Caroline Ward

Staff Writer




In the fall of 2018, President Sarah Bolton commissioned the College’s first campus sustainability committee to create a five-year sustainability plan. The plan aimed to bring the College up to speed with the rest of its peer institution’s sustainability measures. In May 2019, the Campus Sustainability Committee (CSC) initiated the “Sustainability Plan for the College of Wooster” and detailed the “why’s,” “what’s” and “how’s” of Wooster’s new sustainability initiatives. The plan listed five “Major Recommendations for Immediate Implementation,” other specific suggestions, a proposed preliminary timeline and a quantitative and qualitative comparison of Wooster’s sustainability efforts with those of 11 of our peer institutions. The plan’s major recommendations are “to hire a sustainability coordinator, form a renewable energy exploratory committee, conduct an external energy audit, create a revolving green fund and incorporate sustainability into campus culture and establish relevant goals and targets.”

 “The College needs to be sustainable in every sense of the term,” wrote the committee. “By taking deliberate, mindful action to address environmental challenges, we have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves in a positive way with prospective students and to make considered changes [sic] rather than reacting to changing conditions as they become urgent.”

Three years later, the College has not met the majority of the plan’s major recommendations.  Cory Horgan ’23, a former CSC member, and current president of Greenhouse Club, a sustainability and environmentalism club on campus, expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress. Horgan argues that the College’s culture is “not one of environmentalism,” citing the administration’s inaction. “The biggest problem is that it’s absurdly clear that the board does not  care,” Horgan said, “and the President’s office does not particularly care.” While the President regularly meets with Greenhouse at least once a semester, Horgan said it rarely results in tangible change. “Typically in meetings with her, you leave feeling really excited, but in the end, she doesn’t have the power the trustees do.” While Bolton initially agreed to comment, she was unable to reach the Voice. Horgan added that student development meetings with the trustees fail to create action. “Greenhouse is often listened to, and gets a lot of questions, people are very receptive, but it kind of dies there,” he said about the meetings. “The reality is we can make as much noise as we can, but we leave in four years.” On an Instagram post in honor of Earth Day, WooInsider received several comments from the student body. “We could really improve sustainability on campus if we hired a sustainability coordinator,” said Carly McWilliams ’22. Horgan agrees with McWilliam’s comment. “It begins with a sustainability coordinator,” he said. “Without a formal and respected channel within the College, it is far too easy for administration, the service center, grounds, dining, the president and anyone else to dismiss Greenhouse, Environmental Justice Coalition (EJC), or anyone who tries to push for a more sustainable campus.” 

While COVID-19 created unique challenges, Horgan stresses the environmental crisis’ own challenges. “I will commend the College on how much they have done, but I think it’s time to stop prioritizing the pandemic over the environment, and start to understand that they might have to live in coexistence for a while.” He points to actionable steps that can be taken without compromising the safety of staff, students and faculty: small steps such as the return of sustainable to-go boxes and an increased discount for the use of sustainable mugs to incentivise student use, and bigger steps like the appointment of a sustainability coordinator, or a sustainability department, like in many Ohio 5 schools. “It comes down to it being a priority,” Horgan says. “And I don’t think it’s a priority.”

Written by

Chloe Burdette

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