Bridgewater Ramps Up Sustainability Efforts
Recycling bins. Bikes. A community garden. Energy conservation. New student organizations. Faculty grant applications. What do all of these have in common?
The newly established Center for Sustainability at Bridgewater College is bringing all of these efforts together, promoting them and creating new initiatives to further environmental responsibility and awareness at BC. Center director Teshome Molalenge ’87 said the center was created in an intentional move to meet the goals of BC 2020, the college’s new strategic plan, and enhance the college’s already existing programs that were previously under the guidance of various campus committees and organizations.
Molalenge commented about his new position, “I’m thrilled that the college is dedicated to these initiatives and has chosen to create a full-time position. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity to strengthen our conservation efforts and make our operations more efficient.”
So what is the point of sustainability, anyway? Why does Bridgewater care about moving in this direction?
Sustainability is based on the principles of conserving natural resources, using energy more efficiently and disposing waste in a manner that recycles and reuses as much material as possible. Many see sustainability as fulfilling an ethic of stewardship and responsibility, as opposed to practices that are wasteful or harmful to the environment and natural resources.
To this end, Bridgewater has made its recycling program a focal point of attention on campus, placing numerous recycle bins in high-traffic areas and implementing a student-run collection program. Not only does it provide work opportunities for students, it also helps increase student interest and awareness in the program.
The BC chapter of the New Community Project has headed up two key projects on campus – a small community garden that gives students the chance to engage directly in planting and harvesting food and the campus bike project, which allows students to share bikes and use them for transportation as much as possible.
The Environmental Task Force, an organization that has involved students, faculty and staff in spearheading environmental projects, is in the process of becoming an official student club, in the hopes of engaging even more of the campus community.
Molalenge said that enthusiasm and momentum for the programs are picking up among students, as awareness and interest increases. Interested students are able to work or complete internships at the center, to further their involvement.
The Center for Sustainability, while providing support for all of the above, is also in the process of collaborating with faculty as they come up with creative ideas for research and sustainable practices on campus and providing them with the resources they need to apply for grants. In addition, ongoing activities such as the Recyclemania competition, a recycling contest for colleges and universities nationwide; Earth Day programs; noted convocation speakers such as David Radcliff, a BC graduate and founder of the New Community Project; working with dining services on serving local food and waste reduction; and much more are all part of fulfilling the center’s mission at BC.
Molalenge also said that one of his goals is to bring attention to the many ongoing facility improvements that often happen behind the scenes, unnoticed. Not only was the Stone Village complex the college’s first LEED-certified construction project, but many smaller improvements have taken place all over campus, such as the replacement of washers and dryers in the residence halls with new, energy-efficient models, changing light fixtures and working with IT on electronic recycling and power management systems for campus computers.
Even the ubiquitous orange fencing and piles of dirt that pop up on campus each summer have a significant purpose. Over the past seven years, the college has invested $3 million in its steamlines, replacing and upgrading the existing ones to eliminate leaks and dramatically reduce the college’s fuel consumption and energy costs. It may not be glamorous, but the savings are seen everywhere from Bridgewater’s overall carbon footprint to the financial bottom line.
The college also received grant funding via the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) to purchase an electric utility car and a $150,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to conduct a comprehensive energy audit across campus. The audit has been completed and the recommended energy conservation measures are currently under consideration.
During 2011-2012, the college implemented WEPA wireless printing kiosks for student printing across campus, which decreased student printing and paper waste by 86 percent. In addition, the kiosks use paper with 50 percent recycled content.
The responsible use of paper is even evident in this issue of Bridgewater. The fall 2012 issue is the first to be published on paper that is made from 30 percent post-consumer recycled fiber and is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, an industry-wide standard for paper made from forests that are responsibly managed and conserved.
Ultimately, Molalenge hopes the value and importance of sustainability will impact the entire campus culture, as the center helps to instill the values of environmental stewardship in students and works with the campus sustainability committee to enhance and promote the College’s commitment to sustainable practices.