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Case Study>Tom's Part in the Green Revolution

 

Tom's Part in the Green Revolution

Tom Simpson: F&M Sustainability Coordinator

Franklin and Marshal College in Lancaster, PA is going green. With all of these effort being put into place, there is a for sure a need to have someone who can coordinate all of these efforts and make sure that for the most part, they all go according to plan without too many hiccups along the way. The man who has that job, as the head of sustainability on campus, is Mr. Thomas Simpson. He was hired by the university as the Sustainability Coordinator and he is also the Liaison for one of the partners of F&M's efforts in becoming green, the Milport Conservancy. He, along with the Director of the Wolshen Center for the Sustainable Environment Sarah Dawson, are working hand in hand in order to help the efforts the campus is putting in place to succeed by coordinating and supervising the different activities being done.

 

 

How To Go Green

F&M's Program

Student And Faculty Support

Beyond Green And Outside Work

Universities Outside of Lancaster County's Efforts

Millersville Universities' Actions

Mr. Simpson did not just fall into the job that he has now. He has been with the sustainable movement for a while. He lives close to campus, on purpose, so that he does not have to drive to work and he can just either walk or ride his bike. His family lives in a row house as opposed to a big house out in the suburbs that he could live in if he so pleased in order to lessen the usage of electricity and heating needs. His family also all together owns only one car to use to cut down even more on their emissions as a group. They also do little things like hang their washed clothes out to dry which he says “ are not really sacrifices, (because) I don't suffer from these things, it's just kind of a normal way”.

Mr. Simpson learned a lot of his ways from his time living in Europe, where the lifestyle he lives here, which is considered alternative is just the normal way of things there. As a science teacher previous to moving to europe, Mr. Simpson had some experience in what it meant to live green. Much more was learned though once he made the move, where he learned a lot by not really trying at all and just absorbing what was happening around him. It was something that was simply a way of life across the Atlantic and as he puts it, “it makes sense, you save money and help the environment ”.

One of the things that Mr. Simpson wants to get across is the possibility of moving towards a real “Green Revolution”. This is the idea that if real change is to be made in the future, there has to be some of the side-effects that are associated with a revolution. He thinks that if a real problem is existent, such as global warning, that can possibly be stopped, there must be extreme measures taken where there is a bit of sacrifice that might be necessary. His statement is that “In a revolution people have to suffer and hurt a little bit and we haven't done anything to make us suffer or hurt yet... we can't really continue in the status quo, wether it's a college or an individual or a business or a government, whatever it might be, things are going to have to change”.

One of the obstacles in this process is the job of trying to get things funded and to get support for all of the work that is trying to be done by F&M falls on the shoulders of Mr. Simpson. He says that that is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of getting things done is that money and that “While the administration has been extremely supportive, that doesn't mean we aren't feeling the pinch of the economic depression”. He does believe that what has been done so far is impressive, stating “with some of the projects the initial start up money is hard to come by, but I think we have done a great job with what's available”.

How To Go Green

The move to become green is a decision that is made that not only affects you, but the world you live in as well. The choices that you make, such as deciding to walk to school instead of drive or even just throwing you soda can in the recycling bin can make a major impact on you and your family's future. That is why when a large entity, such as a university or college decides to make that same choice, it makes an even bigger impact on the world because that means a large group of people are coming together to make the world better.


Now when most people think of going green they mainly think of it as being as simple as just recycling or using public transportation or walking. That is for sure a part of the green endeavor, but it can be much deeper than that if you are really looking to reduce your footprint on Earth and really make a difference in the way that we live. If done correctly, going green can not only save the planet, but save you some money yourself, which is an option many people overlook when it comes to this subject. The real reason for going green is really up to the person who decides it is the choice for you, but at the end of the day, that decision has not only effected you life in hopefully a positive way, but also the lives of others around you and yet to come.

As a college student, which is who F&M currently deals with when it comes to this matter, the overlying belief is that there is really nothing that you can do to really make a difference, or that it is too expensive and time consuming to make the effort. There are ways however for any college student, even those on a tight budget, to do something to help. Its the simple things that are easiest to change and the best way to start you out in your journey to become more green and help out with saving the planet.

The easiest thing to do is to simply walk to wherever you need to go. Just that simple step can help lower your footprint substantially and can save you money too. Instead of driving to your friends house a few blocks away or driving across campus to get to your next class, just take a stroll instead. Another way is to just think about what you throw away a bit harder. There are so many things that most college students simply throw away because they think it has served its purpose, but just about anything has another use once you think you're done with it. Also check out you local thrift stores and garage sales, especially for the student on a budget. Even websites like Craigslist.com and others like it can be great ways of finding just what you need for cheap, or even free and not have to waste too much money and also be reusing things and living sustainable at the same time. The same goes for getting you books at the beginning of the semester, buying used is cheaper and when things get reused, they don't go to waste.

F&M's program

Another major concern that college students can have about the going green effort is that they are completely uneducated as to what is wrong with the way many of us live. That is something that F&M has thought of and they currently have programs to educate students who might not know too much about what is wrong and what can be done. There are several majors that are offered by F&M that are centered around what our planet is going through and what can be done to help it out.

The Environmental Science major is one of those majors offered where students can take classes in fields like chemistry, biology, environment and geoscience, as well as work in the field on projects based on green efforts and participate in upper level seminars about the subject. Those seminars are the culmination of not only the studies of the nature side of the issue but the human and political side of the issue as well. Biology majors are offered classes on ecological relationships and have a staff with extensive knowledge and experience in ecology research. There are also out of class educational experiences for students to participate in, such as the different research projects that are going on at the Millport Conservancy, the College's Baker Woodlands, and other local places with possibilities of something to research. These options provide students with a way of learning about the problems and hopefully solutions that go along with the sustainability efforts and can provide a great way to lay a base for someone who is on their way to a green lifestyle.

There are many projects to participate in outside the learning realm on campus, for those who might see their future careers in the field of environmentalism. The Wolshen Center, which is the center of the sustainability efforts on campus, is a hub for all types of extra-curricular activities that center around the theme of the building. Students in the teaching track can teach about sustainability to different urban schools in the area and involve that into their preparation for their careers. There are also outreach programs for those who wish to just do a bit of sustainable work outside of a learning environment.

The Wolshen Center's Solar Panels

Students have been very proactive in their attempts at creating a more green environment for F&M's campus and the community around it and have created a few different projects on their own to help. One such project is the “Dirt Army” that they have created, which has been going on since the spring semester of 2009. the “Army” is a group of students who have went to the College's leadership and asked for a plot of land on which they could grow different organic vegetables to add to the sustainable food system that is already in place in the area.

The group got the ball rolling within weeks of being granted the land and within that time had the plot cleared, tilled, fenced, and planted. They received a generous donation from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation of organic compost to use in maintaining the plot and even got the community involved by inviting children from nearby schools to come and plant their own mini-gardens. The project will be something that will last beyond when the students who initiated it have graduated and hopefully will become a staple in the culture of F&M and its campus-wide campaign.

Since F&M is in the middle of Lancaster, which is known for its agricultural ways, there have been projects started that will hopefully help out those who make a living in the area through the farming process. One of the courses that were mentioned mentioned before that students can take with a centralized theme on sustainability is the “Footprints of Crime & Climate” course. This class allows students to do their own research and figure out ways that we can reduce our footprints and become more green.

One of the students who took the class did their research on the stable isotope chemistry of hamburgers and did this in order to find out if the cows from the meat that was examined ate grass or were fed corn. This was to determine if the cows were free range or not and if they had the added green benefit of being pasture-raised cattle. These cows have the added benefit of being healthy for you, having less fat, fewer calories, and a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids than normal beef and also give the environmental benefit of having lower soil erosion, reduced water pollution and a smaller risk of antibiotic-resistant diseases. These benefits are some of the things that make living green a great option to choose because you have the health benefit along with the benefit of being better for the environment.

Student and Faculty Support

Another of the biggest obstacles in this entire process that F&M is going through is to get the support and effort out of the students and faculty who inhabit the college. They are who will make or break the efforts that are being put in place and so far they have stepped up to the plate and have provided the much needed support and exertion needed. There is a dedicated group of students who have created the Environmental Action Alliance on campus, who's goal it is to “educate the campus on sustainability initiatives and takes on projects that better the relationship of the college to the environment”. This group works on different efforts to raise awareness about the college's efforts and to themselves live a less impactful lifestyle for their own sakes.

The college has put in place several different initiatives in order to work on that goal of eventually becoming a completely green campus. One of those initiatives is their “Beyond Green” plan, where their goal is to “foster a deep interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability and environmental stewardship concepts and topics, both theoretical and practical, to nurture innovative and creative leadership strategies, and to broaden an appreciation of the natural world in all of our constituents.” They have already put in place different plans to help out around campus, including implementing recycling bins on campus, running the Fair Trade Cafe and creating a new way for students to live, the Sustainability Theme House.

The Sustainability House is another one of the programs for specifically students on campus to work on being green. The house is located just off campus and gives the students who live there ways to live green. It is a 8,643 square foot house, with 18 bedrooms, a common room, two kitchens and four bathrooms and students who live there who try and conserve as much energy as they possibly can. The house has two goals that they have decided to go by, to live communally as well as minimize environmental impacts, and to offer information to the campus at large. It was completely thought up by students who came to higher ups on campus with the idea of a sustainable house for those who want to try and live green. They recently got a $30,000 grant from F&M to get solar panels installed into the house to improve on their green efforts.

F&M's Sustainability House

There are many more dedicated students who have created other sustainability efforts, including the Campus Sustainability Committee. This is a group of students who get together to discuss different issues falling around the sustainability efforts on campus and share that information with the president of F&M. They are also a group that doesn't just think locally but globally as well as they also discuss matters on a more international level. They do all of this by putting together activities for others on campus to enjoy, doing the task of replacing the normal light bulbs all over campus to the Compact Florescent Bulbs that are much more energy efficient and by bringing speakers to campus to spread the word of the group.

Beyond Green and Outside Work

The plan of the “Beyond Green” project is to tackle the going green issue on two fronts. The first way they plan on implementing this project is academically. They have in place a curriculum that, across the majors offered by F&M, has students and teachers working hand in hand to learn as much as possible on the subject of going green. The second part of the plan is to promote the extra-curricular activities that are offered by the campus and their many partners, such as the Millport Conservancy, the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment, the Sustainability House and many more.

One of those partners, the Millport Conservancy, is a 85 acre nature preserve near Lititz PA, that has been partners with the college through the connection between the conservancy's owners, Carolyn and Robert Wohlsen. F&M is a controlling member in the private, non-prifit foundation and has been so since 2008. The conservancy is just 10 miles from campus and includes a “historic mill, nature trails, wetlands, forests, meadows, and an award-winning restored trout stream”. It is there for students and faculty to use for different projects they might want to do, such as different class work, research and volunteer projects, or recreational activities. Some of the studies that have been done there include plant and animal surveys of the area done by some of the biologists of F&M as well as a water mold project to find out how it effects the tree and plant population on the area.

 

Professors from F&M at the Wolshen Center

Some of the research being done in the Conservancy includes collaboration between F&M professors and teachers from a local high school, McCaskey East High. The project entails placing Oomycete bait bags in the Lititz Run, which is contained in the Millport boundaries. The bags contain wounded and unwounded rhododendron leaves, that could be infected by water molds called Oomycetes, which naturally reside in the water. The samples are then analyzed in a lab on campus at F&M to se what the real effects of the water mold is on the plant life of the area.

One other project being done down at the Conservancy is a study of the biodiversity of the actual preserve. Students are using sweep nets, studying tree swallow nesting and many other research techniques to gather the different insect life forms that inhabit the area and are documenting them for future reference. The overall plan is to build a long-term database of biodiversity at Millport Conservancy and combine that with environmental measurements in order to study the effect that climate change has on animals and their habitats. They are also looking to study the reproduction and conservation of swallows across the Western Hemisphere with this project to further look into what life forms are around and how diverse the local population of living creatures really is.

The Wolshen family, along with the partnership they have with the university through Milport, has also given F&M the Carolyn and Robert Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment. It is the home for all of the campuses sustainable efforts and was opened in the Fall 2009 semester. The center will house a room for seminars on sustainable issues, the archives of all the initiatives done on campus, a space for field-work laboratory studies as well as offices for many of the people who are working on the sustainability efforts on campus. There are also in the process of building a Fair Trade Cafe and space for the Environmental Action Alliance Club.


F&M's Sustainable Building program is one that effects the entire campus with the impact that it has for all of its campus. The plan is for F&M to have every building financed, planed, designed, constructed, managed, renovated, and maintained in a sustainable fashion. The program will use the LEED system, which is “internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions”. The plan says that all new buildings or facilities over 5,000 square feet and major capital renovations costing more than 50% of building replacement shall meet the value of at least the LEED Silver rating. All of the rest of the buildings on campus will be governed other sustainable means to make them follow closely with the rest of campus.

Universities Outside of Lancaster County's Efforts

For Millersville to possibly become more green, they can follow in the footsteps of not only F&M, but other Colleges and Universities who have had efforts in trying to go green that were successful. One example of a University that has used sustainability methods and has proven that it is possible to keep itself sustainable throughout the years is the University of New Hampshire. They have had a green initiative for over decade and are know as being the oldest endowed sustainability program in higher education in the U.S.

The need for someone who heads the efforts of the university and keeps everything in order like Thomas Simpson has done for F&M was essential to the success of the program. That man is Dr. Tom Kelly, the University of New Hampshire's own sustainability coordinator. He has said that “UNH has always recognized higher education’s unique role in promoting sustainability: as large educational and research communities, universities exert significant ecological, economic, and cultural force in their immediate region and extended surroundings and into future generations. And we will continue to build on our past decade-plus of collaborative work in order to transform the unprecedented challenges we face today into opportunities.” Dr. Kelly has also co-authored a book about the efforts at the University of New Hampshire called "The Sustainable Learning Community: One University's Journey to the Future".

The plan for the university up to now has been very successful and has received praise from scholars from other institutes admiring what they have done. One such professor, Paul R. Epstein, M.D., M. P. H. from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School had nothing but great things to say about the program. He states “This is not an academic exercise. The Sustainable Learning Community describes the ten-year transformation of a university with ideas and aesthetics: using organic farming techniques to train and feed students; constructing a 12.7 mile pipeline to bring landfill gas to a new co-generation plant; and fostering lively engagement in public policy. An outstanding accomplishment! A beacon and blueprint for all.”

The program that the university has in place is structured by 4 key systems that encompass all of the aspects that they have seen it fit to incorporate. Those 4 systems are the Biodiversity & Health Protection Campus, the Climate Education Initiative, the Food & Society Initiative and the Culture & Sustainability Initiative. These 4 initiatives are all intended to help to define the ways to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle. The university is continuing their sustainable ways with the guidance of Dr. Kelly and have received many acknowledgements for what they have done, including in 2009 winning an annual Campus Sustainability Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The efforts of schools like the the University of New Hampshire are what Millersville's down the line goals should be, and in some ways, they are closer to getting to that mark than many people think they really are. They have put in place a few things that have already impacted the schools green abilities and has gained them some national recognition as well.

Millersville Universities' Actions

One such recognition came from a well known and well respected entity, the Princeton Review. They ranked Millersville University at a 92 for the school’s performance as an environmentally aware University. Hundreds of schools including Millersville were reviewed on a scale where 60 is the lowest possible score and 99 is the highest possible. The campus already has recycling bins provided throughout and are planning on expanding their environmentally conscious efforts by offering reusable plastic take-out containers at the campus dining halls. The campus print shop, which mainly prints all of the different fliers, handouts, posters and related materials for distribution by the University has purchased machines that can create a significantly less amount of waste and use much fewer chemicals.

One of the things being done that is not even noticed widely is the fact that professors are beginning to increase their use of Internet usage for educational purposes, posting classroom assignments and readings online. This is done through Blackboard, which is a program used online where professors can post assignments, tests and study materials instead of just printing out forms like is normal for just about any other university. Also campus newsletters, and the school's student run newspaper, The Snapper, are also being offered in a online in order to reduce paper waste. There is also construction being done that will make the campus more walker-friendly to lessen the need and want of students to drive to different areas on campus. Students are also encouraged to walk, carpool or even ride one of the free campus shuttle busses.

Another of the efforts done by Millersville is the ability for students to take classes discussing the different ways to live sustainable. Dr. Kathleen Schreiber's teaches a geography course on the subject, called "Climate and Society". The course begins by students collecting a Green House Gas (GHG) inventory for the Millersville University campus. With the help of other faculty and staff on campus, like John Colarusso of the facilities management department and Rob Potter of information technology, the students have been collecting data on Green House Gasses by the known sources that produce them, like electricity usage, staff and commuter traffic activity, university vehicle fuel usage, landscaping product use, solid waste disposal and refrigerant releases.

The data will be placed in a software program once the students have finalized their compilation of the data to analyze emissions inventory so that students can come up with recommendations for ways to reduce and contain the Green House Gas problem. Dr. Schreiber explains what the students will be looking for, saying "The students will analyze the collected data to make judgments about the most effective and cost-efficient ways Millersville can reduce its GHG impact". Results of the study will be presented at the Millersville University Center for Environmental Sciences.

One of the goals that Dr. Schreiber would like to work on is encourage and educate all members of the campus on doing their part to help conserve energy. "It's amazing what can be accomplished when lots of people join hands and efforts in accomplishing common goals," said Schreiber. "Simple things we can all do to reduce energy consumption are use compact florescent lighting, install more home insulation, purchase Energy Star products, consider buying a hybrid or small car, and install a home programmable thermostat which automatically turns down the temperature after you leave in the morning and raises it before you arrive home."

Though Millersville has done some of the things necessary to become more sustainable, there is still reform that can be done to improve on their efforts. A solid program with a good backing by students, faculty and administration would be a solid start and keeping up the activity for a long period of time would be what it really takes to make Millersville a truly green entity.

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