The Campus, Green
What can a college do to lessen its impact on the environment? Representatives of 44 colleges and universities-including Sarah Lawrence-took on this question at the fourth annual Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities last November.
Josie Merck '69, one of 16 members of the Sarah Lawrence contingent, spoke about how campus greening can be an appealing topic for donors. An environmental activist and painter, Merck helped raise the funds to make the new Heimbold Visual Arts Center an environmentally friendly building.
Building green has benefits beyond the environmental, she said. It is "good as a model for other institutions. It's good for raising money and awareness. It's good as a teaching tool relating to the academic and arts programs. And most importantly and urgently, it is good for the planet and for our health."
Institutional practices like green building are just one aspect of sustainability that needs to be addressed-changes in personal behavior and in the curriculum are necessary as well, said the conference participants. With that in mind, SLC students, faculty, and staff organized a campus sustainability committee that is determined to make Sarah Lawrence more environmentally friendly. Their goal is to minimize the College's carbon emissions, reduce waste and water use, increase recycling, and maximize use of renewable energy and recycled goods.
"We need to start by changing the way people think about energy use and the environment," says Suzy Schwimmer '76, a teacher at the Early Childhood Center and member of the sustainability committee who helped plan the consortium. "Really simple changes like turning off your computer when not in use, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, and developing better recycling practices can make a big difference."
Schwimmer was one of several SLC staff involved in organizing the consortium: She and Judith Schwartzstein, director of media and community relations, co-chaired the campus greening task force and the conference planning committee, while Rachel Grob, associate dean of graduate studies, co-chaired the consortium steering committee.
Joseph Caputo '07, a student member of the committee, adds that Sarah Lawrence students are eager to learn about ways to become more energy efficient. The committee started educating students by distributing a flyer listing 13 energy-saving tips around campus this spring.
Consortium participants do not want to limit their progress to their own campuses-they want to create a circle of campuses actively sharing their ideas with each other.
"Each campus team returns to their own schools and looks at how they can do better, then they share their ideas with the other forty-four institutions," says Schwimmer. "By doing this, we don't all have to reinvent the wheel. One small but successful idea can have a hugely positive effect on the environment when shared and employed by all the schools."