Sustainability

The Sustainability Committee, a committee whose goal is to promote sustainability on campus, as well as aiding the College in creating a plan of action to promote sustainability on campus in the long term. The Committee has begun drafting a strategic plan to try and formalize a plan of action to create a more sustainable St. Mary’s

In May 2008, former College President Maggie O’Brien, signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. This agreement states that the College will implement certain steps in order to gain carbon neutrality. “Signing this means the College is agreeing to take action steps and create a timeline [in order to become carbon neutral],” said Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall.

The plan has several steps which must be completed in order to show that the College is working towards becoming carbon neutral. “[The first step] is to have an inventory of carbon dioxide emissions, which we just finished,” said Hall. After completing the inventory, the committee dicovered that the year 2008 was one of the highest for gross carbon emissions from St. Mary’s. 

“The year 2008’s gross carbon emissions were the highest because of the growth of the student population, and the construction of new buildings. This should be the peak of our carbon emissions, we should go down from here,” said Hall. To try and offset the amount of energy being used, the sustainability committee is looking at creating more sustainable buildings, and utilizing more student funded renewable energy credits.  The committee must have a useable Climate Action Plan finished by May 2010.

Currently, the Sustainability Committee is working on a more formalized sustainability plan for the college. “The college is developing a sustainability plan. Sustainability is one of the college’s priorities, it is currently a draft plan,” said Sustainability co-chair Christophe Bornand. The committee contains students, faculty, and anyone who has an interest in sustainability on campus.

“The committee is an important and really the main vehicle to have a large impact on the college, but not the only one. SEAC [the Student Environmental Action Coalition] has a lot of projects, and even students who are not part of clubs have had a lot of good ideas in the past,” said Bornand.

The strategic plan that the committee is trying to develop will incorporate both long term and short term goals to try and create a more sustainable College. “In what the strategic plan is trying to do is provide a road map for how we become a more sustainable place, this focuses on how we reduce our carbon footprint, and live in a more environmentally friendly way,” said Psychology professor and sustainability co-chair Richard Platt.

 The plan will identify the most critical priorities of sustainability as well as both short term and long term plans to reduce St. Mary’s carbon footprint, and maintain the environmental climate. “The strategic plan is a less detailed plan from the Climate Action Plan this is how we are going to meet the goals of the Climate Action Plan,” said Platt.

Currently, the committee is working on a draft of the strategic plan and hopes to have it completed by spring 2010, so that it may be submitted to the campus committee for feedback. “[The committee began working on] the Strategic Action Plan last year and has created as of today a first draft, and the goal for this semester is to improve the draft and have something to present to the college,” said Bornand.

The Strategic Plan and the Climate Action Plan are only two long term actions being implemented to reduce St. Mary’s carbon footprint. There are also short term goals being put into effect to address climate issues in the short term. Some of these short term goals are to obtain reusable to-go boxes, improve resource programs, and promote composting.

For anyone interested in sustainability on campus, the Sustainability Committee is always looking for new members to join. “The strategic plan is created every five years,” said Bornand. “This is a critical time if we let sustainability slip out of that it may not become important for the college as a whole.”

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