The Technology Clinic presented its final project report from its year-long study on environmentally-friendly alternatives to the College’s current practices Dec. 12.
Tech Clinic is a hands-on course founded in 1986 that brings together students from different majors to help solve real-world problems of a business, non-profit organization, or government body. This year, the students have been working in conjunction with the President’s Office to develop a greenhouse reduction strategy.
The team consists of Trustee Scholar Katie Hamerslag ’08 (Martinsville, N.J.), a biology major; Marquis Scholar Sara Walter ’09 (Kempton, Pa.), history and government & law and Spanish double major; Felix Forster ’09 (Rostock, Germany), who is pursuing a B.S. in mathematics and an A.B. in economics and business; Doug Appel ’08 (Marlboro, N.J.), an anthropology and sociology major; and Matt Vanderwall ’08 (Webster, N.Y.) and Ashley Luke ’08 (Scarsdale, N.Y.), who are both majoring in engineering studies.
Team facilitators are Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology, and Will Dohe, AIA of R+D Architecture in Easton.
The 83-page report explains how the students determined that the majority of the College’s greenhouse gas emissions are coming from its electricity consumption and stationary steam plant (the central source of heating and cooling the campus). The students then address possible changes and additions to be made on campus on an administrative and student level that primarily target these two areas.
On the administrative level, the team urged President Daniel Weiss to follow through with signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment – a pledge to make their campuses carbon neutral. Carbon neutral refers to zero emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary component of greenhouse gases.
According to Weiss, changes are already being implemented on an administrative scale to help “green” the campus.
“We have made a commitment to the Board of Trustees that by the end of this year we will present them with a strategic plan to make Lafayette carbon neutral,” says Weiss. “So, we appreciate and take very seriously the work that these students have done.”
Appel comments on the larger contribution the College would make by signing this pledge.
“President Weiss understands how important it is for our campus to go carbon neutral,” says Appel. “By doing what we can locally, that is joining the hundreds of other institutions in America that have already signed this pledge and by following through with going carbon neutral, we are adding to the strength of the nation on this issue.”
The students also proposed the establishment of a Vice President of Sustainability position to the already established Sustainability Committee in addition to the chief Sustainability Officer. The VP of Sustainability would provide information on sustainable practices during administrative meetings and would also be a primary figure in implementing sustainability policies and programs on campus.
Other key discussion points in the report are the incorporation of biofuels, solar power, a turbine house to collect rain water for power generation at the bottom of College Hill, and a tri-generational system that collects the campus’ heat waste and re-circulates it into warm or cool air.
“We would put an economic plan in place to measure and manage the outlays and paybacks of systems like these,” explains Vanderwall, “and the paybacks for investments in greenhouse gas reduction are always much larger and come quickly.”
Possible options for students that the team introduced include an alternate student center with alternate dining facilities on the opposite side of the campus from Farinon College Center. This would be an all-green facility that would possibly contain an “electronic post-office,” and consoles for the electronic distribution of campus announcements. This alternate facility would also diminish the number of students that drive across campus for meals.
The students also emphasize wider availability of recycling facilities, both inside and outside of the dorms, and the establishment of water fill-up stations to replace the sale of plastic bottles of water, a substantial source of carbon emissions.
While most of these changes are definite possibilities for the near future, the team also highlighted what can be done immediately. This includes purchasing energy for the campus from green power sources – hydro power, solar power, wind power, and bio power – through Pennsylvania’s Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) system. Doing this plus other green practices would make the campus carbon neutral in a substantially short amount of time until other previously mentioned systems have been installed, according to the students.
With this, the students suggest the immediate replacement of the florescent lights in the majority of the classrooms with energy efficient T-12 florescent lamps, along with motion and daylight sensors, which would reduce electrical consumption by 50 percent.
Along with all of these changes, the team stresses green education and leadership in the classroom and in campus life, beginning primarily with incoming students.
“If pressure is put on freshmen to adopt the college’s green practices from the get go while they’re still in the learning stages of college life, they are likely to accept them more quickly,” explains Hamerslag. “This will help these practices become instilled in the campus culture.”
Examples of “greening” incoming students are the distribution of Nalgene bottles to freshmen upon arrival and orientation leaders emphasizing the College’s green practices.
“The influence to be green should come from everywhere – from student leaders, administrators, faculty and staff,” Vanderwall adds. “Academically, things are happening already. There is a new course being offered called Renewable Energy along with other green First-Year Seminars. There are also many student projects and research taking place that are focused on going green.”
The students are not only optimistic about the attainability of each of these goals, but also convinced about the necessity of attaining them.
“The circumstances of our world are calling for change in the way we live our lives,” explains Luke. “As a generation of young people, if we make these lifestyle changes now with our future in mind, we will carry them throughout the rest of our lives.”