Within the next 20 years, Franklin & Marshall College hopes to be a campus that uses renewable energy sources to supply 80 percent of its energy needs. All stormwater would be contained to the College grounds, solid waste campus-wide would be reduced from 11 pounds per capita to eight pounds per capita, and the campus would see significant declines in water consumption.
These and other goals are part of a broad-reaching Sustainability Master Plan that the College is sharing with members of the campus community via a new sustainability plan Web page this week. More than two years in the making, the plan incorporates extensive research on sustainability best practices and the input of stakeholders across campus from a series of open forums held earlier this year.
F&M's Board of Trustees approved the comprehensive plan Oct. 13, affirming the College's commitment to fostering a sustainable environment for current and future generations of students, alumni, faculty and professional staff. Work toward the plan began in 2010, when Interim President John F. Burness '67 charged a task force with developing a master plan for a sustainable campus. Now, a newly constituted Sustainability Committee, made up of some members of the task force, has begun implementation of elements of the plan that should be launched as early as the spring 2013 semester.
"The plan takes a comprehensive look at sustainability, integrating programs across multiple sectors to build a more sustainable campus," said Linda Aleci, a professor of art history and chair of the Sustainability Committee. "It looks at the campus as a whole and creates a roadmap that consolidates, coordinates and prioritizes our efforts."
The plan is far from the beginning of F&M's sustainability initiatives, Aleci said. It builds on widespread conservation and environmental stewardship efforts of the past decade, and more decisively incorporates sustainability into decision-making at every level of the College's operations.
The plan includes nine focus areas: energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable building, transportation management, education and outreach, the food system, solid waste reduction, campus landscape, and procurement.
Among the plan's short-term and long-term goals:
The plan and the reconstituted Sustainability Committee is an outgrowth of the work of 22 faculty, professional staff and students tasked with formalizing and combining existing sustainability efforts campuswide, in addition to conceiving new goals and strategies.
"The plan involves the whole campus. It integrates what the Facilities and Operations department is doing to make grounds and buildings more sustainable with recycled and low-emission materials with the Wohlsen Center's education and outreach efforts, student efforts, and initiatives of professors," said committee member Sarah Dawson, director of the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment.
The goal is for the College to share ideas and become more efficient as a whole, Dawson added. For example, while some academic and administrative departments individually have decided to use bamboo keyboards and paper containing recycled materials, the sustainability plan encourages use of environmentally responsible materials throughout F&M. The plan allows for innovation as new challenges and advances arise and the College grows.
"Now, we can work on this together, with the endorsement of the faculty, the Board of Trustees and the campus community to live more sustainably day-to-day," Dawson said. "This helps us to be more effective educators inside and outside the classroom."
The campus community will begin seeing changes in the coming months, such as high-efficiency lighting replacing traditional lighting and water-bottle filling stations being installed to reduce plastic waste. There will be an increase in the promotion of bike usage for transportation, and the College will work to cut down on the amount of trash it creates by pursuing alternatives such as composting in the dining facilities, expanding the campus' recycling efforts and working with vendors to reduce product packaging.
Goals such as obtaining 80 percent of energy needed to power the campus from renewable sources and containing all stormwater on the College grounds are to be implemented in several phases through 2030 and beyond.
Costs to reach these and other goals are estimated at between $1 million and $3 million in the first five years and several million dollars more for each subsequent five-year period, committee members said. Some projects will be paid for with existing funds already dedicated to sustainable efforts, but College leaders also will seek endowed gifts and grants to fund longer-term projects. The bulk of projects will be funded through a $2 million sustainability revolving fund approved by the Board of Trustees. This fund allows the College to invest in sustainable projects and pay the fund back with savings from the sustainable projects. For example, the Sustainability Committee may decide to invest in LED lighting campuswide for $500,000. The revolving fund would provide the funding for the project, and the savings, in turn, would be directed back to the revolving fund to pay back the $500,000 over a few years.
Committee member Mike Wetzel, associate vice president for facilities management and campus planning, said making F&M more sustainable requires a commitment from the entire campus and the surrounding community.
"We need the participation from everyone to increase recycling, reduce waste and conserve water and energy," Wetzel said. "We're going to be more efficient in how we run the campus by doing things like mowing and snow plowing less and using more energy-efficient equipment. These initiatives not only benefit the environment but also help with costs and expenses on campus."
The College already is committed to meeting or exceeding LEED Silver building standards for new and renovated buildings, Wetzel said. In October, New College House became the first building on campus to receive LEED Silver certification. Other new or renovated College buildings meet LEED-equivalent guidelines, Wetzel said.
Facilities and Operations also is working to reduce oil consumption in the campus fleet by evaluating and implementing alternative energy sources.
A full sustainability website will be expanded and adapted from existing online College resources on sustainability and the environment to provide a framework for sharing all of these initiatives. The committee expects to unveil the full site early in the spring semester.
"This online resource allows us to document and share progress on the many sustainable initiatives of the Sustainability Master Plan and to connect the campus community with opportunities for education and outreach, which is critical to creating a culture of environmental stewardship at F&M," Aleci said.
To learn more about F&M's sustainability efforts, visit the existing Sustainability & the Environment website.