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Sustainability Committee discusses environmental issues

Claire Wineman

Senior Staff Writer

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the Sustainability Committee held an open discussion regarding environmental sustainability on The College of Wooster campus. 

The Committee has been tasked by President Bolton with creating a five-year plan for increasing environmental awareness and care at the College, based on studies of how the College operates and our peer institutions’ approach to sustainability. They hosted the conversation to hear from members of the College community about the issues that are important to them, in addition to introducing the purposes of the Committee.  

“Sustainability Committee has really dwindled over the past few years,” says Mary Kate Norton ’19, a member of the committee. “But students have been advocating for the Committee to come back and to help make environmental sustainability a priority at the College. It’s a collaboration between three student representatives, two faculty members and the heads of grounds, dining and facilities, and we also bring in members of Campus Council and Student Government Association to help us look into specific issues. It’s difficult to show the amount of student support that exists for issues of environmental sustainability, and by having these open meetings we’re able to show President Bolton and the Board that there’s a lot of interest.”

The panel members included Mary Kate Norton ’19, Olivia Hall ’19, Oria Daugherty ’21, Dr. Nick Brandley of the biology department and Dr. Susan Clayton of the psychology department and chair of the Committee. Marjorie Shamp,  director of campus dining and conference services, Doug Laditka, associate vice president for facilities management & development and Beau Mastrine, director of grounds were unable to attend.

 Students gathered to ask questions and express concerns, particularly in light of the Intergovernmental Panel by the United Nations on Climate Change report released the week prior to the discussion, and to make suggestions about what they would like to see implemented at the College to decrease our impact on the planet. 

The Committee emphasized its interest in addressing issues in many areas beyond mitigating emissions and voiced the particularly urgent need for hiring a sustainability coordinator who would help the College formulate the five-year plan and put it into action. 

Among student concerns were the lack of recyclable cups on campus (the disposable cups found in the cafés around campus are industrially compostable and can neither be recycled nor composted without being taken to a proper facility), appreciation of outdoor spaces, food waste and absence of environmental activism in many of our curricula. 

The Committee is hoping to create subcommittees to focus on these particular issues and allow students to put energy into the areas they are most interested in. 

Much of the conversation focused on how the future of sustainability at Wooster lies in little projects that will demonstrate student interest in helping the planet, and educational changes that will further awareness of the effects of our everyday actions. 

Dr. Clayton, chair of the committee, sees the future in the hands of students. “I’d really like to see a behavioral change. A lot of people on campus care about the environment but aren’t necessarily thinking about it. There are as many ways to get involved as there are students, so if somebody has a particular passion, we want to find a way to include that,” she said.  

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