Over the past four years, student groups and the Office of Sustainability have worked to expand sustainability at Knox beyond just the environment or financial issues to a social movement.
With projects varying from growing crops at the Knox Farm, to organizing the Share Shop, to helping fix rental bikes at the Bike Shop, they hope to increase student participation in a culture of sustainability across the campus.
Associate Professor of Anthropology-Sociology and Faculty Liaison to the President’s Council on Sustainability William Hope mentioned the importance of a focus on both economic and social as well as ecological facets to sustainability.
“So the ecology matters, absolutely; social organization matters; and our economic systems matter,” Hope said.
Right now, the Director of Sustainability position and the Sustainability Office help manage a variety of clubs and initiatives at Knox. Students for Sustainability, formerly Knox Advocates for Recycling and Environmental Support (KARES), runs many of the initiatives, like the Share Shop.
One of the the club’s major projects is the Share Shop, which is located under Conger-Neal Hall.
“[We want] to break the American mentality of use it and throw it away,” Students for Sustainability member and senior Gregg Miller said. “We’re also trying to find ways to preserve what resources we have.”
Miller noted that while the Share Shop has been doing pretty well this year, in the past students have not utilized the resource to its full potential. Previous years have seen large amounts of unusable donations, such as underwear, and shoppers leaving the area messy and unorganized.
One of the major sustainability projects Knox has undertaken is the Knox Farm, located on the west end of Campus, behind the Science and Math Center.
According to junior Sofia Tagkaloglou, one of the current student managers, the Farm has produced around 2,200 pounds of crops since June this year. Part of the increased production has come from a new plot outside the high tunnels, along with heavier crops like butternut squash and tomatoes. The Farm also grows cucumbers, garlic, peas, leeks, corn, beans and a variety of herbs among other crops.
“So this the first year that we’ve actually planted outside in a more organized way,” Tagkaloglou explained.
Junior Coral Weinstock, the other student manager, said that the Farm has given her a chance to meet a lot of people in the community.
“All about learning with the land,” she added. “A year seems like a long time when you’re a student, but for the Earth it’s a blink of the eye.”
The Farm was created three years ago. Food produced goes to the Caf and excess often goes to the Office of Sustainability, where faculty and staff will pick up produce they want.
“The people who have worked before me have done a really fantastic job of creating a system of organization,” Tagkaloglou said. “And I really see the value that I’m putting in is really adding to that and really being able to structure the farm and to organize it in ways that are more sustainable.”
Director of Sustainability Initiatives Debbie Steinberg voiced similar ideas to Tagkaloglou’s plan to make the Farm more sustainable, but with a broader context. “Making sure everyone on campus is aware of all of the initiatives” she said, later adding, “it’s institutionalizing sustainability and making sustainability sustainable here at Knox.”
The third Director since the position’s creation in 2012, Steinberg organizes the various initiatives that have been started at Knox.
“I have taken this year to get to know the Knox community and really get an understanding of what my predecessor implemented and how those initiatives are working,” Steinberg, who was hired last November, said.
Another group involved with the process is the Bike Club. Senior Jessica Chrzan explained that Bike Club promotes bike use on campus through group rides and workshops on maintenance and safety.
The club hopes that having access to these rides and workshops will help encourage biking as sustainable transportation.
The Bike Shop, founded alongside Bike Club, is located under the Old Jail and also takes part in the sustainability movement on campus, giving students a place to get their bike fixed or to rent a bike for a term. With increased access to working bikes, the Shop hopes to reduce the need for cars on campus.
The Office of Sustainability works closely with all three initiatives. The Bike Shop employees and the Farm managers get their salaries from the Office, which also has three student positions. The groups all have regular meetings with Steinberg.
“Working with Debbie has been a huge change,” Weinstock said.
Steinberg has a background in landscape architecture, compared to the previous Director’s farming background, Weinstock explained.
Sustainability organizations and employees are advocating for more people to get involved with the culture of sustainability at Knox. As awareness increases, Hope sees more opportunities for students to get involved and to collaborate in new ways.
“There is a nice momentum that we have right now,” Hope said.