Sustainability Coordinator Clara Fang and Paul Shortell ’13 presented a proposal for the creation of paid Green Advisor positions on Monday morning to the college’s Sustainability Committee (SusCom). The proposal was approved, which means that if the necessary funding is obtained, Green Advisors will be paid starting next fall.
Established in 2010, the college’s Green Advisors (GAs) are a student group of volunteers that facilitate sustainability in the residence halls.
They are unpaid and organized by student leaders. According to Fang, they manage composting, produce digests on sustainability issues, and help students conserve energy, water, recycling and generally be more “green.”
Fang was hired primarily to create and work on the college’s climate action plan, a project formed to reduce Swarthmore’s greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the American Colleges and University Presidents Climate Commitment signed by President Rebecca Chopp in early 2010.
“The changes that we want to make are meant to really expand this program and make it more powerful and also to put it in alignment with the college’s sustainability goals,” Fang said.
The new Green Advisor group would have a staff supervisor and student coordinator. Each GA would be required to attend training sessions run by the Sustainability Coordinator at the beginning of and throughout the school year.
According to Fang, the new structure would allow for higher expertise, extra accountability and more legitimacy in GAs. It would also be easier to recruit enough student workers to have a GA in every residence hall.
The new position, along with the compensation, would have more responsibilities. As it is outlined in the proposal, besides attending necessary trainings and meetings, the GAs would have to “disseminate information” through weekly digests, “manage sustainability infrastructure” by maintaining drying racks, compost buckets, recycling and garbage bins and ensuring CFL light bulbs are distributed to students, and “monitor and measure” energy and water usage in the hall.
They would also have to plan events, like inter-dorm energy-saving competitions in the fall and winter and recycling events in the spring, in addition to helping conserve “green” measures through the move-in and move-out processes, according to Fang.
Some members in the Sustainability Committee, which is comprised of 19 members that represent faculty, students and alumni alike, were not in favor of the position becoming paid.
“The concern voiced by several members was that paying volunteers may actually reduce, rather than increase, the participation in the Green Advisors program,” Carr Everbach, an engineering professor and Sustainability Committee member, said in an e-mail.
“Often people will do hard work with passion for a cause they believe in; when they are paid for that work, they begin to think of the effort as part of a transaction, and hence of less value.”
Other members of the committee were also skeptical to set such a precedent for other volunteer groups. However, the committee finally conceded that as long as there were a few paid coordinators with extra duties, like rallying extra volunteers to act as GAs, paying them would be okay.
“What SusCom wants to encourage is a cultural shift at the college whereby everyone is expected to do her/his part to reduce needless waste,” Everbach said.
Now that the proposal has been approved by the Sustainability Committee, Fang and Shortell will have to present the proposal to the Student Budget Committee (SBC). With their approval, they will be able to fund the position for next year. Because the SBC’s money would only fund the project for a year, Fang hopes to eventually get funding from the Revolving Green Fund.
The proposal projects that the cost will be close to six thousand dollars a year. However, it also estimates that there will be savings of approximately $22,000 if the GAs’ jobs are properly carried out.
“This is not just about reducing waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s about integrating the experience of sustainable living into every student’s life. They develop good habits and attitudes while they are at Swarthmore… and then they can take that to their home and work lives,” Fang said. “It’s really about changing cultures, about changing attitudes and behaviors.”
Everbach agrees that Swarthmore should incorporate co-curricular sustainability education into student life as part of its social mission.
“No educated person, and certainly no Swarthmore graduate, should be ignorant of the essential issues surrounding our use of resources and the consequences of that use,” he said.
Mackenzie Welch ’14, a current Willets GA, is unsure as to what the monetary compensation would result in.
“Though I’m not currently an active member, I think it would set a good example to reward the students who are going out of their way to help reduce Swarthmore’s waste and raise conservation awareness on campus,” she said. “My only hesitation is the possibility that students would apply to the GA position because of the monetary benefits, rather than participate through intrinsic interest in the program.”
Welch doesn’t think that the monetary compensation would change her involvement, but she agrees with Fang that making it a paid position would increase the number of students willing to take the job and raise their level of accountability.