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Sustainability isn’t just activism

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

We always hear about what Mountain Justice is up to because their efforts are broadcasted to the entire campus community. But, believe it or not, Mountain Justice is not the only sustainability-minded group on campus. There is, in fact, an entire group of a dozen clubs and organizations that make up a community called Ecosphere. This community is a collective coalition focused on the environment and sustainability in one way or another. For a full list of the groups in Ecosphere, you can read our January newsletter at https://spark.adobe.com/page/x3chSHju6Frgo. There are groups focused on sustainable food and energy, such as the Good Food Project, some that focus on exploring the outdoors, such as the Outing Club, others that focus on animal care, such as Animal Allies, and groups that focus on the political side of sustainability, such as Earthlust. So, obviously, there are many other student-run organizations besides Mountain Justice on campus that care about the environment and are working towards impacting campus sustainability.

With regards to campus sustainability, there is also a significant movement toward sustainability supported by the College’s Office of Sustainability. For example, the Green Advisors program recently became a paid position within residence halls. Besides taking care of residential compost, each Green Advisor is responsible for their own campus sustainability project, from plastic cup recycling to waste bin standardization to highlighting the diverse species in the Crum. Meanwhile, the Presidential Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) just finished applications for its second year. Recipients of PSRF take on even bigger projects as a part of a year long research program on topics such as Crum Woods stewardship, establishing a Green Revolving Fund, and waste and energy reduction. The GA and PSRF programs are exciting because they are institutionalized. This step demonstrates the College’s progress toward making sustainability a priority on Swarthmore’s campus.

Unfortunately, because Mountain Justice— the loudest group in Ecosphere— tends to focus on what the campus isn’t doing right in sustainability, it creates the image that the Swarthmore is not focused on sustainability at all. However, that is not the case. It is important to recognize that other groups on campus do exist and are making advances toward creating a more sustainable and just environment. These clubs are just quieter about it, for better or for worse.

Our creation of the Ecosphere newsletter is one step toward providing a space for the other groups in Ecosphere to advertise their events for the whole campus, increasing awareness and involvement. Ultimately, both through the newsletter and through the help of the campus community, we would like to see more collaboration between the groups in Ecosphere to host larger events from which Swatties can learn. For example, just in this past semester, there were MJ sit-ins, two GA movie screenings, Zero Waste games by Garnet Go Green, fruits and vegetables harvested by the Good Food Garden, and many other events that students on campus are not even aware of, which is a lot for a campus that apparently doesn’t do anything! But, because all of these efforts are happening independently, they are often not well advertised and attended by the student body. Imagine what the Swarthmore community could learn and accomplish if Ecosphere started collaborating and more of Swarthmore got involved!

Because there are so many organizations dedicated to sustainability and environmental friendliness, it only makes sense for them to team up and share their resources, and for more Swatties to get involved as well.  If we, as a student body start collaborating more, Ecosphere can start to impact the campus in an even bigger way, on even more issues than we already do, beyond only fossil fuel divestment.

Gavi Mallory and the Crum’s Identity

in Campus Journal/Let's Give a Damn by

 Gavriela Mallory ’17, known as Gavi, is a long distance runner, a member of the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee, and a Bio and Studio Art double major. She’s one of the few Swatties that can go into the Crum and tell you which species are invasive, tell you what kind of trees are around you and draw what each of the trees’ leaves will look like once spring comes. She’s an avid protector of the area, working hard with the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee and facilities to protect and preserve the Crum.

She’s also chainsaw certified.

As someone who, in freshman year, imagined myself in the Crum more than I actually went, I find it both surprising and sad that the general student body’s engagement with the Crum is so minimal, and that understanding of its history and circumstances is so limited. Myself included.

        “It’s incredibly disappointing every time I hear about someone who’s never even been to the Crum,” Gavi said, “I mean I know seniors who go, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s take a walk in the Crum, I’ve never been’ and … it’s been such a huge part of my experience at Swarthmore it’s just so sad to me.”  

The Crum Woods is around 220 acres of mostly forested land straddling the Crum Creek. There are dozens of classes over a myriad of departments that involve the Crum, and there are often other community events such as cleanups and tree planting. Gavi first started consistently exploring the Crum as a cross-country runner. She has also interacted with the Crum as a biology student and an art student, finding the Crum a source of inspiration for her art work. For Gavi, the Crum serves as a place of rejuvenation and recuperation.

“It was so nice to have thse three hours set aside where I would know that I would be away from everything and be in the woods,” Gavi said ( about an art class). “Tt is an opportunity for me to be present with myself.”

Part of the magic of the Crum for Gavi is how it serves as such a stark juxtaposition to the suburbia that is Swarthmore. She is critical of what neighborhoods such as the Swarthmore Ville represent, for she believes the convenience present in these neighborhoods can easily promote ignorance, especially when it comes to resource use.

“I find that I can just breathe better in the Crum,” Gavi said, “it just makes more sense to me.”

She further explains that the Crum being located next to this neighborhood poses a sort of identity crisis for it.

“It’s hard to know what a forest in the middle of suburbia should look like” Gavi said.

        The Crum has been impacted by many different projects throughout the years, most recently the sewer line restoration and the SEPTA trestle. Gavi explains that the Crum is now past a lot of active intervention and is going through a period of restoration. As I followed her sure-footed trod towards Crumhenge, an open field with a couple of large stones arranged in a circle, she pointed out a tree stump.

“I chopped that,” Gavi said.

She explained to me that she chopped the Norway Maple down because it was an invasive species, which are species that take up the resources in a new area and do not have natural competitors in the area, and thus can often times easily overwhelm the surroundings.

“When we talk about restoration and preservation in the Crum, there are some discussions about restoring it to pre-Colombian era, what it would look like if we weren’t here,” said Gavi, “but that’s absurd and probably counterproductive.”

It’s a strange balance. Any human conservation effort is always riddled with tensions that often don’t have right answers. We walked up the gradual slope towards Crumhenge, and in front of us appeared a hill with an eerie, almost neon green grass under the bridge.

        “That is just so visually invasive for me,” Gavi said. “This all stayed green, so bizarrely green, for way too long.”

        Furthermore, the hill and surrounding areas were scattered with thin plastic tubes to protect new saplings. The plastic is to prevent the deer from trampling or harming the trees, but its visual effect is jarring.

        “Doesn’t it look like a graveyard?” said Gavi.

        A graveyard full of baby trees.

Yet despite the visual strangeness and obvious human intervention, Gavi explains that these are all important strategies to help restore the Crum. The grass is so green because the seeds that were used were covered in fertilizer, and the trees need to be protected from the deer. Gavi let me know that from her research, the best argument and aim for an area such as the Crum is for the woods to be resilient.

“Resilience is the idea that it can bounce back and thrive even if there are some disruptions on the system,” Gavi said, “It won’t ever be able to survive without some human intervention because it’s in the middle of suburbia, and there is constant human impact. But the woods can be far more self-sufficient than it currently is.”

Self-sufficiency would mean that the dominant species in the woods are native species, such as beech-trees, tulips, and several types of oak and maple, and that they are effectively reproducing to fill in their own gap.

“You can see, for example, a large old beech tree, and what it would do is send shoots up the same root system to make sure that when the old tree eventually dies there would be someone to take its place,” Gavi said.

The ideal forest would have trees that cover all age ranges.

“You want to be able to see saplings, awkward teenage trees that are kind of skinny and tall, and then you’ll see slightly larger trees  a little smaller than a Frisbee and then you’ll get bigger older trees that are close to a hundred years old.”

As we walked close to the creek behind the Lang Concert hall, Gavi told me that there is an age group missing

“It’s strange, and we don’t know why this is,” said Gavi, “over-abundant deer probably had some role, but there just aren’t a lot of middle-aged trees, and that’s worrying.”

Despite the many worries concerns, the Crum Woods remains one of the best preserved woods in Delaware County, especially for a free space. Gavi said that many people from the Ville take walks there, and  kids can often be seen biking or playing in the space. Many cross country runners also run through, but other than runners there don’t seem to be many Swarthmore college students just hanging out.

        “I find it difficult to get people [from the college] to come out to the Crum,” said Gavi, “because as with any space, there needs to be a community, a norm, that can help bring people out here.”

        She looks up at a large tree and traces etchings of someone’s initials.

        “See this isn’t good for the trees at all, but you can see love notes dated from the 50’s, how cool is that?,” Gavi said.

        Gavi showed me the different markings and how the etchings are stretched out as more time has passed. She believes that, in the Crum, one can feel connected with something greater than themselves; seeing the trees that have survived so long gives her a sense of larger life. Gavi recognizes that people find recuperation in different ways, but she finds the indifference to space and land astonishing.

        “People don’t ask the question: ‘what is this land that I am on,’ anymore,” said Gavi.

        There is a culture at Swarthmore College that perpetuates the stream-lined I-have-to-use-G-Cal-and-run-from-meeting-to-meeting mindset that makes a walk in the Crum seems almost ridiculous unless it’s on your calendar. But on the other hand, if we know what the Crum should look like, the question that still remains is who the Crum can benefit.

        “As a society I think we have stopped actively trying to understand our place,” said Gavi, “we stop caring about where our resources come from, where they are going to go after we dispose of them, that inherent understanding and value of place and understanding of context and the lack of that is sort of an identity crisis.”

         In the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee there is a lot of discussion about student’s safety in the Crum. One of the fears is that those who did not grow up surrounded by nature might be unsure or scared going into the woods.

        “It’s straight up just land, and although it is obvious to me to spend time there, it isn’t for a lot of people,” Gavi said.

        A good rule of thumb that Gavi shared with me for those worried about entering is, uphill: campus, downhill: water. One of the larger questions for Gavi and for the identity of the Crum is accessibility.

        “This is definitely the best natural area that is accessible to people in Chester, but there really is no relationship between the Crum and the community in Chester and you have to question who has the time and resources to set aside time to be outside and have the capacity to learn about the woods and how to be safe in it,” Gavi said.

Are preserved and accessible lands such as the Crum really just for the rich and liberal elite families who can afford to take time off work to stroll with their kids? A nice idea in the backdrop of a nice neighborhood? It is strange to realize that free and easy access to land such as the Crum is a privilege, for it seems that no one really values land such as the Crum anymore. I admit the idea of the Crum in the backdrop of my college experience is appealing to me, but is that all? Can we re-imagine this space, or are we stuck in this strange liminal space of continual restoration efforts with no idea what the Crum’s identity should be? But the next question is who cares if we don’t know what it should or shouldn’t look like? We should all take advantage of this beautiful land keeping in mind that natural spaces like this have been exploited for far too long, far too vigorously. It should be cherished in its own right, and I hope the Crum can begin to have more meaning to more students at Swarthmore.

Go for a walk.

Let’s Give a Damn: Trump Game

in Campus Journal by

 

We’ve all probably freaked out a little about climate change and President Donald Trump’s outright denial of it. It seems like President Trump has hand-picked a team that will happily sign off the future of our planet to build walls. Or something. And everyone’s playing the Trump Game like, “oh, can he do this?” Can he rip up the Paris Agreement? Can he actually increase coal mining? It’s almost as if I can hear a collective wailing and lamenting about Trump’s EPA picks, and what seems like his personal vendetta against environmental agencies and regulating companies that can be heard all night and day.

So I decided to talk to a couple of different people who have been doing environmental work to see how Trump’s administration might impact their work.

Laura Rigell is a recent Swarthmore alumna who does environmental justice work in Philadelphia, primarily with Serenity Soular. Khai Dao and Roberta Riccio both work in the Environmental Protection Agency. Dao is an engineer working with the RCRA Corrective Action Program, which works in collaboration with facilities with hazardous waste to perform cleanups. Riccio has worked with the EPA for 27 years, most recently with the Water Protection Division to enforce the Safe Drinking Water Act. She works with states and oversees public drinking water systems, ensuring they’re doing the right testing and treatment. Mike Ewall is the founder and director of Energy Justice Network. Full disclosure, I did not actually get a chance to interview Mike Ewall. However, I did meet him last year at a conference, and he wrote something that is relevant and will be quoted.

 

It was clear that this article had the potential to become very bleak, and so I wanted to start by stating that after my conversation with Rigell, Dao, and Riccio, I am reassured (and you should be too) by all of the great work and people who will continue doing what they believe in no matter what. They’re out there, and they’re fighting! Basically, the apocalypse won’t happen, like, tomorrow.

Rigell, who is driven not only by the reality of climate change, but also by the desire to bring about more racial and economic justice, works with Serenity Soular and seems sure that the local project she is working on is not fazed by the uncertain future.

Serenity Soular is a project based in a place called Serenity House, a community center in North Philadelphia. It started out as a gardening project but has since become a project about creating jobs in the community. Since 2014, Serenity Soular has been focusing on training and helping members of the community find employment at a solar installation company. The training is done by Solar State and in fact, a lot of Swatties have been involved with the project, and you can learn about it through the Lang Center or on Swarthmore websites.

“I want to help us shift to a more just society, one with the focus on climate justice,” Rigell said.

The one concrete thing that Trump’s administration can do that concerns Rigell is the changing of the solar investment tax credit. The tax credit is a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems for residential and commercial use. It is one of the most important federal policy mechanisms to support the deployment of solar energy in the United States and was just recently renewed to continue until 2021.

“If congress retracted it, the solar industry might really crash. It could have a very negative impact unless the cost of solar comes down a lot,” Rigell said.

When I called Dao and Riccio, I had this in mind and hoped to hear more about the policy changes that concerned them. However, at the start of the interview they professionally and politely told me that there were some restrictions that couldn’t allow them to disclose certain information.

“I guess we have to come out with the process for this interview because the current administration…” trailed off Dao.

“We have certain restrictions about what we can talk about. And there’s a lot that we don’t know about too,” interjected Riccio.

Both of them continuously reassured me that although they were initially shocked, they realize that with any change in administration there are protocols for federal agencies.

“I think it was a shock to everybody in general in how Trump took over the government and how it trickles down to EPA too. One of the first things was the limitations to what we could discuss with the media and also postponing decisions on regulations, so that the administration and their people can review what we’re planning to do in terms of our approach and our regulations, the works,” said Dao, “But, that’s common.”

“In retrospect that’s common when administrations change,” chimed Riccio, “That’s to be expected in the beginning. If something is in the works, they would want the opportunity to review it all.”

However, they were definitely shocked about the change in some of the initiatives and missions that they both hold onto dearly.

 

“I think the biggest shock right off the bat was when it was announced to the media and then confirmed with the EPA that they took out some initiatives that we thought were pretty commonly accepted within EPA, such as climate change,” said Dao.

From what Dao and Riccio were able to share, it seems that everyone is continuing their jobs as usual with their current budgets, but new proposals or initiatives are on pause or slowed down. Within the EPA, there are no more additional hirings or decisions about new managers. However, Riccio believes that managerial positions will be implemented after there is a new regional administrator. As I spoke with them, it was clear that there was a lot of uncertainty, and almost a defeated laughter accompanying it all.

“Honestly, we don’t know what exactly is going to happen yet. I want to say we’re nervous,” Roberta said.

“Right now,” Dao added, “We’re just following the typical protocols with a change of administration.”

Both Dao and Riccio expressed concerns about how certain protocols can definitely set the agency back, undermining a lot of good work that they and their agency have been doing for a while. How exactly that might look however, no one is sure.

“In general, from what we’ve heard from the Trump administration is outside homeland security and the military, the entire federal government is alert,” said Dao. “For us being scientists and engineers, we really hope the administration continues to use data and science to make the decisions — not just politics.”

Dao and Riccio were both hopeful, however, that smaller local organizations or states can rise up and take more of a lead. Dao laughed and called out California, expressing hope that they will take the lead in regulating what is right for their state. Riccio pointed out that local organizations that are not funded by federal agencies, such as Serenity Soular, can and are definitely going to make a big impact.

Rigell from Serenity Soular and Riccio also both commented on the mass public support and protests that have become more and more commonplace. Both are amazed and inspired by the great activism that is occurring on the local level.

“On some levels, I think this is pushing people back to the question: ‘what do I believe in?,’” Riccio said.

“The left gets more organized under Republican presidents, even when facing the same things that they often ignore under Democratic Party presidents,” Ewall reflected. Ewall’s article is definitely much more hopeful than the interview I had with Dao and Riccio. In fact, he points out that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have both promoted fracking, which “is worse for the climate than coal.”

Ewall writes that resource depletion has more of a say with what energy resource is being used than a president, and thus Trump’s incessant threat about promoting coal is impossible.

“Coal production, in terms of energy value, peaked in 2002 in the U.S. The affordable half of the coal is already used up, and the rest will mostly stay underground, economically unreachable,” he writes. “It’s geology, not a Democratic president, that has a war on coal.”

The EJN have also continued to fight against incinerators in rural Pennsylvania, with two victories in December and January. The EJN is definitely one of the local organizations that can make a huge impact when it comes to bringing environmental justice to local communities.

 

“We’re hopeful,” ends Khai. “I think common sense and doing the right thing will eventually prevail. I think people in the agency and in the government are going to move forward, and do the right thing, and do their best.”

 

And no one, not even the President, can stop the people fighting for what is right.

College hosts first sustainability summit to discuss progress, problems

in Uncategorized by

Last Friday, the college hosted its first annual sustainability summit, an event consisting of networking and poster presentations, discussion sessions, and updates on sustainability projects from various departments. Multiple student and faculty groups such as Green Advisors, the Office of Sustainability, and the Lang Center collaborated to organize the summit. The idea of the summit was originally proposed by President Valerie Smith and has been in the works since the start of the spring semester.

“Swarthmore has been an institution that believes in educating students for the common good. This type of education enables us to prepare students to lead lives of purpose that transform the world,” said President Smith during her opening speech at the summit. “Our campus’ wide, multi-faceted commitment to sustainability is a fundamental way that we express this deeply held belief.”

Later in her speech, Smith outlined a few major ways that the college promotes environmental sustainability, such as the new carbon charge, environmental guidelines that limit water and carbon usage for new buildings, and the addition of sustainability education led by Green Advisors during next year’s orientation.

Director of Sustainability Aurora Winslade explained that the purpose of the sustainability summit was to connect campus groups together but not necessarily serve as a space to tackle complex problems like fossil fuel divestment.

“The purpose of this year’s summit is to share with the community the wide array of campus and community sustainability activities, gather input on what’s working and where we would like to improve our campus sustainability, and bring people together to celebrate our commitment to sustainability,” said Winslade. She later mentioned, “it is not a space where we attempt to solve complex issues, but the ideas and energy will hopefully contribute to our ongoing efforts and help people feel more connected.”

The first session, which consisted of student groups, administration, and other community members, included groups like Campus Facilities, SGO Environmental Impact Committee, Swarthmore Co-op, Swarthmore Borough Environmental Advisory Council, and Mountain Justice.

Following the first session of poster presentations and networking, discussions began for both students and faculty aimed at finding areas where the college could improve its sustainability initiatives. During the student session, most of the issues raised included signs about compost and recycling in addition to the amount of food waste in Sharples.

In the faculty discussion sessions, many expressed a desire to expand connections with outside community members and alumni to continue the college’s sustainability initiatives.

The summit concluded with updates by various departments and community members on their sustainability efforts. In all, around 20 people made speeches. English Literature Professor and Environmental Studies Coordinator Betsy Bolton made a notable speech where she mentioned that with help from other individuals in the Tri-co, the college is on the brink of creating an environmental studies major instead of just a minor.

Other announcements included the creation of a digital interactive map of the college to tell stories of various community members’ civic engagement, the Office of Financial Aid’s move to paperless applications, and the addition of three geothermal wells over the next five years to power the new dorms by PPR and Whittier Place.  

“I think one of the challenges of climate change is that there’s a lot of talk and a lot of inaction,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Brown during his speech about next year’s new carbon charge. “I think it’s so important to start thinking about how what we do could be modeled broader. We have generated considerable interest from peer institutions and it’s kind of fun to be out in front,” he noted. “Several institutions have approached us and as we model this, we’ll both learn and be able to teach others.”

Winslade later shared over email her personal vision for the college’s overall sustainability efforts in the future.

My vision is that Swarthmore becomes a model for transformative change and deep integration of sustainability in learning, living, and operations,” said Winslade. “I envision that we can take the next steps into a carbon neutral, healthy, and vibrant future in which we educate our students to be sustainability leaders, collaborate with surrounding communities to be regenerative stewards of our natural resources, and facilitate the ’just’ sustainability movement.”

The college has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2035, meaning that the net effect of the college’s operations wouldn’t put more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Overall, student response to the sustainability summit was positive.

I thought the summit was a huge step in the right direction for sustainability at Swarthmore. To my knowledge, there has yet to be anything of its kind,” said Brittni Teresi ‘19, one of the student organizers of the sustainability summit. “It was a great opportunity for students to share their ideas with each other, get connected with other environmental groups in the community, and hear about the less advertised environmental efforts on campus.”

Aurora Winslade later concluded that she hopes the sustainability summit will become an annual event.

Aurora Winslade to begin as new Sustainability Director

in News by
Aurora Winslade
Winslade brings to Swarthmore a sterling career working in sustainability initiatives on college campuses and in the private sector.

On November 3, President Smith announced the hiring of Aurora Winslade as the new Sustainability Director of Swarthmore. Winslade currently works for Hawaii Energy, a conservation and energy efficiency program administered by Leidos Engineering under contract with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. As Sustainability Director, she will face the challenge of defining her role within the Sustainability Office as well as fulfilling the college’s ambitious sustainability goals which include a 50% reduction in emissions from 2010 levels this year and carbon neutrality by 2035. She will also have to work with various student environmental groups which have made sustainability demands on the college.

The college created the position in 2013 to work with the already existing position of Sustainability Coordinator, created in 2011. Former President Rebecca Chopp tasked these positions with fulfilling the college’s climate action plan, set forth in 2010, which set out to reduce the college’s carbon emissions by 50% by 2015 and to make the college carbon neutral by 2035.  Laura Cacho first filled the position of Sustainability Directory but left in the summer for Seattle Public Utilities, leaving the position vacant.

The search for a new director began before Cacho left, in late May. A hiring committee chaired by Greg Brown, Vice-President of Finance and Administration, conducted the search. According to meeting minutes of the Sustainability Committee, which itself was not responsible for the hiring of the new director, the hiring committee narrowed the pool to seven candidates from over 200 applications by September. The finalists were brought to campus in September for final interviews and met with several members of the college community.

“[Winsdale] had both a depth of experience and passion for environmental and social issues that will serve the College well as we work together to realize our [sustainability] goals”, said President Smith in a press release after the hiring.

According to Melissa Tier ‘14, the current Sustainability Coordinator at the college, one of Winslade’s first tasks will be defining her role within the Sustainability Office, which half a decade ago did not exist. Now the Sustainability Office consists of two different people, for the first time since the college created the two separate positions of Sustainability Coordinator and Sustainability Director. While Tier, as Sustainability Coordinator, mostly works with student environmental groups such as the Green Advisers program and also works with the environmental studies program, she imagines Winslade will create a different role for herself.

“I imagine Aurora will be taking on much more of the facilities side to achieve our goals of carbon emission reduction, given her experiences.”

Winslade’s experiences include a diverse career in sustainability initiatives. She has served as the Sustainability Director at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at the University of Hawaii.

Winslade will be tasked with implementing the college’s sustainability plans, recently articulated in the Environmental Sustainability Framework. The framework lays out potential strategies for the college to follow in reaching its sustainability goals. According to the framework, new campus construction is expected to increase carbon emissions by 28% over the next several years. Major proposals in the 180 page framework include a large scale installation of photovoltaic solar panels and the construction of increasingly efficient buildings.

The question of whether the college is meeting its carbon reduction goals is somewhat murky. According to the 2014 college Sustainability Report to the President, net emissions in the 2010-2013 period had dropped by about a third, though this was almost entirely due to increased purchases of carbon offsets. Actual emissions from the college increased, but were compensated for by a 50% increase in the amount of carbon offsets the college bought from 2011-2013. The Sustainability Framework states that under the “best” scenario, actual carbon emissions would only be reduced by 40% by 2035, with remaining emissions compensated for by the purchasing of carbon offsets.

Student groups have questioned the college’s commitment to sustainability, saying it could focus on other ways to pursue sustainability initiatives beyond emission reductions.

”Reducing carbon emissions is important; however, Swarthmore makes up an extremely small portion of global emissions,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a leader in the Mountain Justice group. “We must commit not just to making our campus more sustainable, but also to creating broader political change to promote action on climate.”

O’Hanlon added that the University of Hawaii, where Winslade had previously worked, has divested its endowment from fossil fuels.

Winslade will arrive in December to begin her new role at the college.

College moves forward with plans for new BEP building

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Papazian Hall is one of several buildings that will be demolished by the construction of the planned BEP building.

In its largest grounds project to date, the college has slated its new $120 million biology, engineering, and psychology (BEP) building to be constructed in the spring of 2017, with an expected completion date of August 2020. Serving as an extension to the Science Center, the building will replace older facilities like Martin Biology Lab, which will be re-purposed for other academic needs. Papazian and Hicks Halls will also be demolished as a part of the project.

Stuart Hain, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects, explained that the project is part of the college’s long-term sustainability goals.

Hain said The College’s Environmental Sustainability Framework is being applied to the project with some elements of the framework equivalent to the Platinum level in the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED is a certification program of buildings that meet various environmental sustainability construction standards. There are different levels of certification based on a pre-requisite point system.

The LEED Platinum Standard is the highest level of construction sustainability in the program.Other elements of the project, however, will exceed the LEED Platinum Standard.

Post-construction, Hain noted, the building will continue to meet the college’s environmental sustainability goals, since the LEED guidelines only pertain to construction itself.

“The design of the project will include energy modeling to help identify the most energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable means of operation,” he said. This includes a planned geothermal well-field to provide renewable energy to the building.

The project has become a necessity to departments whose current facilities meet neither current nor future needs like expanded space and updated facilities.

Nick Kaplinsky, associate professor of biology, explained that the Martin Biology Lab lacks many of the features of other modern research facilities. The department has even expanded into closets, converting them into growth chambers. He noted that the current needs of the department will only increase in the coming years.

“We will continue to cram things into every nook and cranny in Martin and we will share existing spaces using creative scheduling. Things will continue to be very tight until we move into the new building, a day we look forward to,” Kaplinsky said.

Likewise, Papazian Hall has made accomplishing the psychology department’s goals more difficult. In its most recent departmental review, extreme concerns were raised regarding the limitations of the hall’s capacity. Professor Frank Durgin, the psychology department’s representative for planning the BEP building, shared his concerns about Papazian’s reliability.

“Papazian has long been a challenging building for a number of reasons,” he said. “Although Facilities and the administration have sought to ameliorate some of the more pressing problems, they can only do so much; the current building severely limits our ability to teach and serve students effectively. This is a very urgent need for our department.

The school plans to construct a new building, the Whittier Place Academic Building, which will be constructed behind the Lang Center to temporarily house the psychology and engineering departments between the demolition of Papazian and Hicks and the construction of the BEP building.

“This building will provide more modern facilities to us than Papazian. Although the amount of space in the swing space [Whittier Place] is quite insufficient for the long-term needs of the department, we are able to accommodate this “double move” in order to achieve a better long-term result for the College,” Durgin said.

All of the college’s goals will not be accomplished without significant cost, however. The entire project has an expected total budget of $120 million that will be financed through both philanthropy and loans. In addition, the Whittier Academic Building will have an expected cost of $10 million.

Various alumni have already donated significant sums of money. Eugene Lang ’38, frequent donor to the college, has donated $50 million toward the project. His donation is the largest in the college’s history. During the fall of 2016, the college will officially launch its fundraising campaign, though the goals of that campaign have yet to be determined.

A few major aspects of the BEP project have not been totally determined yet.There is no formal name for it yet, though Hain says it is likely one will emerge in the coming years. The extremely noisy parts of construction, like the demolition of Papazian and Hicks, have been scheduled for the summer months, though a formal construction schedule has not yet been finalized.

College to build outdoor social space, restrooms by Olde Club

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The administration and facilities departments are working to renovate the grassy space by Olde Club and the fraternities by building a new small building with a handicap accessible restroom and a more adaptable outdoor space. The project has run into financing obstacles, but the goal is to start construction in the spring of 2016.

“We jokingly refer to it as the state park bathroom building. It was designed to make accessible restrooms for that complex down there because none of [the buildings in the area] have accessible bathrooms,” said Susan Smythe, the American Disabilities Act program coordinator for the college. “In addition to the restroom portion there is some outdoor space which is meant to be a little more active outdoor space. There would be some seating provided and [a] hard surface to set up a band or have a dance floor.”

The project was first proposed in 2011 as part of a broader movement to increase building accessibility at the college. At the time, the project was put on the backburner due to funding issues but the facilities department brought the project back up this year.

Many people have been involved in the project through its many phases. Student input, for example, was added by the Space Matters Committee that was formed last year.

“The goals of the committee, from what I understood, was to generate a pool of ideas as to how the College could improve, repurpose or create new student spaces … the space seemed  to offer an alternative space to the Amphitheater for larger outdoor events,” said Xavier Gerard Lee ’17, a member of the Space Matters Committee. “Not only will it be a more accessible and therefore a better space for all sorts of students, but I think that it will also change the way we approach certain events, particularly in the warmer months. Having an accessible outdoor venue of a decent size will open the possibilities of what students can do and organize, ultimately improving the nightlife scene here.”’

The administration plans to continue to get student input as the project advances.

“We will make sure that we’re asking for feedback from both the general student body as well as the student groups located in the buildings closest to the space,” said Assistant Dean and Director for Student Engagement Rachel Head.

The current plan for the building features several sustainable aspects to stay in line with the college’s environmental goals. The college signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2010 and set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2035.

“[The design] included rain water harvesting for flushing toilets … solar panels for the electricity, and some solar for hot water heat,” said Stuart Hain, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects.

According to Smythe, the current stormwater management for the tennis courts is poor, so this would offer an opportunity to fix that problem while helping to build a more environmentally-friendly building. A small building only being used for restrooms offers a unique opportunity for the college to showcase sustainable building techniques.

“[The building] offered the opportunity to do a great fun demonstration project and we could use some interesting materials …  you very seldom get to build buildings that don’t need a lot of heating and cooling,” said Smythe.

The college hopes to involve Massey Burke ’00 who works with alternative building materials such as clay, soil, sand, and straw. These materials will offer the opportunity for students to get involved in the construction and will provide educational benefits.

Although the administration is happy with the current green design of the building, the school is concerned about project cost estimates. According to Smythe, the board has approved a budget of $1 million, but various construction companies have estimated that the project will cost much more than that. “[The environmental aspects are] new for contractors so we are trying to work with contractors to take out some of the uncertainties for them, because part of what happens is if … you’ve not done something before, you’re a little more cautious about how you would go about doing it, so that’s reflected from a contractor in how they price it.” said Hain.

The original plan was to have the building open for students in spring of 2016, but the funding difficulties are making that impossible. The facilities department is currently in the process of re-working the design and rebidding the project.

The project will most likely be completed in phases. According to Smythe the goal is to start building the restroom in the spring. The building itself would only take three to four months to build. After the building is completed the pathways around Olde Club would be completed. The final phase will be to complete the pathwork to Sharples dining hall in the summer of 2017.

Serenity Soular Spreads Solar Power to North Philadelphia

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Last week marked the kickoff of the fourth year of the Serenity Soular Project, a collaborative effort between Swarthmore students and the Serenity House in North Philadelphia.

North Philly is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Philadelphia, having a high unemployment and childhood poverty rate. The Serenity House’s mission is to act as a safe space in the community and provide support groups, Bible study, stress management, and many other services. Now, with the help of Swarthmore students, the house has also become the neighborhood center for green technology and education.

The original concept was created several years ago by Swarthmore students with the intention of involving local residents in the creation of a community garden and garage roof garden at the Serenity House in the city. Originally called Sustainable Serenity, this initial collaboration later became the basis for its current work with solar and green technology. However, a garden was found to be unsustainable for the garage roof. Instead, Sustainable Serenity diverted its interest to renewable and sustainable energy. Laura Rigell ‘16, one of the current leaders of the project, said, “the team accepted an offer by Professor Carr Everbach of the Swarthmore engineering department to donate a solar panel for the roof.  Professor Everbach led a series of workshops on solar power over the summer of 2014, which culminated in a public event to install the panel on the garage; it now powers lights in the backyard.”

The solar panel project proved to be a success, and since then the Sustainable Serenity project has broadened its scope and has gradually given way to today’s Soular group. “Residents expressed excitement to learn more about the industry and the potential that solar could bring jobs to the neighborhood,” Rigell continued. “In December 2014, we convened the ‘Sustainable Serenity’ team, including Swarthmore students and faculty, and North Philadelphia residents and began pursuing Serenity Soular.”

The project has been supported by a Pericles grant from Swarthmore’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. Rigell cited many individual successes the project has achieved, including the Solar Panel Pilot Project, “a photovoltaic solar panel, energy inverter, and battery installed on the garage roof, which now power outdoor LED lights in the Community Garden,” as well as winning a city-wide sustainability contest “which qualifies each of the 18 households to receive free energy efficiency retrofits including full energy audits, insulation, window replacement and sealing, and ceiling repair.”

This year, the primary mission of the project is to work with local residents to completely solarize the roof of the Serenity House and make the house 100% sustainable. In order to get closer to this goal, the Serenity Soular project has received help from RE-volv, a group based in San Francisco dedicated to providing people with green technology. Rigell explained, “In May 2015, the Sustainable Serenity team was selected as one of RE-volv’s five Solar Ambassador teams to take part in a one-year fellowship. Throughout the duration of the fellowship, teams will work with RE-volv to bring their proposed solar projects to completion by May 2016 using RE-volv’s innovative financing model, which combines crowdfunding with a revolving fund.”

In addition to the fellowship, Rigell also envisions an apprenticeship program to train local residents in green jobs and get them involved in the growing solar industry. In order to fund this, the Serenity Soular project launched a crowdfunding campaign this semester with the hopes of raising $10,000 to fund the program. The campaign is already almost a quarter of the way to its goal, and the project is looking ahead. “In the long run, we aim to start up a solar installation enterprise in North Philadelphia that would hire local residents and operate as a worker-owned cooperative,” Rigell says.

Also important to the project is its role in the community and the people it works with. “By listening to the community’s voices and desires, the collaboration has together organized public events, to work in the garden, spark community conversation, and celebrate Mother’s Day,” Rigell said.

As part of the RE-volv grant, the Serenity House has also pledged its commitment to environmental education, both about the technology and to raise awareness for environmental justice. Rigell explained, “As Solar Ambassadors we will continue to host events in the community about how solar works and the potential contribution green energy could offer to North Philadelphia.” In fact, according to the Serenity crowdfunding page, $2,500 out of the $10,000 that Serenity Soular hopes to raise will be devoted to “supplies for public events to build public visibility” and “solar-installation training events for local residents.”

However, as the project grows and continues to be successful it will try not to lose sight of its original founding idea, which was the importance of collaboration with the residents of North Philadelphia. Rigell said, “Together, the ‘Sustainable Serenity’ team has developed a working perspective rooted in the idea of ‘just sustainability:’ the notion that a truly sustainable society is one in which all peoples are treated with dignity and have access to a healthy environment and secure livelihood. This community-college collaboration has remained committed to the values of reciprocity and exchange, and this has meant ‘crossing borders’ between North Philadelphia neighborhoods and the Swarthmore College campus.”

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