Written by Susan A. Kidd Wednesday, October 07 2009
|Deeper Shade of Green|
With 2,000 trees on campus, Agnes Scott College has been called the neighborhood’s Central Park. Yet, this green, beautiful campus is located in metro Atlanta, one of the most rapidly sprawling regions in the United States and the heart of a state that daily gains 106 acres of paved surface.
Even with the undeniable, physical greenness of the campus, today Agnes Scott has the challenge of taking our buildings, our landscape, our curriculum, and all our activities to a deeper shade of green. We are going beneath the surface of this urban forest to a deeper and wider approach that expands our very way of thinking and working.
|Agnes Scott College: Central Park in Atlanta|
We will be asking questions of ourselves about change and how we can reduce our impact on the world’s natural resources. This is what Agnes Scott calls sustainability. Why is the college committed to sustainability? Because we believe it is one of the most pressing global issues of our time, and we believe that we must be stewards of the campus’s and region’s natural resources, as well as teachers about how to be sustainable. These are critical life skills for today’s students.
Agnes Scott’s sustainability mission currently focuses on the environment, but we recognize there are three Es of sustainability: Equity, Economy, and Environment. The college is coordinating sustainability with other goals of the college’s strategic plan, as well as different aspects of the college’s operations, with the goal of keeping all three Es in sync.
Our mission statement for sustainability is:
Following the college’s mission to live honorably, Agnes Scott accepts the challenge of environmental stewardship, commits to education and leadership in sustainability, and seeks to balance what the college takes from and what we return to the world’s natural resources.
|Agnes Scott: Environmental stewardship|
In September 2007, President Elizabeth Kiss was one of 350 charter signatories to the American Colleges & Universities Presidents Climate Commitment. The ACUPCC is a pledge designed by college leaders to acknowledge concern about global climate change and to commit to becoming climate neutral. As of August 2009, the total number of signatories nationwide was 650, including 13 in Georgia, of which seven are in metro Atlanta.
Agnes Scott also made a commitment to hire the first director of sustainability, and the first sustainability fellow, both alumnae. In a unique partnership, the fellow position is partly supported by the city of Decatur, where Agnes Scott is located; therefore, she provides direct support to the work at both the college and the city.
Since signing the commitment, Agnes Scott has been taking action on fulfilling that pledge, as well as more broadly greening the campus. Our first step was to establish an organizational structure to guide the changes. The Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC) was appointed by President Kiss and includes all of the college’s vice presidents along with other staff, as well as faculty, students, trustees, and alumnae. The SSC established seven areas of concern:
Curriculum and student engagement.
Communications/health and well being.
Waste reduction/green purchasing.
Water and watersheds.
Buildings and grounds.
Here are some examples of our early actions:
Significant waste reduction through single-stream recycling and food-waste composting.
A resolution committing the college to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for all new construction and renovation projects on campus. The recent Anna I. Alumnae House renovation is designed for LEED Silver and the aspiration for the certification of the future Campbell Hall renovation is LEED Gold.
Submittal of our first greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Our footprint of more than 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent is in the middle range for colleges with our physical and student body size. The primary research and calculation for this inventory was done by a student research assistant.
The next step was completion of the college’s Climate Action Plan. The energy subcommittee of the SSC, along with facilities and sustainability staff, is documenting options to reduce the college’s energy consumption and therefore reduce our carbon emissions. All options are being considered, from establishing standard temperature settings to turning off lights, and from replacing out-of-date mechanical equipment to using renewable energy such as solar.
The broad acceptance of these efforts on campus has been critical to allow the initial steps to happen quickly, and it will be critical as we move to these next steps:
Implementing the Climate Action Plan, with ambitious goals for behavioral change and the need to fund mechanical retrofitting and renewable energy projects.
Establishing a “water action plan” with reduction goals.
Keeping the interest of the more than 300 college community members involved thus far and increasing that number.
Making new commitments such as composting, grounds management, and organic gardening.
And, most importantly, providing a growing number of educational opportunities for students.
Susan Kidd, an Agnes Scott alumna, is director of sustainability for Agnes Scott College. This article is reprinted from the spring issue of Agnes Scott The Magazine and is used with permission from Agnes Scott College.