Pomona College recently released a comprehensive plan for creating and maintaining a sustainable community. The plan, entitled SAVE: Sustainable Action Visible Effects, outlines measurable strategies that will lead the College to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 (CN2030).
The plan focuses on seven key categories: energy, water, waste, transportation, buildings and outdoor venues, food and academic education. In each of these areas, the College is already taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. College policy currently requires that major renovations and building construction, such as the new Pomona College Museum of Art, receive a LEED Gold certification. It also prioritizes investment in bike infrastructure, building and system water meters, drought-tolerant landscaping and water-efficient fixtures.
Many campus-wide programs and organizations also focus on reducing energy, water and food waste. The Pomona College Organic Farm, for example, makes compost from food scraps collected daily from the College’s three dining halls. At 50 lbs of waste a day, the Farm composts over 13,500 lbs of food that would otherwise head straight to a landfill.
At 50 lbs of waste a day, the Pomona College Organic Farm composts over 13,500 lbs of food that would otherwise head straight to a landfill.
In addition, student-driven programs such as the Claremont Food Justice series focus on environmental education, bringing prominent speakers to campus for lectures and discussions. This year, the series was organized by Olivia Whitener ’19, an Environmental Analysis major. “One of my goals with the series was to make people think about food differently, to consider things like gender inequality and fair trade that you might not think about every time you go to a dining hall,” she says. “Becoming more conscious about the choices you make starts here, but it doesn’t end here. What we talk about in our classes, global policies and communities and the environment, is all so related. When we go out in the world after we graduate from Pomona, what we’ll be implementing are the changes we’ve been talking about here.”
Also focused on taking concrete action is the Pomona College EcoReps program, which partners with the Sustainability Office, provides resources and energy-saving strategies to the College community. “There’s a lot that students in most buildings don’t have control over, like air conditioning and heating and lights that stay on in dorm hallways all night long,” says Erin Barry ’17, the Head EcoRep, “but a lot of people don’t realize that keeping your computer plugged in overnight or having a fridge plugged in all the time uses a lot of energy. As EcoReps, we’re trying to help students make these small-scale changes, which are in line with the goals of SAVE, particularly those surrounding social responsibility.”
Aaron Cyr-Mutty’16, the Organic Farm manager, agrees that creating a culture of sustainability and reaching CN2030 requires work on both administrative and individual levels. “In the early days of the Farm, the composting and gardening was all done by students, community members, and members of the Grounds Department,” he explains. “Though the administration has been vital to the development of the composting program and to the Farm, and has provided tons of institutional support, I think that the programs that emerge from the interests and desires of students are especially important.”
When everyone shares a culture of sustainability, there’s more group accountability and more overall desire to do the right thing.
Professor of Environmental Analysis Char Miller, who sits on the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, echoes Cyr-Mutty’s sentiment. “Student insight, energy, and engagement has been absolutely essential to the creation and completion of SAVE,” he asserts. “There is nothing new about this – student voices and activism have animated the College’s decade-long commitment to sustainability, and the SAVE proposals are one more reflection of how critical their contributions have been.”
These proposals, and the concrete steps Pomona intends to take to meet them, are detailed extensively in SAVE, which couldn’t come at a more critical moment. “When I talk to students, I emphasize our community lifestyle,” says Barry. “When everyone shares a culture of sustainability, there’s more group accountability and more overall desire to do the right thing. And we need that now more than ever. There’s still a lot of room for growth, but I think SAVE is a great path forward to solidify Pomona’s vision.”
Miller agrees. “To judge by the collaborative work on sustainability that entire college has conducted since 2007—students, staff, and faculty—we will hit CN2030,” he says confidently. “And when we do, we will have fulfilled our obligation to future generations of Sagehens—to make this campus and community more green, resilient and just.”
forthcoming publication on the Pomona College website,
drafted 22 April 2017