First of all, welcome to Knox College and congratulations on your new job as director of sustainability initiatives. As we’re sure you well know, Knox is a place with a strong sense of environmental responsibility, and many of its students act on that feeling with their activism and work toward sustainable institutional reform.
But you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Students come and go. A project started by an activist with diploma in hand is likely to fall apart, unless there’s another student willing to step in and ensure the project’s continuity. This is where you come in. The sustainability coordinator is the mortar that must hold these initiatives intact from year to year.
With that in mind, there are a few ongoing projects we see as sustainability priorities for Knox College.
First and foremost is the composting system (that is, the one for which Student Senate dropped no less than $30,000 three years ago). Some readers may be surprised that such a system even exists, because campus has yet to benefit from it. After the post-baccalaureate charged with its maintenance left after one term, the project was left to Dining Services Director Helmut Mayer, who certainly has too much work on his plate to pin down the intricacies of temperature and acidity that allow for productive composting.
This brings us to the second priority: transparency and communication. An effective sustainability coordinator must communicate effectively with Student Senate, its sustainability committee and the student body at large. These disparate shareholders must have sufficient interest in and knowledge of major initiatives before the campus as a whole can reduce its environmental footprint.
Thirdly, food production on campus is still in its fledgling stages, but it is poised for a great expansion with the new high tunnel under construction. It’s up to you to get students involved in this project, from the growing process to deciding just what to grow.
And while we’re on the subject of food, we believe the sustainability coordinator has a role to play in executing Meatless Mondays (or Less Meat Mondays). As we’ve written in a previous editorial, Meatless Monday is an admirable way to show students how they can forgo meat for a day and still eat satisfying meals. But a day of nothing but the usual vegetarian options is bound to leave a weightlifter grumbling about a lack of protein and a vegetarian longing for something new.
Most of these priorities revolve around what we eat, perhaps because these initiatives often get the spotlight. But there are plenty of areas for expansion of old programs and research for the future. For instance, the college’s bike shop and bike sharing programs deserve some careful management and insurance that they will not fade away in the coming years.
We should also consider how we can make our buildings more sustainable. Alumni Hall’s shiny new Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, certification will only take us so far, especially when the newest academic building was erected in the 1970s.
And a closing thought: Please don’t leave. Just as student continuity poses a problem, progress will be unattainable if our director of sustainability initiatives only sticks around for a year or two.
Welcome, and good luck.
Note: An earlier version of this editorial mistakenly noted that Alumni Hall will be Energy Star certified. This has been corrected to LEED certified. The earlier version also noted that $40,000 was spent on the composting system. While earlier estimates amounted to $40,000, the equipment ultimately cost $30,000. We apologize for the errors.