Andrew Little '21 with collected food scraps from Babbitt.

A group charged with creating a sweeping Sustainability Action Plan for Hamilton is looking for input from the campus community.

The Sustainability Working Group (SWG), which consists of faculty, students, and staff, last week released a draft outline for the plan and will hold two Zoom sessions to gather comments and questions. The first session will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, and the second will be at noon on Friday, April 16.  Campus community have received links to the Zoom sessions in an email from the SWG.

Group members want to hear community members’ visions for a sustainable Hamilton and make sure the final outline reflects them, said Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Aaron Strong, who leads the SWG subcommittee that created the outline. The document describes a plan that focuses on a broad range of issues: food and waste; energy use; sustainability programing; land and forest management; and the campus sustainability culture.

The sustainability plan will also include an updated version of Hamilton’s Climate Action Plan, which will lay out the College’s path to carbon neutrality. The College agreed in 2007 to pursue that goal.

The sustainability and climate action plans will be completed by May 2022.

Salwa Sidahmed ’23, who is one of nine students on the 22-member SWG, volunteered to help host the Friday Zoom. A Student Assembly liaison to the group, Sidahmed believes it is critical for the campus community as a whole to be part of the discussion about environmental stewardship at Hamilton.

 “Student voices are especially important, considering that the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely by youth,” Sidahmed said. “This is especially true for youth of color and other marginalized groups, as the climate crisis is a site where many existing inequities are exacerbated. That's why we want to ensure that the feedback sessions are accessible and create a platform where students, especially those from marginalized groups, can be heard.”

The Sustainability Action Plan is important for two core reasons, Strong said. One is to coordinate, prioritize, and advance a myriad of sustainability components. “The genesis of this idea came from lots of different ideas bubbling up,” Strong explained. For instance: students’ ideas for changing the campus community gardens; ideas about recycling and waste in the dining halls; and ways to better train new employees about sustainability. The list goes on.

The second reason, in Strong’s assessment, is the need for a detailed and updated Climate Action Plan. The current plan needs to be fleshed out. “Even within that question of how do you go carbon-neutral, there are lots of decisions to be made. There’s lots of opportunities for education for our students,” he said. 

Student education, for example, ways to involve faculty and students in sustainability research and projects, is part of the Action Plan discussion. Education is of critical importance, said Brian Hansen, a SWG member and facilitator and director of environmental protection, safety, and sustainability. The SWG wants Hamilton students to graduate with an understanding of their impact on the environment. “We hope that they’ll be better corporate citizens or private individuals as they leave our doors...” Hansen said. “So that’s why, ultimately, these conversations that we’re working through with the SWG are so vital.”

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