It's 2008; every day is Earth Day
No longer limited to either Earth Day or convention, environmental awareness and action are taking on a variety of innovative forms around the College, a reminder that sustainability is both a habit of mind and a community effort. The spring saw initiatives and events ranging from the traditional and agrarian (a community garden) to the political and technological (a concert and film devoted to environmental action and awareness of global warming).
Ham's Cram & Scram:
It was the College's answer to an age-old campus dilemma: What to do with all the furniture, appliances, clothing, bedding, even food left behind by students during the May exodus? "We average about 75 to 80 tons of waste every month, and that number jumps to around 140 tons in May," says Terry Hawkridge, assistant director of grounds, horticulture and arboretum. The solution: Recycle and reuse.
Hawkridge, along with Brian Hansen, director of environmental protection, safety and sustainability, had wanted to initiate Ham's Cram & Scram, an annual year-end recycling effort, for some time but had to work out staffing and other details. With the recycling effort, the May waste processed by the College fell from 140 tons to just more than 100 tons, with a savings of more than $2,500, Hawkridge said.
Using Emerson Literary Society as a base of operations, 30 students helped collect and sort recyclable and reusable items from residence halls as the semester ended. Clothing went to the Salvation Army, bedding to the Stevens-Swan Humane Society and food to the Clark Mills Food Pantry. Books, paper and containers were recycled by the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority.
Reusable items such as furniture and appliances will be stored over the summer and sold at a tent sale on campus Aug. 26-27.
Low Carbon Diet Day:
Food service provider Bon Appétit declared Earth Day, April 22, Low Carbon Diet Day for lunch at campus dining halls. That meant purchasing all meats and vegetables from North America, reducing the amount of beef and cheese served, eliminating air-freighted seafood, decreasing purchases of tropical fruits and reducing use of packaging and disposable containers.
The energy used to grow, store, transport and process food, by some estimates, produces about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and cheese are particularly "carbon intensive," and even foods such as lettuce and tomatoes can be when they have to be shipped long distances. "Our challenge is to make students understand what we're doing for one meal, on this day, and how our food choices can have a great impact on the environment," Bon Appétit General Manager Pat Raynard said of Low Carbon Diet Day.
The day followed last September's Eat Local Challenge, a campus-wide picnic where all the food came from local producers. Bon Appétit also offers an online low carbon diet calculator at www.eatlowcarbon.org.
Community Farm Garden:
You can't eat much more locally than this: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and lettuce from the College's own 3/4-acre garden, off Campus Road near the Ferguson parking lot. Proposed last fall by Andrew Pape '10, Corinne Bancroft '10, Professor of Biology David Gapp and Associate Professor of German and Russian Languages and Literatures Frank Sciacca, the garden is devoted to "furthering the value of sustainability by utilizing sustainable and organic techniques and offering an outdoor classroom for students experientially to learn these values."
The garden has been funded and supported variously by the President's Office, food service provider Bon Appétit, the Physical Plant and individual members of the Hamilton community. Visiting Assistant Professor of Government Peter Cannavo and Reuben Haag, executive chef of Bon Appétit, have served as advisors to the project. The garden is also the site of the Heritage Garden, maintained by Gapp, Sciacca and Associate Professor of English Naomi Guttman and the students in their Food for Thought seminar. The Heritage Garden comprises crops and employs cultivation techniques in use in 1812.
Plantings for the future:
The Hamilton College Arboretum, joined by Hamilton's Environmental Action Group, planted a white pine between Kirkland Residence Hall and Minor Theater to mark Arbor Day April 25. The Arboretum Society also participated in a tree planting ceremony at Clinton Elementary School, with members of the Hamilton grounds staff helping students. A final tree planting came May 24, on the quad between South Residence Hall and the Bristol Center, to mark the success of the Class of 2008 Environmental Endowment Fund.
— Contributing: Bob Healy, Molly Kane '09, Andrew Pape '10, Sports Information Director Jim Taylor