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Environmental Leadership Center

Sustainability Across the Triad

by Marshall McCollum, guest writer

From processing hundreds of pounds of food waste every day, to renovating buildings on campus with our own sustainably managed resources, to coordinating service opportunities in the greater community, crews on campus have their own way of contributing to our ongoing commitment to sustainability. The State of Sustainability interviews conducted by the Environmental Leadership Center Campus Sustainability Crew captured some inspiring sustainable actions from our many devoted supervisors and their crews. Here are some highlights:

The Farm

The Warren Wilson College farm, one of the most prominent symbols of our commitment to sustainability, has changed significantly over the past few years. Just 15 years ago, the farm was operating under standard commercial farming techniques. Now, the main goal of the farm is to grow food sustainably said farm manager Chase Hubbard. Farming is an unavoidable disturbance of the land, but with rotational grazing and crops plantings, the farm crew is able to reduce their environmental impact. To further lesson the impact, the farm practices tillage timing, high-density grazing, drought-management, and wildlife and biodiversity enhancement, among other organic farming best practices. Chase hopes to foster student leaders and independent thinkers who are aware of their circumstances, their impacts, their skills and the environment.

The Library

Two years ago the library crew amended their mission statement to include consideration of the environmental impacts of library services. Since then, the library has started using reusable packaging for interlibrary loans, which reduces waste and sends a positive message as books and journals circulate between universities. In striving to implement sustainable practices whenever possible, the library crew has established a printing quota, and began collecting all paper waste in reusable canvas bags. The library also donates leftovers from their book sale to Better World Books, a business that resells books to raise money for literacy initiatives.

The Recycling Center

The Warren Wilson recycling center is crucial in helping students understand the reality of our consumption. Rather than having our trash whisked away while we sleep, every student on campus can see, hear and smell our waste and recycling being retrieved and processed daily. In her interview, Jessica Foster, the manager of the recycling crew expressed concern relating to “eco products”, like the cups in the Sunderland Café. These products give a false sense of environmental consciousness which disregards the inherent unsustainability of disposable products. Jessica encourages her crew to educate the campus and initiate projects that make waste reduction easier for everyone. These student-initiated projects have resulted in the establishment of compost drums, crafts made from recycled materials, reusable curbside bins for staff and faculty housing, reusable cloth bags for paper recycling in some buildings, junk mail removal, and more.

Computing Services

The Computing Services crew acknowledges the incompatibility of many computer technologies and the environment. However, their mottos of “driving computers ‘til their wheels fall off” and “repair before replacement” helps to extend the lifespan of our computers and eliminate excessive electronic waste. COS has installed timing devices that turn computers off after prolonged idling. This single task has reduced computer-related electricity use by 33%. They also collected data on paper usage to contribute to the establishment of a student printing budget. To the Computing Services staff, sustainability, in simple terms, is thinking on a larger scale.

Design and Construction

In a tightly scheduled Warren Wilson weekday it is important that we draw on our student workforce in a sustainable manner. For Design and Construction supervisor Jason Lackey this is a top priority. On top of overseeing LEED certification standards for buildings on campus, Lackey’s crew gives students the opportunity to be responsible for their projects. Among their many projects, Design and Construction crew was responsible for the renovation of the Kittredge Theater restrooms, a task approached with model labor and resource efficiency. The crew installed high efficiency toilets, timed water faucets and electricity-efficient lighting. They used countertops made from excess French Broad River flood sediment and installed partitions made of recycled materials. The entire project was student-supervised and was finished on time and under budget. Jason considers sustainability in all his work by ensuring locally produced products and local labor is used as much as possible, and by pursuing a commitment to total student involvement and campus carbon footprint reduction.

The Writing Center

In addition to the incredibly helpful services that the Writing Center offers to students, they are very active in the social realm of sustainability. Julie Wilson, the Writing Center coordinator, expressed concern for the gap between environmental and social issues at Wilson. To address that gap, the Writing Center is supporting Wilson students rally against amendment one, which would limit the validity same-sex domestic unions in North Carolina, providing English tutoring to local immigrants and contributing to the Asheville YWCA’s Stand Against Racism project. As part of the crew, some Writing Center employees are also studying how LGBT, gender-neutral and race prejudices are reflected in writing. 

The Service Program Office

The Service Program Office helps to foster a sense of civic responsibility in every Warren Wilson student. Each year, students are offered a smorgasbord of opportunities for engagement relating to issues of food security, housing and homelessness, environmental restoration, education and more. SPO connects with community partners to offer service opportunities that uphold our values of environmental social, and economic sustainability. The recent revision of the program, the new Points if Engagement and Growth (PEGs) system, allows students to build a long-term relationship with their service project. Dean of Service Cathy Kramer believes this to be a much more sustaining and meaningful approach to service learning.

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