Dozens of posters hung in the Campus Center Marketplace, explaining the benefits of algal biofuels, recycling, ecotourism and plans for campus carbon neutrality. Students and staff participated in the Campus Sustainability Fair, on April 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Heather Quire, residence director of Berkshire Towers and Advisor for RPS committee, attended the event.
She and a member of the Environuts sponsored a recycling awareness table. There were free pins and stickers to take, and a television which played a student-created video segment about how they conserve.
“It’s great that students gain awareness,” Quire said. “It’s great to have visuals to show what MCLA does in community.”
The bookstore is also working to go green. It promotes products like digital and used books, as well as reusable bags. Even graduation caps and gowns are recyclable.
“The cap and gown are made of 23 recycled plastic bottles,” bookstore employee Karrah Chapman said. “It’s a cool concept, because so many have to wear them.”
Chapman was handing out reusable bags to students at the fair as well.
“There’s definitely a need for everyone to lower their carbon footprint,” she said. “Even if it’s a little bit; anything will help.”
Richie Doucette, another participant at the fair, has been tracking MCLA’s carbon footprint. All semester long, the environmental studies major has been gathering information to track how much energy the College purchases. He looked at the hot water pressure and carbon emission levels of commuter students and faculty.
“I think it’s interesting finding carbon footprint of a large entity like MCLA,” Doucette said.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced during daily activities, such as traveling, or other means of burning fossil fuels. This amount is measured in units of carbon dioxide. The larger this footprint is, the more damage humans cause to the environment.
Over the course of three years, MCLA was successful in reducing its carbon footprint by five percent a year. It was the implementations of the photovoltaic system on Venable, green heating and cooling in Berkshire Towers, boiler modifications and motion detectors for lights. Innovations like the new bike share program and the expansion of the recycling program have also helped reduce the carbon footprint. The campus aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Doucette said that although MCLA has been successful with decreasing our carbon footprint, the addition of the science center will cause our footprint to increase for the time being.
“Carbon footprints increase with addition of more buildings. We will have to mitigate that size with other strategies,” he said.
Carbon neutrality means using fuels that do not influence the amount of atmospheric carbon. Pure biofuels are carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide burned is absorbed by plants, which will be harvested for fuel later. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are non-renewable and emit greenhouse gasses when burned.
MCLA plans on becoming carbon neutral by creating or buying alternative energy like solar or wind power. Another way is improving means of transportation in the Berkshires by carpooling or using mass transit. The bike share program will also help reduce the carbon output.
“2050 is a long ways away, so I’m hopeful there will be new technology that we don’t know about yet,” Doucette said.
Throughout his internship, he said he is enjoying the experience of working with corporations and government agencies to live more sustainably and more efficiently.
He hopes, after completion of the science center, other buildings will be renovated with increased efficiency in lighting that the school will tighten up old buildings to be more efficient.
Catt Chaput, a student representative for MASSPIRG since her freshman year, also emphasized the importance of tightening up old buildings. Most buildings in Mass. were built in the 40’s and 50’s and are not weatherized properly, according to Chaput.
At the fair, Chaput showed how proper caulking and insulation of windows and doors can prevent drafts. By sealing drafts, heat will not escape in the winter, and cold air will not escape in the summer. Insulation strips are cheap, easy to install, and can save a lot of money and electricity. Caulking can fill small cracks and help waterproof houses.
MASSPIRG and AmeriCorps offer free home weatherization in the spring and fall to students living off campus and people with low income. Chaput hopes in the future, the townhouses can be properly weatherized.
The program also sponsored a chance for students to swap in their old incandescent light bulbs for energy efficient bulbs.