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Five College Sustainability Initiative

Posted: October 15, 2012

The Five College consortium’s Blue Sky Sustainability Initiative, a yearlong process that began with nearly 500 brainstormed ideas and will end with up to a handful of projects for campuses to pursue, is turning to students and faculty to help narrow the field.

Last winter, the Five College campus communities (Hampshire, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst) were asked for suggestions, ideas, or proposals incorporating sustainability into the campuses, the consortium, and the community.

"The fact that we received some 500 ideas—from students, faculty, and staff at all five campuses—tells us that developing sustainable practices is important to our campus communities, and therefore worthy of joint action by the five institutions through the consortium,” said Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges, Incorporated.

Beth Hooker, as the sustainability program director first for Five Colleges and currently for Hampshire College, coordinated efforts to organize and prioritize the wealth of ideas. Over the summer, a group composed primarily of faculty and staff from the five campuses split into teams to review six subject areas: Academic Programs, Energy and Green Buildings, Food and Land Use/Land Conservation, Transportation, Waste Reduction, and Water/Other.

Each group evaluated and filtered the ideas into those they felt were most promising for continued investigation. Criteria they used were carbon footprint reduction, financial savings relative to cost of implementation, learning opportunities for students, opportunities for alumni and community engagement, and prospects for external funding.

The process resulted in 18 projects [see below for list] that have been divided among the five campuses for further assessment. Each campus is using students as a key component of this process, in independent study work, classes, and internship opportunities. From this assessment will emerge up to six proposals by the end of the semester. They will be presented, each with a rough budget, to the Five College board of directors, made up of the campus presidents, the university chancellor, the president of the university system and the executive director of the consortium.

The Blue Sky Brainstorm is part of a broader effort by the consortium to incorporate sustainability into campuses and classrooms. Recent initiatives include a Five College lecture series, a website listing sustainability courses and programs on member campuses, and a new Five College certificate in sustainability studies.

Five College Blue Sky Brainstorm Sustainability Initiative
Projects for further investigation in Fall 2012

Energy and Green Buildings
1. Sustainable Residence Hall Standards
2. Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund
3. Cooperative generation or purchasing of alternative energy
4. Cooperation of Energy Managers
5. Energy Policy Standards

Food and Land Use/Conservation
1. The Edible Campuses Project
2. The Real Food for the Five Project
3. The Sustainable Landscapes Project

Transportation
1. Improve and expand the PVTA Five College Bus System
2. Reduce automobile use

Waste Reduction
1. A Zero-Waste Initiative to make all large, annual one-college and Five College events zero-waste, including but not limited to commencements, convocations, orientations, sporting events
2. A Five College Up/Freecycling Center (ReStore) available to all students, faculty members, and staff members to donate and take materials for offices and dorms
3. An anaerobic digestion facility that would process food waste and capture methane biogas for production of electricity and steam for the Five Colleges

Water/Other
1. Reduce landscape irrigation
2. Reduce impervious surfaces that drain directly to storm sewers
3. Promote understanding and consumption of municipal water (over bottled beverages)
4. A grant program and revolving fund for student sustainability projects

Academic Programs
1. Strengthen the Five College Sustainability Certificate Program and support for it

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