There was a time, not too long ago, when the word sustainability was rarely used on most college and university campuses. But now, sustainability is central to the plans and operations of most schools. Campus leaders have begun to not only enter into the discussion, but also make the connection between environmentally sustainable actions and the economic sustainability of the institution.
President Weisbuch initiated Drew’s strategic sustainability efforts by signing the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment three and a half years ago; since then there has been an increasing amount of activity and the entire Drew community has embraced this commitment with passion and vision.
The overall campus effort has been led by the Sustainability Committee. This committee was created at the request of President Weisbuch to coordinate sustainability efforts, and specifically the creation and implementation of Drew’s first Climate Action Plan. The committee, made up of faculty, staff and students from all three colleges, has created an environmental plan and vision for the campus that was approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2010. The plan, along with Drew’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory can be found at: http://www.drew.edu/sustainability/climate-neutrality.
At Drew, as on many campuses, recycling was the first campus-wide sustainability-related activity implemented. Drew just completed its sixth consecutive year participating in Recyclemania, coming in 6th nationwide in per capita recycling.
Energy conservation practices will lead to significant energy savings over time. We expect to have a lighting retrofit project completed this summer that will include upgrades in the Commons, Rose Library, Methodist Archives, Simon Forum, Baldwin Gym and Alumni House. In addition, we are installing nine light-emitting diode(LED) pole lights around campus. These lighting projects, along with initiatives such as temperature setbacks and equipment upgrades, will reduce the campus’s carbon footprint, and reduce consumption during a time when energy prices are escalating rapidly.
Thanks to a grant from the Jesse Ball duPont Fund, Drew is developing an Energy Master Plan and installing sub-metering in the residence halls so we can track energy usage. In spite of the growing campus population and footprint, Drew’s energy consumption has decreased 11% since 2004. With a renewed focus on energy conservation, we fully expect that trend to not only continue, but decrease at an even more rapid pace.
Purchasing practices at Drew have also evolved to promote sustainability. The Climate Action Plan stipulates the purchase of only Energy Star appliances and 100% post-consumer recycled paper for laser printers and photocopiers. In addition, Drew is home to McLendon Hall, New Jersey’s first LEED Silver rated residence hall, and we now have a formalized Green Building Policy for all future projects.
Of course, sustainability is not only about energy conservation. The reason why sustainability is so hard to define is because it means different things to different people. Over the last five years, ideas have come from many members of the Drew community, including:
- Food waste recycling in the Commons.
- A car sharing program through Zipcar.
- Bicycles for students to use throughout the semester.
- Trash to Treasure program for students to give away their gently used items to charity instead of throwing them in the trash.
- Water reduction through low flow fixtures.
- Tray-less dining in the Commons to conserve water and reduce food waste.
- Reforestation projects on campus
- Use of native plants in landscaping
- Integrated pest management
Sustainability, less a product than a process, significantly enhances the campus community by providing a framework for continuous improvement. By constantly striving to make decisions that are environmentally, fiscally, and socially sound, the sustainability standard challenges the University to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship and service in the community, both globally and locally.