|Presidential Signature Energizes "Greening" of Campus Life and Classroom Study
December 06, 2007
Contact: John Syme
By John Syme
When President Tom Ross signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment letter Nov. 13, he pledged Davidson’s cooperation in this broad leadership initiative in the higher education community.
|(r) Visiting writer John Lane, creative writing professor at Wofford College, enjoyed breakfast al fresco with student residents of the Eco House during a recent visit. Those at the table included (l-r) Michael Spangler '10, Professor of English Annie Ingram, and Lindsay Brownell '10.|
Ross’s signature is a reflection of the enthusiasm for environmental stewardship that he has witnessed at Davidson since his tenure began in August -- a time of severe regional drought that has yet to see relief.
“Looking to the future,” Ross said after a campus-wide environmental update meeting held in late October, “we recognize that growth in the region will put additional stress on available water and energy resources. Davidson is taking every responsible step to conserve energy and water, and to look for alternative ways in which to meet our needs in these areas. It’s the right thing locally in the short term, as well as being the right thing globally in the long term.”
The climate commitment letter, which outlines a specific series of concrete, institutional actions and a timetable for achieving them, reads in part, “We believe that colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.”
Stewardship Begins at Home
Davidson's faculty approve an environmental studies concentration without dissent -- rather, with great enthusiasm -- on December 4. Last spring, Vice President of Academic Affairs Clark Ross charged a working committee, under the leadership of Associate Professor of English Annie Ingram, to develop an environmental studies curriculum. The college is seeking to fill a one-semester position next fall for a distinguished visiting professorship in the field. The appointment will be funded by the Thomson Professorship in Environmental Studies, established in 2004 by Todd ’83 and Melissa McKeithen ’83 Thomson.
“Eco House,” a cooperative residence focused on environmental stewardship, is home to ten Davidson students this year. From food to recycling, shorter showers to longer walks, interest is growing across campus in more sustainable living.
All seats were filled at the October 24 “green update” forum in the Sprinkle Room of the Alvarez College Union. David Holthouser, director of facilities management, said that getting the word out about what Davidson is doing -- and has been doing -- for environmental stewardship is key to building momentum. He said the college’s centralized, computerized chiller plant that was brought online in 2001 immediately reduced electricity consumption by more than 40 percent. The campus itself, which has been a registered National Arboretum since 1982, is tended with best environmental practices ranging from integrated pest management and organic weed control to some biodiesel equipment and 100 percent recycled landscaping waste. Irvin Brawley, director of grounds, lives his campus credo of replanting three trees for every one removed.
|The cover of this year's college phone directory urges community members to go green.|
“Green” Eggs and Ham
Dee Phillips, director of dining services, brought out the flavor of green at Vail Commons and other campus food services.
At Vail Commons, itself a partially underground “green roof” structure built in 1981, chefs create many dishes from scratch, with locally sourced products when possible. There’s even an organic herb garden in front of the building that supplies campus dining and catering kitchens. Usable leftovers go to Second Harvest Food Bank, used fryer oil goes to a local entrepreneur for biodiesel use, a waste pulper recycler reduces landfill-bound organic waste volume by up to 85 percent, and induction-burner technology conserves energy, said Phillips.
Perhaps the most prominent of the college’s “recycling” projects are architectural, like the 2001 conversion of the old Johnston Gym into Knobloch Campus Center, and the Duke Residence Hall renovation and addition completed last summer as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified project. In addition, the college’s board of trustees recently adopted a commitment to have all new construction projects meet the even more stringent LEED silver certification criteria, Holthouser said.
Concentrating on the Environment
Chris Paradise, associate professor of biology, and David Martin, professor of economics, detailed plans for the new environmental studies concentration and about the Eco House.
Paradise lauded student persistence as a determining factor that brought the Eco House to fruition. “The time was right, the opportunity presented itself, and people were behind it. It has a lot of energy,” he said.
At the forum, Martin, who was present at the creation of recycling as a way of life in the Town of Davidson in the 1980s, urged students to capitalize on the college’s strong support for student initiatives. “This community is always willing to support you,” he told them, “if you put forth the effort, and keep at it.”
Klondike Bars and Hope
Twenty seniors who have been at it all semester are scheduled to present their findings at the biology senior colloquium, “Global Climate Change: Why Should You Care?” on December 6. They are considering themed elements including an ice sculpture, Goldfish snacks and Klondike ice cream bars.
|Students in the fall semester interdisciplinary environmental studies class visited the nearby Grateful Growers farm, which employs organic practices in raising crops and animals.|
“We’ve spent the semester working with (biology professor) Dr. Verna Case about the effects of global warming on arctic and coastal regions, and also looking at public opinion and possible solutions,” said Martelle Esposito ’08.
She and more than a dozen Davidson students also attended the well-publicized, early November Power Shift 2007 events in Washington, D.C. Her favorite educational workshop of the weekend?
“I liked the renewable energy one,” she said, “because it was hopeful.”
This just in... The week after Thanksgiving, student and administrative emails were buzzing with a drought-driven twist on last year’s “Do It In the Dark” hall competition, which aimed at reducing electricity use. Plans are now afloat to include a water-consumption variable in the formula. One entry on an open-access “white board” environmental discussion board in the Union even suggested showering together. While the Residence Life Office has reserved any endorsement of that idea, Holthouser notes that the college months ago began conserving water by a systemic reduction in water pressure and other measures.
While showering habits remain in the realm of personal discretion, you can find out more about the college’s official sustainability practices by clicking physical plant, dining services, and auxiliary services.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
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Posted By: Bill Giduz