E-town students peek over hedge to learn about sustainability
Elizabethtown College is not just blue and gray—it’s also quite green. In fall 2016, E-town joined more than 700 U.S. institutions on a mission to make their campuses cleaner and greener. E-town’s sustainability efforts include increasing environmental literacy on campus, earning funding for renewable energy renovations, increasing environmentally friendly academic offerings and reducing the College’s overall energy consumption.
Not all of the College’s sustainability practices are immediately noticeable, however. Many operate behind-the-scenes.
Recently, E-town students Blair Hendricks and Dominic Giancarlo peeked behind the proverbial curtain at the College’s specific sustainability efforts. Working with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), they conducted Scholarship, Creative Arts and Research Program projects this past summer. Although the students worked in opposite areas of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), both said they enjoyed the research process.
I have a personal passion for sustainability.”
Hendricks, a senior international business major, worked with the College’s Department of Engineering to assist with the STARS self-reporting system. She collected data about rates of sustainability education and practices among clubs, professors, and courses. Hendricks said her interest in sustainable lifestyles lead her to the project, and she hopes students at the College become more aware of and involved with environmental protection.
“I have a personal passion for sustainability,” Hendricks said. “There’s a lot more that we could be doing with student engagement regarding sustainability on campus.”
While Hendricks worked on the financial and student initiative ends of the program, Giancarlo ’19 focused on operational sustainability.
He teamed up with the College’s Sustainability Committee to analyze current sustainability efforts and pinpoint potential areas of improvement on campus. For the most part, Giancarlo worked with Brenda Read-Daily, associate professor of Engineering and Physics. Dr. Read-Daily also is the department chair, vice chair of the College’s Sustainability Committee and lead for metrics and data.
For his side of the project, Giancarlo analyzed the campus sustainable practices, from water use per unit of floor space to the behaviors of dining services, ITS, and print services.
“There’s chemical waste, how the grounds are maintained, sustainable practices, food and dining,” said the mechanical engineering major and family business and entrepreneurship minor. Prior to his research, Giancarlo admitted to being unaware of many of the sustainable practices at the College. After speaking with numerous departments, Giancarlo emerged with newfound information about sustainability projects on campus, including:
- Dining Services’ scrap food pulper,
- the College’s solar array,
- the beehive initiative,
- the community farm and
- the campus’ electric vehicle charging stations.
He said he also got the inside scoop on the recently established bike-share program before the campus made an official announcement to all students, staff, and faculty.
“Learning more about E-town, that was honestly one of the most interesting things,” he said.
Giancarlo looked over all of the College’s sustainability practices and entered information into boxes in a STARS document. The data is then submitted by the Sustainability Committee to earn E-town an ASHEE rating.
Though Giancarlo said the environmental engineering side of his research required a learning curve, he was glad to branch out. “I figured it was something that I would be able to apply my engineering process to regardless of whether I was environmental engineering or not,” he said.
The will submit their research to ASHEE for review, at which point the College will receive an official sustainability ranking. No matter if E-town earns bronze, silver or gold, the campus is looking greener every day.