Keeping the College Green

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September 18, 2009

5:10 AM

Last July, Phil Zapfel ’09 became the College of William and Mary’s first full-time employee dedicated to reducing the College’s environmental impact. Zapfel works as a fellow with the Committee on Sustainability, which develops the College’s sustainability strategies, publicizes sustainability programs and supports students, faculty and organizations in sustainability efforts. The COS received an endowment in May that enabled the creation of a sustainability fellow position this year.

But the position isn’t a normal 40 hour-a-week job.

“I end up working more like 60,” Zapfel said, “But it’s what I love, so some nights and weekends are expected.”

While some of these hours are spent in the comfort of his office in Blow Hall, most of Zapfel’s time is dedicated to meeting students, faculty and staff interested in sustainability initiatives or answering questions about his work.

His newly created position is already helping to streamline and facilitate the College’s ecological ambitions.

This past summer, Zapfel worked with intern Lauren Edmonds ’11 to finalize the College’s first official greenhouse gas inventory, which revealed that the College’s CO2 emissions per square foot of building space have been cut by 16 percent since 2003.

Two other COS student interns, Tyler Koontz ’09 and Judi Sclafani ’11, spent their summer researching how to improve the College’s recycling program and came up with cost-cutting measures that could save more than $40,000. Zapfel said he believes these measures will significantly improve the economic feasibility of the recycling program.

Zapfel is also working with Larry Smith, director of the Commons, who has hired three sustainability interns
to improve recycling, composting and sustainable food purchasing at all of the dining halls across campus.

One of the most significant aspects of the fellow’s position is working with the COS, the largest committee in the history of the College, consisting of over 100 student, faculty and staff volunteers spread out over 10 working groups.

Zapfel said he has received 50 student volunteer applications for the committee in the last two weeks.

The general goals of the committee are set by the COS’s Steering Committee, but the individual groups are given the independence to decide their own priority.

“It’s worked incredibly well so far,” he said.

As the environment has moved to the forefront of people’s minds, Zapfel has numerous tips for students looking to reduce their environmental impact here in Williamsburg.

“Our bus system is actually quite reliable,” Zapfel said. “I recommend everyone try it at least once. Also, bring your own coffee mug to Wawa, Starbucks or the Daily Grind. You can cut down on waste and receive a discount.”

For Zapfel, this fellowship is a continuation of his life’s passion. He was involved in numerous environmental groups at the College before graduating last spring.

“I love the job. It’s exactly what I want to do, in an environment I already know quite well,” he said.

For those interested in sustainability events, Zapfel maintains a blog, titled “Hark Upon the Green,” at harkuponthegreen.blogs.wm.edu. The site carries news about continuing projects and eco-conscious events.

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