Tubb sets a course toward sustainability

New Sustainability Coordinator has big plans for campus

January 16, 2013

Six months into his role as Knox’s first sustainability coordinator, Shawn Tubb has already created a bike shop, moved forward on a bike share program and incorporated sustainability education into new student orientation. In Tubb’s mind, however, there is still much to do.

In September, Tubb announced that he would be completing a comprehensive assessment that would lead to the creation of a sustainability plan for the college. The plan, which Tubb hopes to adopt by late spring, will work in conjunction with Knox’s strategic and and campus master plans to help zero in on what needs to be done across the board to increase sustainability within the limits of the college’s resources.

“Human capital and sweat equity [are] definitely the most powerful thing to get … projects done,” Tubb said.
Currently, Tubb is working on completing a waste assessment and an inventory of the college’s carbon output. Because of the amount of data that needs to be collected, this portion of his assessment will likely not be completed until late winter or early spring.

To aid him in his efforts, Knox recently became the 339th institution to use the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, which was developed collaboratively by colleges and universities across the country. The system assigns points in dozens of categories as diverse as energy use and coverage of sustainability in campus publications, which are then used to rate a school’s overall progress towards sustainability.

The value of STARS and sustainability rating systems more broadly is that they help institutions understand sustainability comprehensively and see where they can improve, Tubb said.

“If we really focused on [the] curriculum, for example, we could really increase our sustainability profile, thus attracting more students, thus being more competitive,” Tubb said.

Tubb has already implemented some smaller projects, including the creation of a bike shop in the basement of Conger-Neal that serviced 51 bikes last term. With less activity expected in the winter, the bike shop has reduced its hours and will focus on education, holding three workshops on bike repair and safety.

Also in the works is a bike share program located outside of Taylor Lounge, the concrete pad for which was poured on Jan. 11. Four bikes will be available for students to borrow.

In the long term, Tubb hopes to expand Knox’s composting program so that paper products from the Gizmo can be composted. He is also investigating the possibility of bringing Zipcar, a car sharing program, to campus.

In the immediate future, however, his focus will remain on completing the STARS inventory, as data for several national rankings, including the Princeton Review, is due in the next few weeks.

“That sounds very crass, but the underlying theme is that you’re saving the institution money, and you’re making it more sustainable, and you’re educating tomorrow’s leaders in these green practices,” Tubb said.

Moving forward, Tubb finds the energy and enthusiasm for sustainable endeavors, both among students and in the administration, encouraging, and noted that harnessing it for both large, visible projects and small, everyday acts like turning off lights or using less water will be crucial.

“If everyone just starts to internalize these little things, it will save the institution money and make us more sustainable, and it wouldn’t cost anything and would make a big difference in the long run,” he said.

Growing the growing dome

Almost a year after Student Senate approved $40,000 for the construction of a growing dome on campus, little visible progress has been made, but Tubb said the idea is still very much in the works.

During fall term, Tubb met several times with the Knox Food Coalition, the group that originally pushed for the growing dome. As of mid-November, the KFC was reevaluating the project, as $40,000 would not be enough to both build and operate the dome. Still, both Tubb and the KFC hope that some version of a growing dome might be possible.

More important for post-baccalaureate fellow and KFC member Elizabeth Cockrell ‘12 is the creation of institutional goals for advocating the use of local, sustainable food.

“KFC is continuing to pursue the growing infrastructure, but we are also working to gather support across campus to strengthen sustainable food efforts and advocate for the adoption of local food goals,” she said.

Growing domes serve as climate-controlled greenhouses where produce can be grown year-round. Original plans for the growing dome would have it placed behind the Human Rights Center on Academy Street.  The growing dome proposal generated considerable controversy, with some students referring to it as a “$40,000 salad bar.”

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