CEAC holds environmental forum

Students and administrators discussed the status of current campus environmental projects from communal bicycles to Fair Trade coffee at a forum sponsored by the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) last Tuesday night.

Greensense, a campus group committed to environmental awareness, sponsored most of the presented projects. Carlos Silva ’04 summed up the night’s message of seeking sustainable solutions to campus problems, saying, “We want the projects to be those that can be done by more than just small New England liberal arts colleges.”

Jocelyn Gardner ’05 began the evening by speaking about paper use on campus. She suggested several simple ways for students to reduce paper consumption, such as printing papers double-sided or collecting paper with just one side used for printing rough drafts.

She also indicated that Greensense was looking into the feasibility of buying 100 percent recycled paper for College (currently, none of the 12 million sheets used per year are made from recycled post-consumer fiber), including discussing price estimates with Office Services. Gardner said that other colleges and universities had made the switch, adding that Michigan State changed to 100 percent recycled paper at a cost of just seven cents per ream (500 sheets).

Brian Burke ’02, Silva and Daniel Shearer ’04 spoke next about the possibility of offering Fair Trade coffee in the Snack Bar and Goodrich. Speaking of both the environmental and social impacts of coffee production, Burke claimed that Fair Trade coffee not only yielded environmental benefits, but also helped local producers by avoiding middlemen, thereby guaranteeing sales at a fair price and providing year-long financial assistance and debt relief.

Shearer, who along with Burke, came to the forum from Students for Social Justice (SSJ), said that while the cost for Fair Trade coffee would be higher per cup, he believed that once informed about the reasons behind the switch, students would favor Free Trade options.

Don Clark, mechanical maintenance supervisor with Buildings and Grounds, then talked about the College’s co-generation project in conjunction with the replacement of an old boiler.

The new boiler will turn a turbine generator to produce electricity for the College. Clark estimated that the project will account for 6.5 million of the 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity used annually, while also substantially reducing emissions of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

Chris Warshaw ’02 and Silva then discussed how students can conserve energy in their day-to-day lives, promoting Greensense’s Fall Energy Challenge. Warshaw emphasized simple actions like turning off lights and computers.

“We started the energy contest in the fall to try to get people to form habits that will last,” Warshaw said. Spencer House won the first contest of the fall, earning a pizza party with a 28 percent energy reduction. These savings led to a reduction of approximately 1925.6 pounds of carbon dioxide.

While Warshaw believed that short-term conservation is important, he said that ultimately, the College needs to support larger institutional changes, including finding alternative energy sources and using “green” design in new building projects.

“Conservation is good in the short-term, and it’s amazing the impact that it does have,” Warshaw said. “But we should also look long-term – that’s the way to have a bigger impact.”

Speaking on behalf of the composting program were Briana Halpin ’04 and Evan Chadwick ’05. Halpin said that the College produces close to one ton of food waste per day, the weight of an average elephant.

She said that the program still operates as a student-run service, though the expectation has always been and continues to be that the College will take it over. Halpin said that she is continuing the progress made by Brian Werner ’01, former student director of composting, and hopes to have a proposal complete by next year under which the College would absorb the program.

“Williams will likely not make a profit on compost in the short term,” Halpin said. “Implementing the program will have up-front costs, but hopefully they will be mitigated.”

Those in attendance had much to say about the composting program. Burke suggested that the best method was to “get students to realize how much food they throw away and eliminate food waste from the start.” One idea was to put a tarp on Baxter Lawn one day and collect campus food wastes on it. Alex da Silva, associate director of Dining Services, said that Dining Services had taken measures in the past few years to reduce its own food wastes, including donating uneaten food to a local redistribution program for those in need and purchasing a food forecasting module in order to more accurately predict expected food needs.

The final presenters were Jon Wiener ’02 and Bill Sacks ’03 of the Purple Bike Coalition, a group dedicated to bringing communal bikes to campus. Under the program, set to begin in the spring, students will be able to get a universal key that will unlock a fleet of bikes to be stored in racks placed in central locations around campus. The Coalition also operates a bike repair shop in Mark Hopkins open a few hours a week

Showing off one of their new purple-and-yellow spray-painted bikes, Wiener said he hopes that plans to move parking lots to the periphery of campus will help encourage students to use bikes more frequently.

“We don’t want to help get students to cars, necessarily, but we’ll get them on a bike,” Weiner said. “And once they’re on them, maybe they’ll see the values of bikes.”

David Cooperman ’02, CEAC student chair, concluded the forum by recognizing CEAC student members and introducing the Committee’s four subgroups. These groups focused on building construction, contract services, purchasing and institutionalization.