Improving Sustainability on Campus

March 6, 2013

High efficiency boilers in Boland Hall. New water-saving shower heads and faucets in residence halls. Improved waste recycling across campus. A solar farm in the works. These are just some the measures being taken to improve sustainability at Stonehill.

"While we've made great strides towards becoming a greener campus, sustainability is now a real focal point," says Jessa Gagne, the College's new Energy Manager.

College officials have been working diligently to overhaul the drive to enhance awareness of sustainable initiatives on campus and reduce the amount of energy being used by students, faculty and staff.

Gagne says the College has undertaken an ambitious, yet achievable Sustainability Plan to reduce energy use.

"It's intended to serve as a roadmap for the College. It will identify programs and projects to pursue, timelines and performance metrics to measure and track, processes to guide continuous engagement, support and decision-making, and define roles and responsibilities to ensure effective and efficient implementation and accountability."

As part of this plan, the College has begun replacing aging mechanical equipment throughout campus with greener, more cost-efficient equipment. For example, Donahue Hall will receive addition controls to its current boilers to limit their usage that will save, Gagne estimates, between 10-30% percent of its natural gas consumption.

Boland Hall's heating system converted from oil to gas this past fall and in January every residence hall had its shower heads and faucet aerators replaced, which will save upwards of four million gallons of water per year.

Also in the works is the installation of electrical submeters in ten campus buildings which will allow the College to monitor exactly how much energy is being used at any given time.

In an effort to ramp up waste awareness on campus, Stonehill is currently taking part in the eight-week Recyclemania competition which ranks colleges and universities on their recycling rates.

After week three, Stonehill is ranked 181st out of 600 schools with a 21.5% recycle rate.

"Our main goal this year was to introduce the campus to this competition as a way to increase waste awareness," says Associate Director Building Services Bob MacEachern. He hopes to see an increase of 2% in recycling during the contest. The College is exceeding that goal with its 21.5% rate after week three, which represents a 3.5% improvement.

MacEachern also notes that nearly 90% of the College's daily cleaning is done with certified green products. "Last March we invited representatives from Clean Green Solutions and Rochester Midland Corporation to train our custodians on green cleaning. They all successfully completed training and testing so now all of our custodians are registered LEED certified in green cleaning."

Martin Institute Joins the Green Initiative
Coinciding with these improvements at Stonehill is the new two-year theme at the Martin Institute, "Environmental Justice, Sustainability and Economic Development."

The fall semester subtheme of "The Tragedy of the Commons," explored public goods and collective action programs. The focus this semester is on climate change and next fall, the Institute will examine food security. The two-year theme will wrap in the spring of 2014 when environmental stewardship through collaboration will be looked at. Each area sheds light on different problems across the country and world, and how environmental justice, sustainability and economic development can help make the world a better place.

Solar Farm in the Works
Scheduled to begin this spring, the College will begin the installation of a solar farm which will result in tremendous energy savings. Located behind the College's David Ames Clock Farm, the solar farm's panels will produce an estimated 3.5 million kilowatt hours per year, greatly reducing the dependency on electricity costs at the College. Solect Energy and Power Management are collaborating with Stonehill on the project.

Environmental Stewardship Council (ESC)
The council, made up of representatives from across campus including students and faculty, is charged with developing, recommending, and maintaining a series of sustainability goals and improving the effort to reduce Stonehill's carbon footprint.

"We hope to help Stonehill use our resources in a more sustainable manner while educating students and staff members so that they can be more intentional in their everyday lives. Being more sustainable is not just about lowering costs, it is about doing what is right for the earth and for our future," says Council member Kelly Treseler, assistant director of Residence Life.

Stop The Drop
Treseler was instrumental in organizing a water-reduction competition between residence halls this past fall called "Stop the Drop." On average each residence hall taking part in the competition decreased its water use by 12% during the competition which saved the College nearly $4500," says Treseler. The winner of the first campaign was O'Hara Hall, who limited its water consumption by an astonishing 32%.

Overall, Stonehill students use an average of 40 gallons of water per day with that number expected to drop even further with the installation of the new shower heads and faucets in residence halls.

Active Students
A number of student groups have been formed at the College which address environmental concerns. They include:
-The Activism Club, which promotes awareness of human rights violations around the world. The club is geared to focus student attention on a specific global human rights violation each semester.

-Students for Environmental Action (SEA), which promotes the awareness of environmental issues that affect both the Stonehill Community and the global environment.

-Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), which works to bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the use of business principles and business models. The club promotes the awareness of business opportunities to address and solve social problems by creating outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living.

"Students don't have to be a part of a group or organization to make changes at the College," notes Gagne. "They can help the College reduce its carbon footprint by making simple changes in their daily lives like moving furniture away from heating and cooling vents, placing refrigerators against empty walls away from heating vents, using fluorescent or LED bulbs and buying Energy Star products."