By Kellie Cauley
Few can deny the need for a change in sustainability practices as the awareness of global warming is reaching people from all walks of life. Many institutions, including those of higher learning, have started initiating practices that would reduce their impact on the environment (aka- carbon footprint). Wesleyan happens to be among the 400 colleges and universities that have joined the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in a commitment to “neutralize” the alterations made by students to our environment.
A “long-range” goal has been set by Wesleyan through their Climate Action Plan that aims to incorporate sustainability practices into classroom learning and research. In order to reach the bigger picture, Wesleyan plans to implement smaller goals along the way, such as a tray-less dining hall and purchasing Energy Star certified products. One of Wesleyan’s initial goals was to measure the current impact the campus and students are having on our surrounding environment; Wesleyan’s website says, “In 2007-2008, according to the inventory, Wesleyan produced 6,989 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, with electricity accounting for 81% of our overall emissions….” In fall 2008 Taylor Hall started to undergo renovations; afterwards, it will be classified as a “green building”. This, paired with energy efficient cooling systems in the dorms and a steamer in the dining hall’s kitchen, significantly decreases the amount of energy used by Wesleyan staff and students.
This effort is not a one-sided deal, students also initiated a recycling program that included efforts from Physical Plant. Near trash bins, recycling units have strategically been placed so that when someone is disposing of an item, they havethe option to recycle it instead. Wesleyan’s website attributes 12 tons of recycling to student efforts, last year. The only drawback with this alternative is not every plastic item is recyclable and the recycling units are often difficult to find, leaving students with a large amount of disposable goods. However, this practice will surely grow and refine with time.
Lastly, one of Wesleyan’s main goals is to continue to preserve the land surrounding Wesleyan College. The college recently received a $16,000 grant from the Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program to investigate ways to put the land to use in displacing carbon effects. There is also an effort to document and preserve the trees on campus so that they may be replaced in the instance they are destroyed or die. This will assist in preserving Wesleyan’s flora for years to come.
Wesleyan’s admirable efforts and continuing progress in the fight for carbon neutralization should set an example for students, the community, and our collegiate peers worldwide. Global warming and Earth preservation are not things to be viewed lightly or in a passive manner, but something on which one should take a proactive stance. When it comes to institutions taking responsibility for their carbon footprint, Wesleyan is once again a “first”.