Sustainability: Taking Steps Toward a Greener Campus

No-Idling_600x600If you were on campus this fall for Parents Weekend, we hope you visited Deerfield Academy’s Farmers Market featuring fresh organic produce and other products from eleven local farms and vendors, many of whom provide food to the Dining Hall. Co-sponsored by the Deerfield Parents Network and the Environmental Proctors (E-proctors), the concept was inspired by a desire to raise awareness of the richness of the Pioneer Valley’s farming community, to promote local eating, and to educate parents on sustainability initiatives on campus. This event was a wonderful new addition to the weekend and gave students and faculty a context to consider recent sustainability efforts at Deerfield.

Aside from the obvious–“No Idling” signs and new recycling containers–you may be unaware of the extensive efforts to make Deerfield a “greener” campus. Sustainability Coordinator Jeff Jewett notes, “Communication is key. We hope to further educate parents and partner with them as we move forward in this process.” If terms such as “Think 80|20″, “E-Proctor”, and “SAP” are new to you, read on!

Last year, Deerfield expanded its Sustainability Mission Statement with a community-wide conversation that resulted in the Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), which was presented at the April Trustees Meeting.   More than sixty people, including faculty, staff and students, collaborated to produce this blueprint for a more sustainable campus.  Eight SAP sub-committees examined all areas of campus life, and made two key findings: 1) Deerfield has been a good environmental steward, particularly when it also made good financial sense and 2) Deerfield needs to move ahead and focus on a sustained and coordinated institutional effort to improve its campus. The Committee recommended forty-four specific action items in the areas of Resource Preservation, Community Health, Education and Administration. A few of the high priority items are to conduct an energy management audit, develop a multi-disciplinary farming-themed course, and redesign sit-down meal menus to improve healthy dining habits.  Action on these items is well underway, and it is exciting to observe the impact the SAP is having.  This winter, students will have the opportunity to work in the campus greenhouse as their co-curricular, growing organic salad greens for the Dining Hall. Phase II of a water audit is underway, and water savings of more than one million gallons per year are projected!

When you enter your child’s dorm, you may notice the wall of recycling containers.  Launched last year, the Think 80/20 Campaign is a sustained effort to “re-imagine” waste management on campus.  The goal is to divert 80% of landfill waste by reusing, recycling, composting, or completely avoiding its creation. Students now recycle styrofoam, batteries, dry cleaning bags and hangers, in addition to bottles and cans. All ninth and tenth grade dorm rooms are equipped with mini-sized trash bins to reinforce the expectation that students minimize the creation of landfill-bound trash. Compostable coffee pods have replaced all K-cup coffee makers, removing 32,000 plastic K-cups from the landfill each year.  The “Take Back the Tap” campaign promotes the use of hydration stations and reusable bottles, and bottled water is no longer sold on campus. E-proctors and students in environmental science classes conduct waste audits to track the progress of Think 80|20.

Composting options have expanded beyond the Dining Hall to Koch Center classrooms, the Boyden Library, and faculty apartments.  Dave Purington, Deerfield’s Environmental Management Coordinator, has organized a new student-led effort to collect and recycle cardboard pizza boxes.  Student volunteers can been seen on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons riding around campus on 4-wheel bicycles collecting pizza boxes and delivering them to composting stations.  According to Purington, “Each cycle is equipped with a rack that holds 20-30 pizza boxes. They are highly visible which is great as it creates awareness among students. Currently we are diverting around 100 boxes each week from the landfill.” Another enviable accomplishment of Think 80|20 is the collection of semi-truckloads of old furniture, mattresses, bathroom fixtures, and even old seats from the auditorium. These items are then sent to developing countries for productive re-use instead of the local landfill.

Jeff Jewett has seen increased interest in his Environmental Proctor program: “I have 50 E-proctors! I’m shocked to see that number myself. There are 13 head E-proctors that form the leadership core.” Their primary role is to educate peers on responsible environmental stewardship. In addition, E-proctors work on a variety of sustainability projects throughout the year, such as encouraging their hall’s participation in the Green Cup Challenge as well as a new recycling competition. Senior Sally Cai describes her experience this way; “I became an E-proctor about two weeks into my first year as a new sophomore. I had always been a part of environmental clubs, but I really felt like I could make a difference this time. Last year, a group of us worked to minimize contamination in the Greer compost bin. We began by encouraging the Communications Department to make new signs, and asking the Food Committee to find compostable utensils. Deerfield is definitely trying to become greener than it was in the past, but at the same time, we don’t have a reputation for being an extremely environmentally conscious school. I’ve seen a lot of progress but there definitely is room for more.”

What can parents do to join the sustainability effort? By reading this article, you’ve just taken the first step. The next phase of campus recycling will focus on outdoor events. “We are just starting to think about how to reduce waste at campus-wide events such as Parents Weekend,” reports Jewett. “It is a work in progress, and a partnership with parents is crucial to the success of our initiatives.” If nothing else, we all need to be aware that our choices matter, and perhaps think twice before we pick up that case of bottled water to bring on campus.

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