10/29/2009 Ad Crable

Going, Going Green

F&M has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint, and the changes on and off campus are taking shape

A year ago, Carol de Wet knew how far Franklin & Marshall had to go to become recognized as a sustainable campus when she heard students, faculty and professional staff ask out loud if the trash in the recycle bins was really being recycled.

"I'd hear, 'I don't see we're doing many green things,'" recalls the associate dean of faculty and professor of geosciences. "At that point we already had a living roof on the Bonchek College House Commons and geothermal heat in the Klehr Center for Jewish Life."

She wasn't the only person facing questions about the College's involvement with environmental stewardship. Thomas Simpson, the College's sustainability coordinator, was approached by the Admission office. Prospective students were inquiring about the College's green efforts.

"I'd say that is a good sign for the future," says Simpson, who compiled a detailed list and made a presentation to admission staff to educate potential students.

"There were misconceptions that we were behind," de Wet says.

Not anymore. A coordinated effort crossing all disciplines has the College on a path to becoming carbon-neutral. That is, the College will reduce its global-warming greenhouse gases as much as possible and pay to have carbon removed elsewhere for the balance.

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In 2007, President John Fry was a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. In addition to reducing its carbon footprint, the College promises to develop community partnerships to work for sustainability and to blend those initiatives into on-campus life and the curriculum.

It is a bold pledge, but the ensuing efforts already are bringing the College nationwide recognition. F&M was recently rated among the top 100 colleges in the country for its green practices in The Princeton Review's annual Green Ratings. F&M was compared to almost 700 other colleges that have launched sustainability efforts.

Building the Momentum

Environmental awareness and conservation on campus have ebbed and flowed since the 1960s. "This time we are committed, both as a society and as an institution,"de Wet says. In 2008 Fry asked her to assess the College's sustainability and to map a course for its improvement.

The roots of the current drive to sustainability go back to 2004, when a group of determined students and several faculty members put together a petition asking Fry to create a Campus Sustainability Committee. "The main reason was we felt sustainability reached across boundaries on the campus that usually aren't crossed," recalls Linda Fritz, professor of physics and astronomy and department chair.

Those involved in the early days to secure traction for an extensive green strategy say efforts on campus were disjointed and lacked a unifying force. "There just was so much happening, and we just weren't talking to each other about it," de Wet says.

Fritz led an ad-hoc task force charged with gathering information. After extensive study of what other colleges were accomplishing, the Campus Sustainability Committee was created, made up of students, faculty and staff, and chaired the first year by Rob Sternberg, professor of geosciences, and for the next three years by Fritz.

Since then faculty, administrators and students have put in place and planned dozens of projects and strategies, small and dramatic, institutional and personal.

Some recent examples include bikes donated by Michael Zane '70 that are loaned to students, faculty and staff to encourage them to curb vehicle use. The College and the Environmental Action Alliance, a student group focused on environmental issues, joined together to begin offering a light-bulb exchange so that students could swap for energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. The College began keeping buildings cooler in winter and warmer in summer.

"Such thinking has permeated the institution from the highest level down and from individuals upward, and that's important," de Wet says. "I think that's when you see deep, systematic changes."

Simpson credits Fry's leadership. "Grassroots movements are good," he says, "but things really move when the leader takes the cause to heart, and John Fry has taken it to heart."

Instead of a variety of disparate initiatives, the College now has an integrated plan penned by de Wet, "Beyond Green: Franklin & Marshall's Commitment to Environmental Stewardship—Natural History, Society, and Sustainability," that maps out its future strategy.

Changing the Infrastructure

It became clear the College couldn't make a quantum difference without investing in major changes to infrastructure.

A complete overhaul of the 40-year-old natural gas- and oil-burning system at a cost of $1.3 million is almost complete. The system will be much more efficient, cutting down on both emissions and energy use. It also will enable more uniform heating and cooling by allowing temperatures in buildings throughout campus to be remotely controlled.

"This will make a big impact," says Maria Cimilluca, associate vice president for facilities management, capital programs and planning, who is coordinating the effort to reduce the College's carbon footprint as part of the Presidents' Climate Commitment.

The power the College uses that is not generated on-site and must be purchased is now 33 percent from wind turbines, up from 12 percent.

The College is committed to energy-efficient construction methods as well. When the Klehr Center opened in 2008, its supply of heat and cooling came from an underground geothermal system. The structure also contained low-flow sinks and toilets, lighting run with occupancy sensors and other energy-saving techniques.

Part of the visitor parking lot near the Wohlsen Admission House is porous asphalt that allows rainwater to seep slowly through the ground. That is the new standard for parking lots on campus going forward. Parking at a new College House, to be built this year, will include rain gardens to capture stormwater runoff.

Existing buildings also sprouted new features. A row of solar panels went into service this summer on the roof of the Hackman Physical Science Laboratories, providing a portion of the building's power. The Bonchek College House dormitory has a "living roof" planted with various sedums to prevent stormwater runoff and to reduce heating and cooling loads.

All appliances, computers and equipment purchased or leased now must meet Energy Star standards for efficiency. All new and renovated buildings must meet the U.S. Green Building Council's respected LEED rating.

Low-tech is back in fashion, too, and composting will be a big component. Cimilluca worked with her staff to establish 10 garden plots at Baker Campus that are offered first-come, first-served to members of the campus community to make gardening an option for those who do not have the land to garden. The College may someday establish moderate-scale gardening at Baker or Millport Conservancy to produce a portion of campus food, as well as some for local food banks and shelters.

And for those doubting the College was sincere about recycling, Cimilluca states there is now a 30 percent recycling rate on campus. Last spring F&M placed 73rd out of 209 schools that competed in Recyclemania, a competition against other colleges and universities.

This fall the College will open the Carolyn and Robert Wohlsen '50 Center for the Sustainable Environment. The center, which includes a new director of sustainability and environmental stewardship, will become a focal point for on-campus and community environmental and sustainability efforts. The center will operate from the former Central Services Building.

Taking to the Streets

Helping and partnering with the Lancaster community are key components for the future. The initiative has been dubbed "green spheres of influence." The idea is to share expertise and the College's experience in seeking sustainability with the community.

It is already in motion. When a local sustainable group approached Simpson about expanding composting at F&M, Simpson said, "Good idea!" He organized meetings with department heads and assured them it was possible. Soon, food waste in dining hall kitchens may be channeled to the compost pile, rather than the trash can.

Under the auspices of F&M's Local Economy Center, Linda Aleci, associate professor of art history and a key advocate for campus sustainability, exemplifies the practice of extending her expertise to the community. For the past decade, she has worked regionally to strengthen local food systems and has helped several communities set up or redevelop farmers' markets and public markets, once a fixture in Lancaster County.

One of those success stories was re-establishing Lancaster City's Eastern Market as a hub for fresh foods for underserved neighborhoods on the city's east side. With a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, she has conducted research on food access in Lancaster with Doug Smith '09, who became so involved he is now the market manager. Aleci and Smith are publishing a suite of papers on Eastern Market as a case study for new markets in low-income neighborhoods.

Not content to stop there, Aleci started the thriving Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) campaign in Lancaster. She now chairs BFBL, which recently received a Smart Growth Leadership Award from the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

Leading the Charge

Student initiatives also have helped to propel the College's drive toward a greener future.

Shawn Jenkins '10, an environmental studies major, and Brian Marshall '10, an environmental studies and public policy major, wanted to pioneer sustainable living on campus. The members of the Environmental Action Alliance researched living arrangements on other campuses and came up with such an impressive proposal that the College gave them a two-rowhouse complex just off campus and a budget for energy-efficient renovations. The Sustainability House was born.
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Jenkins and Marshall selected 23 students from varied backgrounds and majors to live there in 2008, the house's first year of operation. "We understand the environmental movement is not just restricted to students' studying environmental science," Jenkins says.

The students responded. They unplugged computers when they went to bed. They bought a composting tumbler for their meal leftovers. They turned off appliances when they were not using them. They minimized their time in the shower.

Each house member was assigned a position. Two became data managers and kept detailed track of the house's use of electricity and water. The results were dramatic. At the end of the school year, the students had used two-thirds less energy than the same number of students who had occupied the house the year before. And not a single student dropped out of the house.

Two of the students accompanied Fritz to a solar-training seminar and later secured a $15,000 grant from the Sustainable Energy Fund, to be matched by the College. The plan is to use the money to install solar panels on the roof or side of the house.

Another student-driven project that grew out of the Environmental Action Alliance, the self-named Dirt Army, took the $500 prize money from the College's first annual Sustainability Award to plant a community garden on Baker Campus in the spring.

"I think it would be great to acquire a presence within the community with our message, just to think about what you're eating," says Kelsey Lerback '11, who is an environmental studies and public policy major. "The whole food movement has grown tremendously in the last couple years, and now was the time to practice what we preached."

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Many of the students were new to gardening, and the initial growing season was a lesson in the vicissitudes of growing things. "I had an appreciation for the farmer before, but there are so many hardships you have to deal with," Lerback says. By the end, though, she was canning vegetables.

She was one of three sustainability interns on campus through the summer who weeded, watered and nurtured organic radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini and plenty of green beans. Simpson passed on Gardening 101 tips and acquired compost for the garden from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The students also built a mini-garden, planted and tended by children in surrounding neighborhoods. Faculty and their families were kept in fresh produce. The Dirt Army hopes to expand its bounty, supplying fresh ingredients to the weekly Fair Trade Café on campus and donating a percentage of the produce to local food banks.

Greening the Curriculum

Yet another face of the greening of F&M is a goal to meld the sustainability and environmental stewardship themes into the curriculum—across all disciplines.

The approach is rooted in a firm belief that all academic disciplines at the College, not just the natural sciences, must be involved in the effort for it to succeed. "We want all the perspectives we can get on this problem," de Wet says. "We've laid down the groundwork of science. There are always more models to refine, but to make anything happen we have to involve the social sciences and humanities."

The College already has an impressive list of courses and majors related to the environment, de Wet says. Now, she says, "a lot of faculty members are rethinking existing courses and how to add sustainability to them." Courses such as Environmental Issues in Chemistry, Business and the Natural Environment, and The Environment and Human Values illustrate that kind of cross-disciplinary thinking.

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In addition, Millport Conservancy opens new territory for research by faculty and students. A research project to measure carbon budgets in an evergreen forest is under way, and many more projects are planned.

Expanded research opportunities, new and improved facilities and a growing awareness by the entire College community will continue to build on earlier sustainability efforts. "We've moved forward so fast," de Wet says.

But there is more to do. Becoming completely carbon- neutral is a lofty goal, especially in these economically hard times. It will take years, decades even, Cimilluca says. "But we're making headway, and I'm excited about it."

Check out the College's new environmental sustainability and stewardship Web site: www.fandm.edu/beyondgreen.
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