George Mason Law School

Make eco-village a reality

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April 16, 2010

3:29 AM

It’s been a quick turnaround for sustainability at the College of William and Mary. Three years ago, the College was at the bottom of national sustainability rankings, receiving a D in eco-friendliness from the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Now, with its grade up to a B, the College has plans in cooperation with the Do One Thing campaign to create a sustainable eco-village. The lodges, after renovation, would become that village. It’s a bold but necessary plan, and it would go far to increase environmental awareness and campus sustainability.

Importantly, the planned renovations to the lodges are necessary ones, and by following environmentally friendly standards the College stands to save up to $100,000 per lodge in the renovation process. It’s an obvious choice, especially in a time of economic uncertainty, and we’re glad that the College took the initiative to seek out this option. As always, however, the trick is implementation.

So far, the College is on the right track. Among the proposed changes are using sustainable materials, like reclaimed wood and recycled glass, and possibly implementing a grey water system. These are sensible proposals, but as the College begins its feasibility study to determine the specifics of the project, it needs to make sure these proposals remain sensible. This is a problem with the DOT campaign as a whole — encouraging any action, but not necessarily substantive action. As the College moves forward, we hope it remains focused on what is practical and worthwhile and does not simply make a meager show of eco-friendliness.

This feasibility survey should be thorough in other regards as well. Perhaps the worst outcome would be that the project is initiated and then abandoned as funds are withdrawn, diverted, or simply dry up. The housing system would deteriorate if the lodges were, like St. George Hall, simply left indefinitely vacant mid-renovation. Even though it’s a project that will end up saving the College money, in the long and short-run, this eco-village would still require a significant amount of capital to pursue, and the College should make sure that money is wisely invested.

That this eco-village would be the first of its kind in the country is certainly public relations gold, but we are more interested in the precedent it hopefully sets for future campus renovations. Recent building projects, like Alan B. Miller Hall and the Jamestown North and South residence halls, have included similar sustainability efforts. Spreading that trend is the next logical step. The College should consider, if not eventually require, all future renovation projects to follow similar standards.

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