Green Campus Internship
When beginning this internship our objectives were to research the green campus movement, take minutes for the Whitman Conservation Committee Meeting, and talk to students who have worked to improve Whitman’s environmental footprint. Working to complete our objectives lead Amanda Heffernan and I to see the need for a Whitman committee that would consider the environmental implications of Whitman’s construction projects. Thus, we have written a proposal for Green Building Advisory Committee, which we will present to Tom Cronin in January of 2002.
Amanda and I began our internship by researching sustainable buildings at the following colleges: Middlebury, Dartmouth, Northland, Oberlin, Hendrix, Montana State, California Polytechnic Institute, Slippery Rock University, and Humboldt State. At first, I was discouraged by the amount of time it took to actually see the construction of a sustainable dorm. However, seeing what students around the country have accomplished provided me with the needed support to begin such a large project. Our research also showed the endless possibilities of projects that such a student-initiated group. Humboldt State University’s Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Oberlin College’s Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, and Northland College’s Environmental Living and Learning Center most closely exemplify our ideas for future projects that the Green Building Committee may bring about. Descriptions of these projects can be seen at the end of this report.
Amanda and I met once or twice a week to evaluate and discuss the direction of our internship. We divided up the research. We also met with Lea Redmond twice during the semester. During our first meeting we discussed creating a set of environmental principals that Whitman would have to follow every time a building project is planned. We decided against these because a set of principals would be more static than what we were looking for. Furthermore, in February of 2000, the Conservation Committee, the Faculty, and the Board of Trustees adopted the “Environmental Principles for Whitman College”. Thus, we decided to write a proposal for a Green Building Advisory Committee, which will be able to use these existing principals as a guide but will not be limited to a rigid set of building principals.
Our Proposal for a Green Building Advisory Committee is as follows:
While we recognize that Whitman College has made significant strides in environmental sustainability over the past few years, we still believe that as an institution, we can do more. We have been attending conservation committee meetings all semester and have spoken to interested students and faculty all semester, and have come to conclude that Whitman must further institutionalize its environmental principles. We are aware of the environmental considerations taken into account during the construction of the new SUB and the Hall of Science addition; however, after researching the nationwide green building movement, we have realized that Whitman lags behind other comparable educational institutions. Rather than continuing to build conventionally, we believe that Whitman should consider the myriad options that are currently available for sustainable building. Thus, we are proposing the creation of a Green Building Committee.
Why Green Building is Important
Currently there are many people on campus working on environmental issues – from members of the Conservation Committee to Environmental Studies interns, to SAAC members, to interested students and faculty. But as it stands, these people are not affecting real change on campus, because their efforts are not coordinated, and because these kinds of environmental efforts are not integrated into the power structure of the college. If we had a Committee composed of students and faculty, as well as members of the administration and the Board of Trustees, it would be a powerful force for change. The Committee would coordinate the individual efforts of the various students, faculties, and committees on campus, who are all dedicated to sustainability, but who are currently scattered. The Committee would also be permanent, creating institutional memory about campus environmental issues.
Whitman is a residential liberal arts college that prides itself on providing a holistic educational experience. Whitman also has an excellent Environmental Studies program, which teaches students how our daily lives affect the natural systems that surround us. What better to provide daily, hands-on environmental education than to allow students the opportunity to join a committee that has the power to create real change. Furthermore, if a sustainable dorm is ever built due to the efforts of the Committee, its residents, along with the entire campus, will practice living sustainably every day – a perfect complement to the environmental learning that goes on in the classroom. In addition, while Whitman does make an effort to reduce energy consumption on campus and to promote recycling, these kinds of efforts do not stand out the way a green building would. Clearly, this would be good for admissions, and for Whitman’s overall image.
We recognize that in comparison to conventional architecture, green building is more expensive. However, we believe that the educational benefits would outweigh the dollar cost of any projects. Also, with time, Whitman would benefit economically due to reduced consumption of energy, water, and natural resources.
Structure of the Committee
This committee will be comprised of trustees, overseers, faculty, staff, and students, and would oversee all of Whitman College’s building projects to ensure that environmental considerations are accounted for. This committee will meet every two months and more frequently when building projects are being considered. We hope that the committee will include one trustee, several overseers, student and faculty representatives, as well as the Treasurer, the Director of Development, and staff from the Physical Plant.
This committee will oversee the planning and construction of every new Whitman College building along with major repairs. With the college’s Environmental Principles as a guideline, the committee will account for environmental considerations at every stage of the building process. Rather than having a set of static principles only, the committee will be an active force for environmental sustainability on this campus. The committee will take into account every aspect of a proposed project’s environmental footprint, including building materials, energy efficiency, waste management, and water conservation. The committee will also take an active role in proposing new projects or building modifications.
As mentioned earlier, Amanda and I are going to present this proposal to President Cronin in January 2002. We also plan to write an article for the Pioneer to educate students about the proposal. If this proposal is accepted, I plan to attend the meetings regularly. Future environmental studies interns may also be interested in joining this new committee.
If I could begin this internship again, I would have immediately narrowed my focus. Initially, Amanda and I planned to help Tova Cochran to re-certify Whitman’s Green Seal. We also spent time researching different areas of environmental concerns including food service, recycling, composting, lights, solar power, toilets, appliances, water, and energy use. While these are definitely areas that could use interns to focus on, they were too broad for us to thoroughly narrow down to concrete steps Whitman can take. Amanda and I would have had time to present our proposal to President Cronin if we had once started researching how sustainability is approached at other schools, which would have allowed us to write our proposal earlier in the semester.
I advise future interns interested in forming a committee to have a narrow focus from the beginning. As seen with our internship, this is often difficult because the exact nature of the new committee does not become clear until research has been conducted. Furthermore, I recommend attending the Conservation Committee meetings to have something to compare your ideals with. By attending these meetings, Amanda and I realized that having board member, overseers, and admissions officers on our committee is essential for change. These meetings also gave us an idea of how frequently we want the Green Building Advisory Committee to meet. The only other advice I have for future interns is not to get discouraged. It takes time to see your environmental ideals realized.
Our research of different environmental areas leads us to formulate a list of building strategies and materials that the future Green Building Committee can research and one-day implement. These include:
Black pipes on roofs for heating water
Certified sustainable wood products
Greywater Treatment Marsh/Pond
Low-flow faucets, toilets, and shower
Passive solar design
Rainwater Collection System
Recycled construction materials/ furniture
Recycled or earth-and-straw insulation
Solar Panels, photovoltaics
Water — and energy—efficient appliances
The following is a list of pertinent sustainability research projects undertaken at other Oberlin, Northland, and Humboldt:
Oberlin’s Center for Environmental Studies is an academic building housing the College’s Environmental Studies program, meeting rooms, and a 100-seat auditorium. The building has a sustainable design incorporating overhanging eaves and shading to maximize energy efficiency, as well as specially-coated windows that regulate the amount of UV light entering the building in order to stabilize the inside temperature. Solar panels on the roof are designed to be replaced every few years as energy-generating technology improves. Eventually, the College hopes that the building will be a net energy supplier. A pond next to its greenhouse serves as an organic water purification system; the water in it may also someday be used for recycling. The interior of the building is fitted with leased carpet that will go back to the manufacturer to be recycled when it is worn out. The building uses wood from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified sustainable forest. Most of the chairs are made out of biodegradable materials. The Center is surrounded by an earthen berm, as restored forest, and organic gardens and orchards.
Built in 1998, the Living and Learning Center (ELLC) at Northland College is a green dorm, designed to be 40% more energy-and water- efficient than a typical, conventionally constructed building. The ELLC has a 120-ft 20-kilwatt-wind tower to provide renewable energy, as well as photovoltaic arrays. Fourteen solar panels heat the hot water for resident, and the bathrooms include composting toilets. The apartments have a passive solar design to minimize energy use for heating and cooling. There are also two greenhouses and a recycling center as part of the complex. The building was constructed with wood that was intentionally grown near the college to minimize transportation effects. This insulation is made of cellulose form recycled paper. The linoleum on the floor is organic-based, and much of the furniture is made from recycled milk jugs and recycled steel. The windows are all made of low-emissive coated glass. The building is equipped with heat-recovering units in the ventilations system. The dorm houses 114 students, all of whom take a course called “Sustainable Living in a College Community,” which studies personal living habits and their effects on the environment; additional courses in sustainable living are also available at Northland.
Humboldt State University demonstrates that living lightly upon Earth is neither difficult nor burdensome. Their Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT) is a student-initiated, student-run, and student-funded demonstration home dedicated to resource and energy-efficient living. It was created in 1978 when groups of students formed a club, with the eventual mission of finding a house on campus that they could turn into a demonstration home. Today it is a household and education center run by three appointed students. To exemplify the importance of treating the planet ethically, it showcases alternative waste, heat, water, food, and electrical systems, which minimally impact the environment. It also hosts discussions concerning the ethical and social consequences of the use of technology. Today people worldwide contact CCAT seeking information on sustainable living techniques. It provides tours, workshops and experiential learning opportunities to the Humboldt community.
To run the CCAT, three student co-directors are appointed yearly by a steering committee comprised of university administrators, faculty, community members and past co-directors. Live-in co-directors facilitate current projects and development of the house.