Emerson aims for environmental recognition

by Celia Carbone / Beacon Correspondent • February 15, 2017

1487214615 recycleweb.jpg
In 2009, President M. Lee Pelton signed a commitment to reduce Emerson’s carbon footprint to reach climate neutrality.
In 2009, President M. Lee Pelton signed a commitment to reduce Emerson’s carbon footprint to reach climate neutrality.

The college is drafting an application for Emerson to be featured in the Princeton Review’s Top 50 Green Colleges, a list of the most environmentally conscious institutions nationwide.

 The application requires Sustainability Coordinator Amy Elvidge to submit data about the college’s curriculum, research, and campus engagement in regard to sustainability. The Princeton Review uses this information to gauge the colleges’ Green Rating, used to rank Emerson’s sustainable development against other institutions.

According to its website, the Princeton Review analyzes how environmentally responsible the school’s policies are, how well it is preparing students for employment in a green economy, and if the quality of life on campus is sustainable.

Elvidge said she will submit the application to the Princeton Review in early March.

 Elvidge said she is working with Sodexo to collect the dining reports to see where Sodexo is purchasing its produce.

 “This is the first time all of this data is being collected, and I wanted to take a look at it and move from there,” Elvidge said. “We are trying to improve every year.”

Writing, literature, and publishing freshman Alexandra Morris is an Eco-Rep, part of a paid group of students working with Elvidge to make the college a more environmentally friendly school. The office of sustainability has a goal of bringing down the amount of recyclable materials misplaced in trash bags to 30 percent, an improvement from last year’s 46 percent, she said.

If a bag of recyclables has too high a percentage of trash, the bag cannot be recycled, Morris said.

“The goal isn’t necessarily getting on the list, but just to be up there as far as how sustainable we are as a college,” Morris said.

She said Elvidge and the Eco-Reps are hosting an interactive waste audit called Weigh the Waste. There will be clear trash bins outside the Dining Hall during lunch next Thursday so students can see the trash they throw away and how well they’re recycling, she said.

In 2009, President M. Lee Pelton signed a commitment to reduce Emerson’s carbon footprint to reach climate neutrality, net-zero carbon emissions, by 2030.

 Elvidge said Emerson has the right infrastructure to minimize its carbon footprint and move closer toward carbon neutrality. The college purchases wind credits to that fund sustainable energy production in the Midwest to offset emissions, Elvidge said. Eventually, the college will purchase enough wind credits to say that 100 percent of its credits are renewable, she said.

 “We are making Emerson stronger overall by decreasing our need for greenhouse gas energy,” she said.

Elvidge said that even if Emerson does not place on the Princeton Review’s list this year, she still has all of the data to analyze and make adjustments to continue to improve the college’s sustainability.

 She said the list provides an opportunity to compare Emerson’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact to that of other colleges.

She said students are more environmentally conscious when researching and enrolling in colleges.

“Students are broadening their scope of what they want their college to be like,” Elvidge said.

As a community, Emerson is environmentally progressive, Elvidge said. She said students are socially responsible and are conscious of how their actions influence the environment.

“You can’t just have one person making a change,” she said. “We need to make a lot of allies and have senior leaders to make these big decisions.”