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Helen Xin '25, Eileen Bussiere '25, and Clara Zhou de Magalhaes ’24 were among a group of student sustainability interns to bring the Green Attributes project to life.
Eileen Bussiere ’25 arrived at Hamilton in August 2021 and quickly discovered an interest in environmental issues. Within the year, she found herself among a small group of sustainability summer interns who, with the support of mentors and campus partners, developed an action plan that better defined, delineated, and implemented naturalized landscaping features on campus that will benefit every future generation of Hamiltonians.

The “Green Attributes” project, designed by Ellie Sangree ’24 with help from Helen Xin ’25, Clara Zhou de Magalhaes ’24, Emmy Goodwin ’23, and Bussiere, outlines how the College can use green landscaping as a tool to further Hamilton’s commitment to sustainability. The project is overseen by the College’s Environmental Protection, Safety, and Sustainability Office.

The interns noted in the project’s framework that the College has researched more sustainable landscaping opportunities throughout the last decade and incorporated additional natural features into the 1,350-acre campus, which includes 950 acres of undeveloped land. This includes both small and large patches of habitat for native plants and animals, as well as “low-mow” zones, which are areas mowed less frequently to promote growth of field habitat.

“As Hamilton has seen the ecological benefits of these ‘low-mow’ practices, it is now time to consider a wider array of green landscaping spaces,” they wrote.

The College’s Facilities Management team categorizes campus land into four priority levels based on landscaping and maintenance needs. For areas designated as the lowest priority level, such as no- and low-mow zones, the interns proposed redefining the plots’ needs into five subcategories known as Green Attributes: no-mow zones, reforestation plots, wetlands and drainage sites, low-mow zones, and pollinator habitats. After conducting more than 100 in-person land surveys, the students developed more detailed instructions on how to care for plots in each subcategory based on ecological/environmental, aesthetic, educational, and recreational benefits.

In addition to the survey work, the interns hosted general stakeholder meetings with admission, athletics, and outdoor leadership staff, as well as environmental studies and biology faculty to outline the project and better understand the ways they use different areas and gather feedback on the proposal. For Sangree, who got this project underway in the spring 2022 semester, it was critical that people with interests or stakes in the land were involved and communicated with.

Four sustainability interns drive and ride along in a golf cart to their next project.
The 2022 summer sustainability interns. Photo: Provided

“I wanted to be very transparent about my methods for how we were going to arrange this project and collect their input early on,” she said. “The more we involve people and departments in the project means it’s likely to last longer and won’t be a project that graduates with me.”

Among the group’s closest collaborators was Grounds and Fleet Operations Manager Mike Jasper and other members of the Facilities Management Office. Together, they developed documentation for what was required to maintain each subcategory to ensure what was outlined could be integrated efficiently  into current work plans and processes. Implementation began this summer and will continue through the fall.

“We worked closely with Facilities Management [staff] who helped us understand a lot about how we should approach this project and served as a big resource for us,” Bussiere said, noting that Facilities Management staff had previously defined more than 80 plots of land for them to survey.

The interns also partnered with members of the Geosciences Department to create accessible and interactive multi-layered GIS maps of the campus and areas they evaluated. Working with Geosciences and Facilities Management were among the many experiences Bussiere had throughout the internship that reinforced for her how the people at Hamilton empower its students.

“I've been so supported by faculty and staff here, which I don’t think is something that everyone gets to experience at different schools,” she said. “How close you can get to people at Hamilton is what makes [the College] so unique. They listen to students’ ideas because they care what we think. They want to make sure our experience here is as good as it possibly can be.”

The Green Attributes project is one of many undertakings at Hamilton that will aid the College in achieving carbon neutrality by its 2030 goal. In conjunction with professors from environmental studies and biology, those involved with the project plan to calculate how much carbon is saved from forgoing the designated plots’ previous mowing regimes and sequestered by more heavily vegetated areas.

Sustainability at Hamilton

From student and faculty research to green programs and initiatives, Hamiltonians are committed to protecting and sustaining the environment through institutional processes, management of facilities, and curriculum.

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Two sustainability interns stand in the middle of a stream.

Hands-On Environmentalists

Ryan Wall ’20 and Jay Carhart ’21 spent the summer focused on projects ranging from maintaining the many trails around campus, overseeing recycling efforts at weekly community lunches, to improving the reforestation area located on the former golf course.

pollinator garden

Putting Sustainability Research Into Action

As a part of their summer sustainability internship, students researched ways to both reduce Hamilton’s carbon generation and beautify the campus at the same time. One strategy they identified was to reduce certain acreage mowed by the College, by way of low mow zones and pollinator gardens.

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