By Daniel Schemer, April 2010
On Tuesday, April 20, the Library Browsing Area was packed for Green Campus Day, hosted by the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability. “Sustainability has been a community-building activity that has required us to look at how we interact with each other and the world,” proclaimed Chancellor Jean MacCormack, who was in attendance for the Green Campus Awards.
In addition to the series of presentations dealing with top sustainability initiatives at UMass Dartmouth, a Green Vendor Fair, comprised of various companies showcasing their brands of eco-friendly products, brought out droves of curious staff and students. “Without Chancellor MacCormack, nothing would have happened; she has stayed committed to sustainability,” said Susan Jennings, Director of the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability and host for the Green Campus Day presentations.
One of the hot topics was the Living Classroom program. “There is no discipline that cannot make use of UMass Dartmouth as a laboratory or case study. Most careers are represented on the campus,” said Dr. Robert Darst, Associate Director of Political Science and Director of the University Honors Program. The university’s 710 acres include almost 400 acres of meadows and wetlands, uncut forests and managed forests, ponds and ecosystems in various stages of natural recovery. The main idea of the Living Classroom program is to bring students out of their classrooms and into these natural habitats, as well as into the buildings and facilities that comprise daily operations. “Why not design course assignments that advance student learning and other institutional goals at the same time?”
Administration, faculty, and staff want the Living Classroom to be a regional educational resource that promotes sustainable land management practices, exposing campus and community members to the realities of conservation, pollution, and climate change. Besides protecting the health of ecosystems and promoting biological diversity, more interaction with the campus environment means greater identification with the university, an overall more active and memorable curriculum, and plenty of recreational and explorative opportunities. Faculty from various academic disciplines have already expressed desire to utilize the land as an ecological learning space.
All of the forested land has been enrolled in a Forestry Stewardship Plan to preserve these habitats, multitudes of animal and plant species, and also develop the land as a model for sustainable forestry. “The number of educational projects being proposed is truly ambitious,” said Rupert Grantham, a forester for Walden Forest Conservation, who conducted an inventory of the land last semester and will be involved with the Stewardship. Mr. Grantham spoke about the kinds of diversity in the woodlands and what the Stewardship would entail in terms of harvesting wood for campus projects, creating nature trails, maintaining the overall health of the forest, and presenting the history of land-use the area possesses.
The Sustainability Assessment Report was presented to the public by Susan Jennings. Two years in the making and the culmination of extensive work from various departments, offices, and students collaborating with the Sustainability Initiative, the report consists of baseline calculations and suggested improvements in nine areas of campus operations: Energy; Water; Built Environment; Transportation; Purchasing and Waste; Land Use; Food; Health and Well-Being; and Academics and Culture. Examples of these calculations are amounts of energy and water the campus uses, how much waste is accumulated, mains sources for greenhouse gas emissions, the various distances students commute to UMass Dartmouth, the nutritional value of food served, and the kinds of products used in campus maintenance. This is an important document for any educational institution looking to improve sustainability measures.
Tied in with the Assessment were also the University’s Climate Action Plan, which will bring carbon neutrality to the campus over the next 40 years, and a presentation by Dr. Garry Clayton, Associate Dean for the Charlton College of Business and Director of CCB Cape Cod, on updates with the Sustainability Minor, the creation of the Sustainability Studies Department, and what to look forward to in the future concerning sustainability in academics. “Sustainability is making sure there’s a future for ourselves and generations,” said Dr. Clayton.
The final presentation was the Green Campus Awards. “These are just a few of the people we honor. These are the true standouts in the commitment to sustainability,” said Chancellor MacCormack during the handing out of the awards to the recipients: Deirdre Healy, Director of the Office of Community Service and Partnerships in the Career Resource Center; Kara Basque, senior in marketing with a minor in sustainability; The Management and Marketing Department in CCB, accepted by professor Steven White; Dr. Tara Rajaniemi of the Biology Department; and an Outstanding Achievement Award to Dr. Robert Peck, Dean of the College of Engineering. “It is such a pleasure to see participation and population growing for these events,” said Dr. Peck, praising the large turnout of people in attendance. The awards for RecycleMania were also presented to Aspen and Oakglen Halls.