From greener dining practices to a new linked-major program, students, faculty, and administrators have recently intensified efforts to make campus life more eco-friendly.
Two years ago, President Michael Roth signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a program to help academic institutions throughout the nation lower carbon usage and maximize energy efficiency. By agreeing to the Commitment, the University pledged to make sustainability a focal point in its vision for the future.
The University is also working towards becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. So far, the University has created a campus climate action plan, enacted a bi-yearly greenhouse gas inventories, and constructed the more efficient Cogeneration (Co-Gen) system, which produces both electricity and heat.
The Co-Gen system, a key component of the University’s Central Power Plant since February 2009, enabled Wesleyan to begin producing its own electricity. By capitalizing on the $3.5 million project, the natural gas-burning plant now provides approximately 81 percent of the University’s electricity while recycling heat generated during combustion. In future years, the system is anticipated to cover its own costs by reducing the amount of energy the University purchases.
“It’s a win-win situation because we are saving money and supporting sustainable energy,” said Barry Chernoff, director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program.
Members of the University’s student-run Environmental Organizers Network (EON)—which raises awareness of environmental issues on and beyond campus—also voiced their satisfaction with the efficiency of the new system.
“It’s huge,” said EON member Josh Levine ’12. “It’ll be saving us a huge amount of energy and money.”
This past year, another student initiative led to a proposal for “traylessness,” which is slated to start this fall in the Usdan Marketplace. Clearing ubiquitous trays from the campus’s central dining space follows a nationwide trend among colleges and universities to reduce food waste. Forwarded by members of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Dining Committee, the proposal also gained the full support of Bon Appétit, which is the food management company that serves the campus.
Last April, in step with other green dining efforts, Summerfields, the small dining facility in the Butterfields, replaced its standard non-reusable to-go containers with a reusable and eco-friendly alternative. Students have the option of purchasing recycled plastic containers for five meal-plan points. Bon Appétit, the WSA Dining Committee, and the University Sustainability Interns spearheaded the endeavor, known as the Eco To-Go Program.
In addition to strategies to make the campus more sustainable, recent academic changes reflect the University’s new emphasis on the environment. In April 2009, the faculty voted to expand the Environmental Studies Certificate Program into a linked-major program called the Environmental Studies Major (ENVS), which is slated to start this fall. Students will have the opportunity to use ENVS as a secondary major, but not as a stand-alone major.
“I’d say that finally establishing the Environmental Studies major program was the University’s biggest step in the past year,” wrote EON member Anne Rosenthal ’09 in an e-mail to The Argus. “So many kids at Wesleyan are environmentally-conscious; ideally, this new major will give those students a solid academic outlet and will attract students who aren’t necessarily already thinking about environmental issues.”
Last April, the Recycling and Waste subcommittee of the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES) spearheaded a plan to remove paper towels from the University’s residential hall bathrooms.
Despite this obvious progress, questions linger over how the University will balance sustainability with cost, sanitation, and general quality of life.timet