MCLA

Green Light

Climate Commitment guides new projects


10/07/2009

In 2006, MCLA President Mary K. Grant, Ph.D., signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, an effort to address global climate change through institutional commitments to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations, and to promote the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate.

MCLA is committed to a 20% reduction in its carbon footprint by 2012. 

But with improvements in campus recycling and waste management made in 2003 and a solar photovoltaic (PV) array installed in 2005, MCLA was on its way to building a sustainable campus well before the commitment was signed. 

According to Lauren Moffatt, Ph.D., the coordinator of MCLA's Berkshire Environmental Resource Center (BERC), the solar array not only brings attention to sustainability efforts on campus, it serves as a functioning lab where students can gather data that's analyzed in introductory environmental science class laboratories.  

"MCLA is on the front line in efforts, endeavors, and new technologies. This includes our overall sustainability goals through our education, outreach and more," Moffatt says. "Sustainability has been in MCLA's fiber for a long time, but President Grant signing the commitment kick-started a lot of other efforts going on." 

During the fall 2007 semester, President Grant established a Sustainability Committee, otherwise known as the "Green Team." Consisting of students, faculty, and staff, this team began its work by calculating the campus carbon footprint. They continue to develop strategies to reduce this footprint over time.

During its first year, the Green Team implemented programs to educate the campus community about the importance of conservation and recycling and developed curriculum-based programs for students majoring in education and environmental studies. This year MCLA completed a carbon reduction plan and improved campus heating and cooling controls to reduce utility use.

Lectures on renewable energy and climate change are common at MCLA. Through the use of the campus garden, education faculty and students have developed elementary curriculum on plant germination and local, sustainable food production. Business faculty incorporate lectures in their courses on the triple bottom line-economic, environmental, and social-of sustainability.

While at MCLA, students participate in internships and service learning. Through the BERC, many opportunities are available in renewable energy and sustainability with local and regional organizations. Recent internships covered topics such as GIS and its relation to photovoltaic installations, research and design of a brochure for a local river conservation organization, and conservation messages through environmental art.