In the Green: Campus Efforts Honor Environmental Awareness

Quieter than Commencement, but a campus collaboration nonetheless, Earth Day activities at CMC this spring continued a year-long effort by students, staff, and faculty to live greener. Energies in earth-friendly activities were invested as early as fall, when Claremont McKenna was named winner of The Claremont Colleges Dorm Energy Challenge, a competition that included students signing sustainability pledges.

In the pledges students promised to take energy-saving steps when possible, measures like walking instead of driving and printing papers double-sided. (Read more: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/news/insidecmc/2008march/climate/). The efforts paid off, with CMCers reducing overall energy use by more than 14 percentdouble the reduction made by runner-up Scripps College.

Weeks later, a group of students (guided by Brian Worley, director of facilities and campus services) persisted in the outreach to reduce energy usage at CMC, visiting residence halls across campus to replace less efficient light bulbs with more economical, compact fluorescent onesbetter known as CFLs. (Full story: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/news/insidecmc/2008march/cheer/.)

More about these and other ways Claremont McKenna College is integrating sustainability efforts and initiatives into its daily operations can be found within the College’s new sustainability Web site: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/sustainability/.

Earth Day

These efforts included Earth Day 2008 activities in April, when Focus the Nation Project Director Eban Goodstein visited the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum for the discussion How Today’s 20-year-olds Will Become the Greatest Generation.

Goodstein, author (Economics and the Environment, John Wiley and Sons, 2004) and a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College, told students during his lunchtime address that the most important issue of their time will be global warming and discussed with them its far-reaching effects, from the global economy to public policy.

Focus the Nation is a nonprofit organization and nationwide teach-in on global warming that was held Jan. 31, 2008 and involved more than 1,900 institutions including colleges, universities, schools, businesses, civic groups, and faith oragnizations. CMC participated in Focus the Nation by hosting a panel discussion on global warming with faculty members from various disciplines, including chemistry, economics, government, and philosophy. (Read more: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/news/pressreleases/article.asp?article_id=938)

Hearing Goodstein at the Athenaeum brought past environmental efforts at the College full circle for some students. “To go from planning our own Focus the Nation event to meeting the brains behind it solidified my belief that we’re doing something good by starting this dialogue about global warming,” sophomore Matt Bradley said.

Environmental Crusaders

During his visit, Goodstein met with student members of CMC’s Environmental Crusaders to discuss how they could further pursue green policies on campus and become more involved with nationwide activities and campaigns.

As part of Earth Day activities, Environmental Crusaders members worked with the staff at Collins Dining Hall to plan two projects.

At dinner on Monday, April 21, student volunteers collected food waste before students returned their trays and dishes to the tray return. The food was then weighed and the numbers recorded.

The following afternoon, on Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, students again weighed food waste. At this meal, however, trays were made unavailable. Without trays, diners were more aware of how much food they took, as most only selected what they could easily carry. Food waste was reduced by 15 percent when trays were made unavailable.

Environmental Crusaders members also constructed a “pyramid of waste” to show how many Styrofoam take-out boxes are used on an average day at Collins (about 600 boxes). Next year, Collins will make the switch to biodegradable take-out containers and cups.

Bon Appetit catering service and Collins Dining Hall also observed Earth Day with a Low Carbon Diet, an aggressive education campaign making the connection between the food system and the emission of greenhouse gases. Each menu item was given a point value to represent the relative environmental impact and carbon dioxide emissions. Diners were offered a low carbon diet which included less meat and dairy and more seasonal and local ingredients.

Emily Meinhardt ’10