College’s Sustainability Initiatives Still Going Strong

St. Mary’s touts itself as a green school, and yet some alumni were still wondering why the College has not shown up in any prestigious green school rankings, such as The Princeton Review, Sierra Club’s Cool Schools, or the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

Luke Mowbray, the Sustainability Coordinator, says, “There are a number of green reporting agencies, but traditionally we haven’t submitted scores for too many of them.” However, the College has submitted scores to the Princeton Review and the Maryland Green Registry, and it will be expanding its score submissions to AASHE STARS, the most comprehensive green reporting system, within the next year.

In years past, St. Mary’s has garnered enough impressive accolades to prove that the College is indeed working towards its goal of environmental sustainability. It was rated in the 80 percentile of universities in the country in The Princeton Review’s Top Green Schools, and is the only college in Maryland to receive the Maryland Green Leadership Award.

St. Mary’s has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the largest green power purchaser in the Capital Athletic Conference for the past four years, and is the first school in Maryland to be named a sanctuary by the Audubon Society.

In 2008, the College completed an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) worth $2.5 million in energy and water efficiency upgrades, leading to a 16.5 %  reduction in electricity through engineered savings, and a 34% water and sewage reduction.

Additionally, all new construction at the College must be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified or equivalent, demonstrating the College’s commitment to make its buildings environmentally responsible.

Mowbray was “surprsised that [St. Mary’s] hadn’t submitted for AASHE STARS,” but extolled the College’s administration for being “very supportive” of these goals. “We do a lot of really good work here, and it would be nice to let the world know.”

Sustainability Brings Out the Bargain-Hunter

On Oct. 20, college campuses all over the nation celebrated Campus Sustainability Day, a day devoted to emphasizing the green initiative on college campuses.

When asked about what makes a college sustainable, Sustainability Fellow Elizabeth “Lisa” Neu, ‘10, said “the college administration, staff, faculty and students all work together to reduce our impact on the environment and promote awareness about environmental issues.”

A sustainability committee, though only four years old, has been hard at work making our school more environmentally friendly.

This year, they put their own spin on Campus Sustainability Day by holding various events during the day, including a viewing of the documentary Tapped, and handed out 50 stainless steel reusable water bottles.

However, the main attraction was the Campus Free Market, where students could drop off their unwanted belongings, as well as pick up other students’ for free.

Even though it was a cold, rainy day, many students came to the event. Besides students offering free goods at the free market, the campus farm also provided free food, and the bike shop provided free bicycle tune-ups.

Sophomore Jocelyn Baltz said, “The free food was really good, and I signed up for the campus farm mailing list. [The free market] was a really cool idea!”

According to senior Chelsea Howard-Foley, the associate sustainability fellow, “The free market decreases the things we buy, and helps us become more sustainable. If we don’t have use for something we have, someone else might.”

“College students are the future,” said Neu. “College is a time full of new ideas and new changes, so why not include green changes too?”

Though developing a truly green, sustainable campus is a long process and doesn’t happen overnight, Neu said there are lots of things students can do to be more environmentally friendly.

For example, Neu said “Use energy wisely…don’t just wash one t-shirt in the machine at a time.” She also suggested composting, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and recycling.

Baltz said “I’m very into recycling, and think it’s a great, easy thing to do to improve sustainability on campus.”

“As college students, we have a lot of privilege and education and it’s our responsibility to do something with that,” Howard-Foley said. “[I]t’s not just about campus sustainability on one day. We need to work towards it year round.”