CEEDS: How We Walk our Talk

15 Jul

Here at the Center for the Environment, we support many programs and activities that uphold healthy planet practices or shed light on where we can increase the positive impact we have on our natural surroundings, from a faculty teaching circle about sustainable food  to a conference about flooding and sustainable design solutions to working toward the Living Building Challenge at the Bechtel Environmental Classroom. We constantly strive to engage our students and our community in taking new steps towards a sustainable future by increasing awareness about the effects our actions have on the environment.  Sounds wonderful, right? But it’s always easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. Here are some ways that CEEDS really puts its money where its mouth is, or, more appropriately, its compost where its trash used to be.

Whenever CEEDS hosts an event that involves food in its space in Wright Hall we do our best to reduce our waste. We long ago purchased our own silver and dishware, so food is always eaten using reusables rather than throwaway products. After our meal, any food scraps go into our compost, and the dishes go in the shared dishwasher down the hall. Leftover food gets shared with others in the building or stored to be eaten at a later date. The compost bucket gets taken home by a staff member each week so the contents can be composted and eventually enrich their garden.

When we need to order new office supplies or even disposable cups for bigger events, we try to always go with the recycled, recyclable, compostable option. After all, if we, the Center for the Environment, can’t commit to that, who else will? We also try to use cleaners in our center that are plant-based and non-toxic.  We print on the back side of used paper when possible, and keep a separate recycling container for items that Smith does not recycle but staff members can at their homes.

Sometimes you may come by our Center and think no one is home because the lights aren’t on. However, if the doors are open, chances are we are just doing our best to conserve energy, and the light from the windows is enough for us right then! We make it a point to turn off lights whenever we leave our individual offices and spaces, and turn off the Center’s main lights when the last person leaves for the day. We’ve even taken to turning off lights throughout the building when we notice them on in a space no one is using- like the Weinstein Auditorium, shared kitchen, or handicap accessible bathrooms.

The most recent addition to walking our talk is our commitment to purchasing carbon offsets to help mitigate the effects of our travel. Smith College itself has incentive programs for staff and faculty to encourage use of public transportation, take part in ridesharing, or bike/walk for each person’s commute, so we at CEEDS focus on transportation that is incurred by our programs and staff as we carry out our work.  This is our first year keeping a tally of our transportation footprint, and we are still learning the best method to effectively track all that we do. For this year, we totaled all of our miles (driven and flown) with an online calculator that converted it into metric tons. We then purchased the equivalent carbon offset from Terra Pass, one of the highest rated carbon offset companies. Carbon offsets can be a contentious subject, but with the help from outside reviews and a system of checks and balances, we are happy with our choice of Terra Pass. Now that we have been through the process once, we already have ideas about how to even more accurately capture our travel data. For now it feels good just knowing we are on the right track.

TerraPass1Our TerraPass bumper sticker on the electric all terrain vehicle used for research at the MacLeish Field Station.

Sara Kirk
Administrative Assistant, CEEDS

Sources: http://www.greenopia.com/USA/offset_search.aspx?category=Offset&Listpage=0&input=Name%25or%25product&subcategory=None&sort=idasc).

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