How does a focus on sustainability reflect Clarkson’s values?
Susan Powers: As we approach sustainability, we can see that it is an integral aspect of many of our values, not something that is separate. It should be integrated into the fundamental culture of our campus. It should also be recognized that the term “sustainability” does not just refer to environmental sustainability. It is a concept that includes three critical and important pillars: economic, social and environmental.
What initiatives related to sustainability will you be focusing on?
Powers: Clarkson has made many changes over the last several years that have directly improved the sustainability of our campus operations. Most of our initial work will include improving the visibility of these efforts and engaging the entire campus community in valuing and promoting these changes.
We are, for example, working hard to better understand our current energy and water use and waste generation. Quantifying these flows is critical for setting goals for improving our campus and identifying the most cost-effective strategies for reducing our environmental footprint and related costs. One of the most important aspects of this is completing a greenhouse gas inventory that a small team of students is currently working on.
As an educator, I am committed to improving the opportunities for students to be involved with sustainability projects both on and off campus. We are working to support the student environmental and outdoor clubs in their efforts to engage the student population, increasing the number of SPEED projects and capstone experiences related to sustainability, and encouraging instructors to introduce campus sustainability projects into their classes.
As an example, student and faculty teams are completing the construction and implementation of an integrated pilot-scale greenhouse, food waste digester and energy cabin that provides solar thermal and wood pellet heating. This facility will provide a learning laboratory for students to operate and optimize state-of-the-art facilities that contribute to campus operations.
What is Clarkson doing right?
Powers: Clarkson has already made strides in improving campus sustainability. Our food service provider, ARAMARK, continues to increase their purchase of foods from relatively local sources. New construction is designed for silver LEED certification, and other building retrofits include efficient lighting and insulation.
We are also providing numerous ways for students to include sustainability in their education through specific majors, minors or classes. The Institute administers the Environmental Science and Policy, Environmental Health Sciences and graduate Environmental Science and Engineering degree programs. Environmental Engineering is also taught through the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. The Coulter School of Engineering worked with the Center for Sustainable Energy Systems to establish a minor in Sustainable Energy Systems Engineering. New graduate degrees in Environmental Policy & Governance and a green MBA are currently being evaluated for approval. Collectively, these opportunities provide options for students from across campus to integrate aspects of sustainability into their professional development.
What role will the students and other campus members play in creating a more sustainable campus and culture at Clarkson?
Powers: We are working to create a culture that values sustainability and will necessarily include the students, faculty and all units of campus operations. The facilities staff can change the campus’ “hardware.” But unless all of the “users” also participate and value the changes we make on campus to be more efficient, we will not be able to make the progress necessary.