Sustainability Committee holds open meeting, discusses biodiversity, sustainability month

The updated Climate Action Plan received support from a campus-wide student petition to establish a commitment to carbon emission reduction. (Photo by Elle Cox ’21).

At its open meeting this week, the Lafayette Sustainability Committee hosted members from campus to discuss ongoing sustainability efforts and increase awareness of their long-term goals. Though meetings are not generally open to the public without an RSVP, the committee welcomed students this week to discuss the committee’s current projects and their plans for campus sustainability month.

Director of Sustainability Marie Fechik-Kirk opened the discussion talking about the recent climate action petition, signed by 1,300 members of the Lafayette community in support of reaching a carbon neutrality goal.

This petition was also used as support for the new climate action plan that was presenting to the grounds and building committee of the board of trustees during homecoming weekend. According to Vice President of Finance and Administration Roger Demareski, the finalized new climate action plan is being presented to the board of trustees at the end of December. 

“We have decreased our overall emissions by around 20%, so we would like to keep that progress and momentum up,” Fechik-Kirk said. “We’ve talked to the building and grounds committee, and we discussed our next steps, so we are trying to reach the carbon neutrality goal and are also looking for ways to increase efficiency, use renewable resources, reach our goal.”

The organization Second Nature, to which the college reports its carbon emission data, shows that from 2007 to 2017, the college reduced its emissions of carbon dioxide by 20.33 percent.

Fechik-Kirk also presented a comprehensive Sustainability Annual Report, a new method of highlighting student sustainability efforts. With continued student contribution, the committee will be able to present a finalized report in December, which will show improvements made in areas like biodiversity, food and community engagement in sustainability efforts.

One biodiversity initiative that has been central to the campus are the Acopian Bird Saver windows. An exhibit on the Bird Saver windows is on display in the Skillman library, and the technology is used across Lafayette’s campus.

The bird savers line windows with strings narrower than a bird’s wingspan, and contribute to reducing the number of collisions in buildings with large windows. At Hugel Science Center, this initiative has limited dozens of monthly window collisions to around one per month.

Along with biodiversity programs, Lisa Miskelly, Assistant Direction of Food & LaFarm, delved into the emerging compost program, called Food Loop.

“We are hoping that within the next couple of weeks we will have all the details to have it up and running at 901 Bushkill,” Miskelly said. “There has been a shift for the program because it was previously managed by the Grounds Crew, but it is now going to managed by a student run program.”

The compost program will begin in Upper Farinon, but will most likely expand to all dining halls.

“As this program expands, we will be looking for more students who are willing to become compost managers,” Miskelly added.

Miskelly also discussed extending Food Loop into the residence halls by having Resident Advisors promote the program. This would be a part of a broader student government led effort in reducing student waste on campus.

Further expansion of the initiative will include collaboration between the sustainability committee and local businesses, as well as other organizations on campus. Cosmic Cup will be offering a discount on coffee for students who use a reusable cup, and Greek Life will be hosting the first “Greeks Go Green” competition. The competition will measure energy use reduction in all the Greek life houses, and the house with the biggest deficit will win a catered dinner.

In addition to these ongoing projects Sustainability Fellow Kendall Roberson announced three campus events that will be taking place as a part of Campus Sustainability Month. On Thursday, a phone and computer recycling initiative will take place in Pardee Circle. Last year, the drive accumulated around 6000 pounds of recycled technology. Friday, there will be a fall picnic featuring LaFarm produce and pumpkin carving, and to wrap up Sustainability Month, there will be a discussion with alumni regarding environmental-related careers held on Monday, Oct. 29.

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