease in carbon emissions, a green housekeeping initiative, continued campus-wide lighting and building upgrades and individual building energy meters.
Reveley’s announcement of the new policy was met with mixed reactions from students and faculty of the College’s environmental science department. Many were unaware that the College was developing the policy until it was reported by The Flat Hat April 11.
“This is a step that many colleges have taken a long time ago,” environmental science Professor Maria Ivanova said. “We need to see time tables and financial commitment to show that this plan is not just a paper tiger.”
Clare Stankwitz ’11, with help from other students and professors, drafted a response to the policy, citing questions and concerns.
Specifically, the response questions how the proposed sustainability committee will improve upon the current LEE committee, the lack of any timetable for achieving carbon neutrality and the policy’s focus on “low-hanging fruit,” which Stankwitz’s response calls “easily achievable, low cost, immediate fixes.”
Ivanova also questioned the lack of an overseer for the policy.
“We’re already doing more for sustainability than so many schools, but we’re not taking credit for it,” Ivanova said. “There is no director for a sustainability movement — no governance structure to connect the projects, present them and build upon them.”
Reveley explained that the administration’s focus on low-hanging fruit is an attempt to gain momentum while achieving tasks that are within the College’s budget.
“We actually want to accomplish things, starting with the low-hanging fruit — things that we have the money to do now. We want to build credibility and momentum so that we can look into getting outside funding to continue with bigger projects.”
One of the proposals for addressing the financial burden of new projects is the green fees initiative. Last month, 85 percent of students voted in favor of a $15 per semester fee that would fund sustainability efforts.
“The students are putting their money where their mouth is,” Ivanova said. “It is the strongest signal the administration could possibly get that students are in favor of this movement.”
The College’s administration favors the fee, and Vice President for Finance Sam Jones presented the green fees proposal during the BOV meeting last week. If the fee is approved, it would bring in approximately $200,000 each year.
According to College spokesperson Brian Whitson, the BOV is reviewing the Green Fees proposal and will reach a decision next month when the members reconvene to determine the College’s budget and fees schedule.
“I think it’s a feasible action, but there are a number of fees that are assessed already,” BOV Vice Rector Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’66, the chair of the Committee on Financial Affairs, said. “We have to be aware of the burden this could cause for some students as well as the precedent it could set for further fees. The proposal will be weighed and evaluated, and we will make the best decision we can.”