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Beloit makes strides in sustainability on Earth Day, year-round

April 22, 2014 at 7:47 am

Lindsay Chapman 

“Take what you need, but need what you take.” After seeing that phrase on a napkin dispenser at a pizza restaurant, Lindsay Chapman now uses it a lot in her role as the sustainability coordinator at Beloit College.

Since joining the college in January, Chapman has been involved in a variety of sustainability initiatives, many of which involve students. In light of Earth Day, many of her efforts will be seen on display throughout the week.

For instance, the week started off with Chapman and the Sustainability Steering Committee presenting on Monday its work thus far in drafting a Sustainability Plan, which will outline the college’s sustainability goals for the next three years. Faculty, staff, and students were invited to give their input on the guide that Chapman expects will be finalized by the fall. (You still have about a week to check out the plan--and offer your input--online.)

Continuing the Earth Day celebrations this week, various student club activities will occur through Thursday and on Friday an environmental artist who works with recyclable materials will visit campus. The college is partnering with the city of Beloit on Saturday for an Earth Day celebration, and wrapping up the week will be a campus cleanup on Sunday. (More details on the week’s lineup will be announced in the morning Terrarium emails.)

Also this week, Meghan Bleidorn’14 will begin packaging leftover food from Commons that would ordinarily have been thrown away at the end of the day and delivering it to the local food pantry Caritas. In order to do this project, Bleidorn spent the last few months creating a Beloit College chapter of the national student-run Food Recovery Network with assistance from Chapman.  

In other sustainability work, Chapman expects to make some announcements later this month regarding a generous anonymous grant the college recently received. The grant will fund four new courses that will highlight the intersection between academic disciplines and sustainability. For example, one might be a history course that touches on how we’ve used water or energy in the past and how that influences our actions today, and another might be on how art and sustainability intersect.

Chapman will also announce the selection of four or five Sustainability Leader Teams. Scheduled to begin this summer, the leader teams will partner three or four students with one or two faculty members to conduct research on a sustainability-related issue. Examples could include how to improve recycling or how to reduce paper use.

“The goal is to produce actionable outcomes for the college and improve on our operations,” Chapman says.

Both the courses and the leader teams are part of the college’s Pathways to Sustainability Leadership program, and Chapman and the Sustainability Steering Committee are responsible for evaluating the proposals.

Adopting an environmentally friendly attitude is important on Earth Day and year-round, according to Chapman, because we’re in an age of climate change.

“Anything we can do to slow that process is worth it in my mind,” she says. “Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we need to use it. We shouldn’t be gluttons of our resources. We should be stewards of them and smart ones at that.”

Below, Chapman shares some sustainability tips:

  • Gain an understanding of the resources you use on a daily basis: ‘When do I flip on the light switch in the morning? How long do I shower? How much fuel do I use a day?’ Once you determine those baselines, think about how you could reduce that amount
  • Use caulk or spray foam insulation to seal cracks on hardwood floors between the floor and baseboard.
  • Use a fan to circulate air instead of turning on your air conditioner. If you do use the AC, consider putting on shorts and setting it at 72 degrees instead of 68 degrees.
  • Check your hot water heater. “It doesn’t need to be set at 150 (degrees); it can be 120 and you can still take hot showers,” Chapman says.
  • Cut back on water usage by keeping your lawn a little longer in length.
  • Look into planting some native species, which require little care and maintenance.
  • For those with shorter commutes, ride your bicycle to work every day in the warmer months or at least part of the week.
  • “Earth Day is a great opportunity for nonprofits to host events. Get involved,” Chapman says. “Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers.”

For more tips, check out focusonenergy.com.