Students are getting ready to propose their ideas for making the Knox campus more sustainable as part of their final projects. Six groups in Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman’s Sustainability class have spent the term working on various projects that aim to be adopted.
“The idea is that they’ve had more time, that the ideas for the projects would be fuller – they have more people and so maybe they have greater opportunity to be realized,” Schwartzman said, comparing his class to other, lower-level Environmental Studies classes.
Schwartzman has provided the class with a list of 16 potential projects to improve sustainability in the Knox community. The ideas came from both Schwartzman and Director of Sustainability Initiatives Deborah Steinberg. The projects chosen include planting trees, installing a “green roof,” creating a community space, composting, utilizing “reuse kits” and making perennial pots for the Knox Farm.
Freshman Luis Liendo Patino chose to focus on installing a green roof. A green roof involves placing a garden on the top of a building. Depending on their soil depth, green roofs can support grass or even trees.
“Green roofs were my number one option because I’m a big fan of plants,” Patino said. “I felt that green roofs was an achievable goal of mine, and an achievable thing that the school can do as well to not only create awareness among the students, but also as a way of leading as an example.”
Patino mentioned his upbringing in Bolivia as a motivation to pursue environmental causes. The impact of pollution there made him passionate about sustainability.
“Being born in Bolivia and being exposed to all the social classes in a third-world country, I have up close and personal … seen the effects of pollution,” Patino said. “That’s why I was so passionate about green roofs. Because even if I wasn’t cleaning trash, I’m decreasing the CO2 levels in the air.”
Patino also mentioned additional perks of green roofs beyond their environmental benefits. According to Patino, green roofs would make Knox’s campus more aesthetic and more economically viable.
“Green roofs also keep heat in,” Patino said. “I don’t know how much Knox spends on heating every winter, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. Maybe you could cut the cost in half because green roofs keep all the heat inside. In the summer, too, they hold on to the moisture so the building stays cool.”
Patino’s group hopes to fit a green roof on top of CFA due to its flatness.
Another group worked on reuse kits. The members of the group include sophomore Ben Rutter, freshman Prii Gurung, junior Jenny Lau and senior Deanna Stout.
“We want to propose an idea of having rentable, reusable kits, which will consist of plates and bowls … that are reusable,” Stout said. “They can be available to any club or any group of people who want to host a large food event or even a more personal type of event. All in all, we just want to reduce the amount of disposable items.”
Lau mentioned that other schools already use similar kits. The group got their idea for how to implement the project from UC Davis and Pomona College. Another aspect of their proposal involves forming a group of students to wash the reusable utensils in the future.
“It’s completely up to us how far we want to go in implementing this because this can be just for the grade,” Rutter explained about the adoption of their project. “I feel like we all chose this topic because we all saw it as not only productive but very achievable. We’re ready to do it right now.”
Freshman Grace LaDuca spoke about her group’s goal of getting houses to start composting by using the tumblers on campus. Over the term, her group has cleaned out the misused tumblers and prepared to educate the theme houses for how to compost their food waste.
“Once we do the trainings, we can put the tumblers at the houses,” LaDuca said. “The main thing we want to do is provide compost for the farm … We also just want to get people to start thinking about composting even if it isn’t necessarily getting tons of pounds.”
LaDuca appreciated the course’s emphasis on practical application and the ability to make a difference on campus.
“Sometimes when you take a course, you focus too much on theory and not enough on taking action,” LaDuca said about the class. “The action component is definitely very powerful. It’s interesting to see how the other groups are progressing.”
This is the first time Schwartzman has taught this course since 2011. He mentioned that fully implementing a project is difficult, but can be done if it is followed through. One previous group of students worked on solar energy and, after two and a half years, installed the solar panels on top of Wilson House.
“Even though the class is over I would say that the students who plant the seed for these projects can carry them forward,” Schwartzman said.