"Sustainability Team" Formed at W&M to Shape the Ecological Future| November 5, 2008
Implementing the College's Sustainability Policy requires the thoughtful development of a structure for ongoing assessment, monitoring, and policymaking based upon sound science-based and technical advice, a comprehensive understanding of the financial and operational implications of sustainable practices, and a healthy respect for the traditional roles of faculty, students, and staff of the College with respect to both governance and operations. By bringing the full complement of the university's intellectual strengths to bear on the question of how best to achieve sustainability, the College can develop a campus sustainability program that truly integrates teaching, research, and service into the fabric of the program, creating a self-perpetuating model of sustainable learning that will allow the College to become a leader on campus sustainability in the higher education community.
- From the College of William & Mary Campus Sustainability Plan, 9/22/08
Led by its co-chairpersons, Interim Dean of the Law School and Chancellor Professor Lynda Butler and Professor Dennis Taylor of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), the College of William & Mary's Committee on Sustainability (COS) is up and running full speed ahead. The "green fee" endorsed by the student body and approved by the Board of Visitors last Spring will funnel about $100,000 per semester to fund a top-down, ground-up plan to transform the College of William & Mary into a model for other schools and cities.
The COS Steering Committee reports to William & Mary President W. Taylor Reveley who appointed the committee co-chairpersons, Butler and Taylor. Three chairpersons will head the Science and Technical Advisory, Finance and Operations, and Programs and Education subcommittees. They are, respectively, John Swaddle, associate professor of biology and director of the undergraduate Environmental Science and Policy Program; Bob Dillman, the College's building official, and Rowan Lockwood, associate professor of geology. There are two undergraduate students, Phil Zapfel '09 and Lauren Edmonds '11, one graduate student, Jessica Parent (Business), and one staff member, Dave Shepard, deputy director of facilities management, who serve on the COS. Three ex officio members include the Vice President for Administration Anna Martin, the Vice President for Finance Sam Jones, and the Vice President for Student Affairs (interim) Ginger Ambler.
The 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' motto coined so long ago is insufficient to describe what is underway all across the William & Mary campus.
"The COS is a new structure designed to leverage the strengths of the College in a way that is consistent with its teaching, research, and service missions," Butler said. "It is the President's structure, and involves a network of people set up to encourage the flow of ideas vertically and horizontally, and to get ideas and actions moving quickly."
Butler should know. She has been addressing these issues for a long time. She is the former Director of the Environmental Science and Policy Cluster at the College, and now an advisor to the group that has grown into a freestanding program with its own undergraduate major. She has taught courses on environmental topics and, for more than a decade, was the faculty advisor to the William and Mary Environmental Policy and Law Review.
"And what better place to tackle real-world ecological issues than at William & Mary where the legal, scientific, educational and financial aspects of the environment can be studied, researched and changed to light a path for homes, schools, cities, states and even national governments?" Butler asked. "Instead of simply opening an Office of Sustainability and hiring consultants, we can tap into the intellectual capital of the College and link sustainability programs to the mission of teaching, research, and service. This matters to many prospective students of the College whether they are interested in our undergraduate or graduate programs. Sustainability is their issue, their passion, their future."
Taylor has been working in environmental studies program at VIMS since 1991, teaching classes in marine science and marine and environmental policy. In 1995, he began teaching undergraduates at William and Mary, starting with freshman seminars on the environment and then classes in the environmental science program. One thing he and his fellow instructors do to introduce students into the field is to ask them to consider the carbon footprint of their last meal. "It is usually a wake-up call for most students," Taylor said, "to see how much energy was used just to deliver them lunch."
A number of groups have also been working on environmental issues for years. The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) has a 'low-hanging' fruit list of past accomplishments as well as a checklist for the near future. In 2006, the students successfully had styrofoam 'to-go' containers removed from the dining halls, reusable cups distributed to students in 2007, and this Fall, cafeteria trays have been taken out of the dining service areas and biodegradable sushi trays have been added. Removal of food service trays saves water, reduces the energy needed to heat the water, and significantly cuts down on wasted food. Students are promoting 'sustainable dining' in the food service area to decrease their environmental impact on the entire campus, tending a community garden, and composting vegetative waste. They support efforts to reduce energy use for computers and lights, as well as the installation of LED exit signs, compact fluorescent bulb usage, and a trial program for automatic motion-sensor lights in the College's buildings, among other green efforts.
Phil Zapfel '09, an English major minoring in Environmental Science & Policy, co-facilitator of the SEAC, and a member of the COS Programs and Education Subcommittee, said, "I am very happy with the role that students, both graduate and undergraduate, have been given on this Committee, and love to see that all of the subcommittees and working groups will be featuring a large amount of student input. I think it's very important for the committee to begin spending the new Green Fee allocation wisely, and in a timely manner. The students have plenty of ideas for how that money can be spent, beginning with an extensive metering system for all buildings on campus, in order to set a baseline of energy use and greenhouse gas output among other things."
"In addition to the students' green fees," Butler said, "It is hoped that class gifts from future alumni will include 'green fee' gifts, grants, and fundraising for sustainability."
The structure of the COS is designed to address the short-term issues to bring immediate benefits. Then a long-term perspective will begin through the work of the COS subcommittees, using a model of the campus to identify weaknesses and assess changes. Each subcommittee also will review proposals related to their primary charge. The COS Steering Committee will then integrate the three plans and make recommendations for the College's sustainability program.
Science and Technical Advisory Committee
The Science and Technical Advisory Subcommittee (STAC) will develop an ecosystem plan that defines the College's ecosystem to be studied and managed, the current state of that ecosystem, and appropriate assessment methods. STAC is the primary assessment and monitoring arm of COS, and it will work closely with the other two subcommittees to obtain data for its modeling, monitoring, and assessment efforts and to establish benchmarks and measure progress. Support for STAC will be provided by two initial Working Groups whose membership will be drawn campus-wide, including VIMS, from those with the requisite expertise and experience.
- from the CWM Campus Sustainability Plan
As part of STAC, the Modeling Working Group will develop an interactive systems model of the College's ecosystem that includes the natural environment, the built environment, energy, nutrient flux, and carbon sources and sinks. This model will guide the implementation of the Sustainability Policy by identifying where the College's emissions are going, where the largest consumption of energy occurs, and where the greatest carbon reductions are possible.
The College will also assess and survey its landscape and landscaping, Taylor said. New plantings will be species native to Virginia. Studies of Lake Matoaka will be included in the total landscape map, as will College Woods.
"While William & Mary is a highly vegetated campus, we can achieve an energy balance with native plants that will be bring us to a more ecologically neutral position. Native plants can withstand the extreme weather conditions in our area-drought, high heat and humidity."
"We can't justify these committees and efforts just on scientific curiosity alone," Taylor said. "We need to tie it in with the practical aspects of energy consumption. The College has chosen to use its own experts, rather than outside consultants, to turn the College in on itself, and see the value of integrating sustainability into the whole academic experience. We hope to begin the transformation of people and expose students to these ecological issues in as many ways as possible."
The Assessment and Monitoring Working Group will monitor and assess the effectiveness of the College's sustainability policies. Part of this will include surveying and mapping the College's natural and built environments. In addition, this group will assess the efficacy of the ecosystem model and recommend changes.
"The new School of Business and the new School of Education will be LEED certified," Butler said. "Their environmental footprint will be green."
In the United States and other countries, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability, and achieving LEED certification is the best way for an entity to demonstrate that building projects are truly 'green.' LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, based in Washington, D.C., and is a nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders who promote design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving occupational health and well-being. "LEED's four rating levels range from certified to platinum and are based on five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality," Butler said.
STAC will review and prioritize research proposals with scientific and technical dimensions of sustainability, and send its recommendations on the proposals to the Finance Working Group, part of the Finance and Operations Subcommittee.
Finance and Operations Subcommittee
The Finance and Operations Subcommittee will develop and recommend a financial and operations plan for promoting sustainability. This plan will identify College operations that affect the College ecosystem and that may need to be changed in order to promote a sustainable campus, as well as the financial base for change. FOPS will oversee four groups including the Physical Plant, Energy and Management, Landscape, Transportation, and Finance working groups.
- from the CWM Campus Sustainability Plan
The Keck Field Laboratory, which was a product of the Environmental Science & Policy Cluster, will offer opportunities for research and study. The Keck Lab on campus is already doing biodiesel conversion with the Williamsburg Unitarian Church and the Williamsburg Montessori School. Due to its reputation as a tourist destination, with a huge number of restaurants and an abundance of cooking oil catering to them, Sociology Professor Timmons Roberts called Richmond Road "the Saudi Arabia of Williamsburg."
An old water heater at Keck converts 30 gallons of cooking oil to biodiesel fuel every three to four days. Students in Taylor's "Living with the Environment" freshman seminar for the Sharpe Community Scholars Program participate in this project and others.
"The longer term potential is great, but the practical side requires that we consider the scale of the operation and its energy costs and efficiencies," Taylor said. "Production could be increased in the future, but what is the limit? We would need multiple units to handle just our own campus, with engineering aspects to reap the most effective, efficient system. Then we could convert the W&M's vehicle fleet (cars/vans/buses) to run on biodiesel fuel."
Because of that work and his Public Commons Project, Taylor was recently awarded with one of the 2008 President's Awards for Service to the Community. His Public Commons Project developed an interdisciplinary research environment where undergraduate, graduate and professional students could develop environmental projects and research products that would be of direct use to citizen groups and local government. Past projects included GIS mapping and surveys, farm and farmer's market databases for the public, and clean energy use.
"The value of integrating sustainability into the whole academic experience at William & Mary," Taylor added, "is that it can transform people's outlook by exposing students to sustainability in as many ways as possible."
Programs and Education Subcommittee
Finally, the Programs and Education Subcommittee (PEDS) will develop and recommend a campus life plan that integrates sustainability into the instructional, research, service, and residential life of the College in a way that provides appropriate input for and gives due consideration to academic concerns, student life issues, staff interests, and existing governance structure. The PEDS will oversee the Academic Programs, Student Life and the Continuing Education and Outreach working groups, as well as be responsible for the COS web site.
-from the CWM Campus Sustainability Plan
"Publicity and transparency are extremely important for the COS," Zapfel said. "The more we show the College community what we are doing, the more the students, faculty, and staff will be willing to help and ensure the progression and achievement of our goals. Successful top-down progress will inspire bottom-up progress, and vice versa, as we've already seen with the student-written Green Fees proposal last Spring. Consistent updates of our projects and high visibility are essential to our goal of encouraging smart individual choices."
One example of the role of academics and research: Members of the Physics Department are developing ways to increase the efficiency of solar panels.
"The College has plenty of roof area," Taylor said, "and Virginia is a great place to collect solar energy. Initially, we'd have to tie into the electrical grid to store power for continuous operation (24/7) for the campus."
Another area for exploration: Williamsburg and James City County pay for recycling services but there hasn't been much value in return of material because there has been no efficient separation of materials, Taylor explained. Some areas of the U.S. have reached recycling/waste management cost efficiency, but very few. How to make it more efficient and cost-effective? Here, he said, there is plenty of room for study and research.
Taylor sees the COS and its subcommittees and working groups as a unified approach for promoting an understanding of how "humans should live in the world."
Long Term Challenges
"The COS Steering Committee quickly decided that student involvement on COS subcommittees should occur on a rolling basis," Butler said. "Students can apply to serve on the subcommittees or working groups at any time, and can play a big role in changing the culture of William & Mary. They, for example, will be able to work on web site development, which is critical to having a transparent sustainability program and to communicating the work of the COS to the campus and the world. The subcommittee working groups will include students from the Law and Business schools as well as from Education and Arts & Sciences. Requests for proposals (RFPs) will be posted on the COS web site for students to submit applications to fund their projects."
Some of the long-term challenges at William & Mary are the age of the buildings and the degree to which they can be made as efficient as possible. Energy audits are underway or are planned to begin soon.
"Ideally, I see the COS as merely the beginning of incorporating sustainable practices in the daily fabric of both William & Mary and of the larger community," Zapfel said. "I believe we've got a great system in place here, and I hope to get a great deal done before I graduate in the Spring. And I trust that progress will continue to be made, both by this committee and by the College community in general."