Jason Speegle, Green Team director, received an unexpected email early in December. It recognized Southwestern’s environmentally- friendly efforts and announced that the college would be featured in the 2011 edition of the Princeton Review’s “Guide to 310 Green Colleges.”
Selection is based on a green rating calculated from information collected last year. According to the Princeton Review’s website, the rating targets three main areas: whether students have a campus quality of life that is both healthy and sustainable, how well a school is preparing students for employment in the clean energy economy of the 21st century as well as for citizenship in a world now defined by environmental concerns and opportunities, and how environmentally responsible a school’s policies are.
Green Team has a tremendous influence in determining how these demands are met. Among Green Team’s goals is increasing awareness about sustainable living. Speegle said “sustainability,” an environmental buzz word, incorporates three ideas.
Speegle said the first part is to ask, “How do we live in such a way that our planet can support human life for decades to come?”
The second part deals with social justice, which promotes a way of life that is beneficial for a community and for the planet as a whole. For instance, two-thirds of the world’s population currently lives in poverty. This aspect of sustainability means distributing collective resources more evenly to help those in need.
The third part has to do with economics. The “green” lifestyle has to make good business sense.
Sustainability is exactly what Green Team is working to bring to SC. Although they are only a group of 18, they have an impressive track record.
One of the biggest successes for Green Team is last year’s Recyclemania. SC placed 61st out of more than 400 schools. They also earned first in the state, beating large universities like Kansas State University and the University of Kansas.
Kelcie Parrish, biology junior, was the first and founding member of Green Team. She said she thinks their biggest success has been getting the word out about Green Team and getting the college behind them.
Sydnee Nelson, biochemistry sophomore, added that continuing expansion is part of Green Team’s success. “It’s been really interesting to watch,” she said. “We finally have an education committee and are branching out, not just into SC, but into the community and other schools.”
Another big success for the Green Team is the new Smart Metering System, which is currently one quarter of the way installed. When completed, the system will monitor energy use for each building on campus, pinpointing problem areas. “A lot of the goals focus on figuring out where SC is now,” said Speegle. “I don’t feel you can make a change without knowing where you are.”
Speegle said college students are aware of environmental problems and want to do something about it, but don’t know how to help.
Nelson agrees. “You can’t always think about what’s good for the environment, you have to think about what’s good for you.”
And a college student’s busy lifestyle doesn’t always leave a lot of time to worry about the environmental consequences of every choice.
Mark Strecker, biochemistry junior, adds, “A lot of people know ‘yeah, recycling is good,’ but that’s it.”
So what can you do to help? “Watch the products you buy,” said Strecker. “Some companies donate money toward green projects when you buy their products. Watch for those companies and support them.”
Parrish recommends driving less. “I think it’s mutually beneficial,” she said. Not only are you decreasing air pollution, you’re also getting a little exercise and saving a little cash, she said.
Nelson adds that turning off lights and electronics helps conserve energy.
Upcoming projects for the Green Team include Recyclemania, Earth Week, and replacing the roof on Wallingford Hall. The rock on top of Wallingford will be replaced by something more like a garden, which will help insulate the building, lowering energy costs.
The Princeton Review guide featuring the college will be published April 22 on Earth Day.
Erin Morris is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.