Students look to create environmental council
By Melissa Last ‘17 and Ryan Powers ‘19
As a new sustainability coalition between student groups forms on campus this week, some students still lament that little progress has been made, especially regarding efforts to hire a sustainability coordinator.
That’s a trend with the Sustainability Committee, a group of students, faculty and staff who want to make the college more environmentally friendly, said Joseph Ingrao ‘16, founder of the Lafayette Food and Farm Cooperative (LAFFCO).
The sustainability coalition, according to Rachel Barron ‘16, is comprised of student leaders from several different environmental organizations, including Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP) and Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (SEES).
“Many of these groups are striving towards the same goal but due to a lack of communication we sometimes step on each others toes in the process,” Barron wrote in an email. “The goal of the coalition is to facilitate open communication between all of these groups on campus so we can help each other reach our common goal of a more environmentally conscious campus.”
Recent efforts for sustainability on campus by the committee, particularly this semester’s implementation of single stream recycling, have proved “how, unfortunately slow the sustainability committee has been,” Ingrao said.
“I do think Lafayette has made some real strides in the last few years,” President Alison Byerly said. “But I do think its an area where there’s definitely room for us to advance.”
“There has been impetus on this campus since before I was here. There have been people calling for single stream recycling [and] there have been multiple class-long projects about implementing single stream,” Ingrao said. “LEAP and SEES have been talking about it for over four years and now we finally have it.”
Discourse surrounding sustainability has increased on campus over the last few years. It is now listed on the Lafayette website as one of the college’s three core values, along with diversity and inclusion and community engagement. Some students, however, have expressed frustration at a lack of action by administration to match the discourse.
Barron, who founded EcoReps, a group of students assigned to buildings to advocate for green living, agreed.
“Overseeing all the various aspects of the environmental culture at Lafayette is a full time job that is currently being split up by specific individuals and groups,” Barron wrote in an email. “This creates a dissonance on campus between what some people want accomplished and what is actually being done.”
“A sustainability coordinator is necessary to bridge the gap between students, faculty, staff and plant operations. It is also necessary for the longevity of environmental practices on this campus,” Barron wrote.
Ingrao said that he and other members of LAFFCO, LEAP, SEES, ECOreps and Take Back the Tap, have brought their concerns to Byerly. According to Ingrao, while Byerly has been receptive and provided encouragement, no tangible results have yet come from their actions.
“We’re currently looking at our staffing in that area to think about whether additional staff could be helpful to us,” Byerly said in an interview.