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College makes strides to accomplish 2020 neutrality goal

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Allegheny College encourages its students to actively promote sustainability — through campus rain gardens, environmental community art, a comprehensive composting program, a green roof, LEED certified buildings, geoexchange heating and cooling, porous parking lots, wind generated electricity, an annual campus wide energy challenge and a Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2020.

Allegheny’s sustainability website includes a list of “Environmental Guiding principles” that outline the college’s sustainability goals.

The principles state, “Allegheny College strives to be a community in which the earth’s natural resources are used and sustained in manners that safeguard the health and survival of present and future generations.”

In 2008, the college created the position of sustainability coordinator, and hired Kelly Boulton, ’02. The coordinator collaborates with Allegheny Student Government and other campus groups to develop new initiatives that encourage sustainability.

“I’m working on updating our greenhouse gas inventory right now, so we’ll know how close we are to our goal,” Boulton said.  “We are over 50 percent of the way towards achieving neutrality.”

The college’s sustainability website reports that Allegheny processes 800-900 pounds of food waste and compostable paper and plastic collected on campus every day.

Allegheny is also working to minimize landfill waste and currently sponsors trayless dining, reusable to-go boxes and a Bring Your Own Cup Program in all dining facilities to cut down on waste. The Office of Sustainability reported that the reusable to-go box program has so far eliminated enough waste to fill five dorm rooms and saves over $13,000 annually.

Several college buildings have also made a commitment to building efficiency and energy conservation.

North Village I has achieved LEED Certified recognition with its incorporation of recycled materials, high indoor air quality and efficient water fixtures and lighting.

The Vukovich Center for Communication Arts incorporates recycled materials and a green roof into its structure. The Allegheny College Office of Admissions, North Village II and Carr Hall also incorporate elements that advance the college’s commitment to efficiency and energy conservation.

In addition to these initiatives, the college also sponsors Daily Sustainability for Green Gators, a guide that includes details on ways employees can improve daily sustainability in a variety of areas, including energy use, travel, paper use, waste, food and drink choices and personal sustainability. The college’s sustainability website states that a guide for students will be published soon.

Allegheny also sponsors the Carrden, Food & Agriculture Resources for Meadville — a group of college and Meadville community members that promotes buying local — and is a partner in the development of the Community Garden at the Meadville Area Recreation Center.

“There are a lot of efforts we are doing across campus that are directly tied to the carbon neutrality goal,” Boulton said.

The college’s Strategic Planning Committee is planning to create a subcommittee dedicated to carbon neutrality and exploring how the college can more forward in achieving its carbon neutrality goal.

“There’s a lot of different layers of impacts that add up to our carbon footprint and our greenhouse gas emissions, but we are working away at it and have been making really good progress,” Boulton said.

However, there are still many ways for college sustainability to improve, according to Boulton.

“There are a lot of more operational things that we have to tackle, like all of the travel that is financed by the college,” Boulton said.

Allegheny has established programs such as the reusable to-go boxes, reusable sporks and encourages the use of reusable water bottles to allow students to conveniently enjoy a waste free meal.

“(The reusable to-go box program) has the potential to eliminate 350,000 boxes plus the boats and plates every year,” said Cathlin Lord, ’20, ASG director of sustainability and environmental affairs. “The carbon emissions (the reusable to-go boxes) can eliminate is equal to planting 420 trees per year,” Lord said.

After every purchase in McKinley’s Food Court, cashiers hand students a non-recyclable receipt that details their purchase and account balance.

“(Parkhust Dining Services) says they can’t get rid of the receipts because that is the way they can prove that you paid for your food,” Boulton said.

Boulton said she has been coordinating with the college’s accounting office, which owns the cash registers and card swipe system used in McKinley’s, to see if there is some way the college could move to using a mobile app.

“I challenge students to recognize that if you don’t like the waste from the receipts, also pay attention to other waste,” Boulton said.

It is more important for students to focus on using the reusable to-go boxes and carrying reusable water bottles than it is for students to worry about the waste being created by receipts, according to Boulton.

“Students have the power to reduce their waste considerably, they just need to make that choice and do so,” Boulton said.

“I challenge students to recognize that if you don’t like the waste from the receipts, also pay attention to other waste,” Boulton said.

It is more important for students to focus on using the reusable to-go boxes and carrying reusable water bottles than it is for students to worry about the waste being created by receipts, according to Boulton.

“Students have the power to reduce their waste considerably, they just need to make that choice and do so,” Boulton said.

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About the Writer
Hannah Schaffer, Science/International Editor

Hannah Schaffer is a junior majoring in community and justice studies and minoring in economics and journalism in the public interest. This is Schaffer’s...

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College makes strides to accomplish 2020 neutrality goal