Greenbox Suggestions

Greenbox Suggestions

The Swarthmore College "Greenbox" is used to collect campuswide suggestions for improvement of sustainability efforts from faculty, staff and students. Every suggestion from the physical, electronic, telephone and email Greenbox locations has been compiled and summarized in an up-to-date list seen below. Actions have already been taken on some of the following suggestions, seen in italics below the suggestion. Please email greenbox@swarthmore.edu if you know of any updated information regarding sustainable action on campus. Thank you very much for all of your suggestions, and please continue submitting your ideas to GreenBox! 

Recent submissions:

I would like the Sustainability Committee to support Mountain Justice's campaign of persuading Swarthmore to divest from the fossil fuel industry, with the current ask of divestment from the Sordid 16. Specifically, SusCom should at least discuss divestment and socially responsible investment as strategies relating to making Swarthmore environmentally sustainable.

 Most of the plastic cups that are used at campus events across the board are #6 solo cups, which are not recyclable at Swarthmore (#3 and #6 are not recyclable). However, it has recently come to my attention that #1 solo cups exist and are readily available at stores. Can we switch over to #1 cups? If SAC and pub nite gave out #1 cups and departments and other groups were notified of this option, a large amount of previously trashed plastic could be recycled. Also, there would have to be publicity involved so that people actually recycle the recyclable cups. 

Contract with a car sharing service, phillycar share of zipcar. Would save parking on campus by offering alternative to students bringing own cars, and would save money for students wanting cars, as well as providing more options for students to get off campus. Would also disincentivise buying cars to help environment.

November 2012

Is anyone actually tracking whether or not the stuff thrown into the co-mingled recycling bins actually ends up being recycled? I'm not trying to get anyone in trouble or anything, but I often observe housekeepers across campus emptying contents of recycling bins in with the contents of the trash bins. To be fair to the housekeepers, they haven't been provided proper equipment to keep the recycling material separate, so I don't think they have any option but to throw everything in their single bin as they clean up their spaces. Has anyone addressed this? But, again to be fair to the housekeepers, students often contaminate recycling materials by throwing food and other non-recyclable materials into these bins.
The Environmental Services department is dedicated to proper recycling. Concerns about specific situations may be addressed confidentially to the Director, Patti Shields (x8014 or pshield1) who will assist our staff in achieving full compliance. In some cases, it may be a misconception: There are a variety of routines for getting the trash and recycling outside, depending on the technician and the building layout. For example, staff may put bags of both trash and recyclables into the same receptacle in the building and then sort them into the proper dumpsters outside. The department is also exploring options to make the bags of recyclables more easily identifiable so that they don't get accidentally thrown into trash dumpsters-- since commingled recycling began, the contents of each bag is less obvious. As you note, contamination of a recycling bin with food or other non-recyclables leads to the whole batch having to be thrown in the trash by our staff or the hauler.
 

Could we put recycling bins in SCI 101 and SCI 199?

These bins have been placed. Thank you for bringing the need to our attention.

October 2012

Divest fossil fuels! 
Since 2011, the Mountain Justice (MJ) student group has been campaigning for the divestment of the college's endowment from fossil fuel companies. For details in their own words, please see their website, http://swatmountainjustice.wordpress.com/. Following discussions with MJ representatives (you can read the 2/8/12 and 4/23/12 SusCom minutes on the web), the Sustainability Committee decided that it could not vote or attempt to reach consensus about whether to endorse the divestment proposal that spring because it required much more background learning and dialogue (such as with the Investments Office) than it could complete that semester. The committee decided to investigate further the issue of investments and their ramifications in more detail in the Fall, as it does believe that the College's investments should be considered part of its footprint in the world (carbon and otherwise), and that sustainability should include economic, environmental, and social equity considerations.

Timed lights in common spaces (bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, etc) 
 This is an ongoing point of discussion. Facilities recently completed installing occupancy sensors in the 200 & 80 seat lecture halls at the Science center (rooms 101 & 199).  Facilities found the lights are often left on in these spaces when they are unoccupied resulting in the overheating of the room by just the lights.  Now, after 8-10 minutes of the room being empty the lights will go out.  This expense to the college-- $3,610! -- is far from trivial. We believe that the people using a room should be responsible for turning off lights in most cases, including average classrooms and laundry rooms. Remembering to switch the lights out is a habit that will benefit the earth wherever we go. *We applaud you for taking note and action when you see lights on, and for green groups' campaigns to improve the community's habits.*  We have even had issues with the automatic light switches not shutting off which can be difficult to diagnose (eg. when did the last person leave the room?).  

September 2012

Replace the paper towels in Willets with automatic dryers. 
Your suggestion has been shared with the Director of Maintenance and will be considered for implementation as part of the Summer of 2013 Willets renovation. One issue they must consider is the needs of guests in the building who may not have their own towel, but some other dorms have been successful with only blow dryers. 

Have you considered liquefying your kitchen organic waste with a Food Waste Digester?  Rather than composting which can take up to 30 days to return a resource back to the environment, doing in two to four days. It puts water (90% of food waste) back into the water cycle fairly quickly. It makes more sense (lower carbon footprint) than hauling and handling the waste.  Saves on trucking costs, too.
Our food waste is split into 3 waste streams. Some goes to composting on campus. Animal fats are picked up by a rendering company for processing. Dish line food scraps are run through the dishwasher garbage disposal and become part of the sanitary sewer flow from campus.  At the sewer company, this waste is digested and separated into clean water and a fertilizer product, similar to the concept behind your product. (See delcora.org for more info.) We're fortunate to have a composting facility on our property, so the hauling and handling involve minimal expense and carbon. The turnaround time to produce compost is well worth the great product that we value for the arboretum landscape's fertility.

August 2012

We need to get rid of the trays in the dining hall. Yes, they are convenient but it only promotes the waste of food (students fill up their trays with more food than they can eat) plus to clean them more water is gone to waste.
In early 2012, Sustainability Committee co-chairs and the Sustainability Coordinator met with EPA Recycling Program representatives and learned of the high carbon footprint of food waste disposal, as well as the value of trayless dining to reduce over-serving that results in excess waste. We followed up with discussions with Dining Services managers and the Student Dining Services Committee and found that going trayless would require significant changes to the kitchen infrastructure and would face strong opposition from a large percentage of diners. At present, it is up to each individual to not use a tray and then use one to return their dirty dishes to the washing stations. (The current dishbelt is set up with a conveyor belt which requires trays.) Forcing everyone to do this would cause a backlog which would not be efficient.

In the future, if Sharples is renovated, they will consider changing to an accumulator system which would accept trayless dining, and your help will be necessary to educate the community about why this is a worthwhile change. Some positive notes *The kitchen staff works hard at and is quite successful at eliminating pre-consumer food waste through careful logging of diner preferences and planning menus and purchasing accordingly. This is another technique high on the EPA's "food recovery hierarchy."  *The dishwasher was upgraded in recent years to a type that uses significantly less water. Further, the amount of water used is based on operation time, and would not be reduced by having fewer dirty trays coming in.

 June 2012

Use Interface carpet tile for on campus carpet replacement.  It has 80% recycled content (half of which is post-consumer), installs without glue (no VOCs), and is 3rd party verified Climate Neutral. 
Our college purchases two types of carpet, and Interface is one of them. Thank you for voicing encouragement for more purchasing of recycled products.

May 2012

I wanted to let you know that for the first time the Registrar's Office did not print the "schedule of courses" for the fall semester. We  are referring everyone to the on line pdf version of the schedule and also Tri-co course guide. Some folks did not want this to change--students adapted very well.  However, faculty and staff not as well.  We don't expect to go back to printing for obvious reasons--on line version of the schedule is always updated and correct. Thought you would like to know about our little part to save paper.
Thanks for sharing your progress!

April 2012

Would it be possible to make no-kill mouse traps available to students upon request? I'm sure I'm not the only student who doesn't want to see a mouse die a slow, painful death through suffocation because its nose and mouth are stuck to a piece of cardboard with glue spread all over it. Glue traps really are inhumane. 
From the Director of Maintenance: Glue traps are inhumane and should not be in use.  I put them in the same category as poison baits which we can't use in dorm rooms.   No-kill traps defeat the purpose of a rodent reduction program.  Taking a mouse outside to release it does nothing to reduce the rodent population which is growing problem on the east coast.  We will issue snap traps upon request.  I understand that people are squeamish about killing mice, but once a population is established they are extremely difficult to dislodge.  Snap traps are efficient and offer a quick kill which no other method does.
  

March 2012

Help---The athletic fields are being missed for a recycling opportunity.  This includes both our own sporting events and outside use throughout the summer months.  Currently there are no recycling cans easily available for most athletic events.
The Environmental Services and Grounds Departments have introduced several new recycling stations in the fieldhouse and at the grandstands this summer!

February 2012 

More print release stations.
Print release stations are currently only used in McCabe library and for the large format printer in the media center. Print release has resulted in a substantial reduction in paper use: about 165,000 sheets! ITS is currently considering expanding print release to Cornell library, and the Sustainability Committee has voiced its support for this initiative. Printer use in Underhill library is insufficient to merit print release, and there are no current plans for print release stations in the dorms (if anything, printers may be removed from the dorms).

Composting bins at Sharples at all times.
There are a few reasons that we cannot have fruit compost bins out at all three meals. One is that our labor budget is set for the hours we currently support. The other is because the compost coordinators use a golf cart to haul compost they cannot run the golf cart in the evening.

We should get rid of the styrofoam ice cream cups in Essie Mae's--it should be so easy!! 

Thanks to your suggestion, Essie Mae's will convert to paper cups once the current supply of styrofoam is used up!

The doors of Clothier Hall, facing the IC big room have a large gap between them that lets heated or cooled air escape. 
Thanks for pointing this out! Maintenance has closed the gap with weather stripping.
 

More student-arboretum initiatives.
The arboretum very much wants a strong relationship with the student body. It currently offers a dozen student jobs in its horticulture and education departments. Open to the larger student body are Crum Woods maintenance events, houseplant giveaways and care clinics, and of course its traditional rose-pinning and plant gift to graduates. Other programs have come and gone, with fluctuating schedules and interest presenting major challenges. Any students, clubs, faculty and staff are encouraged to initiate ideas for partnership: x8025, scott@swarthmore.edu
 

Composting for food other than fruit at Sharples.
The public might not be aware that Sharples kitchen staff sends all compostable food prep waste to the compost, as well. We had to discontinue the composting of post-consumer plate scrapings following a trial in 2007. Diners did not consistently separate non-compostable items despite a strong education and outreach effort by Good Food students. Composting oils, meats, breads, or processed foods causes odor and pest problems that cannot be accommodated at our composting facility at this time. 

Make gyms self-sustaining. Every bike/moving part can be a generator!
What a fabulous idea! Any engineering classes or students out there who can put this into action?
   

McCabe printers are no longer auto-duplexing. Could we make that the default setting?
Thank you for pointing out a problem. They ARE supposed to be auto-duplexing. We have tried to research what is causing inconsistent duplexing, but the exact factors have eluded us. Please help us work out the glitch by noting which computer and program sent the document and emailing those details to greenbox and ITS (help@swarthmore.edu).

McCabe printers often mess up first or second page of documents (large print). Fixing this would save people time/frustration, save paper, and save the school money.
Similar to the above, our attempts at narrowing down the cause of this problem have not yet succeeded. Sending details on which computer and program sent the document to the printer might help ITS get to the bottom of this. Thanks for your vigilance.

We should have a place to recycle plastic bags-we get so many from Target, the Bookstore, etc.
Great idea. Green Advisors and our shuttle drivers have teamed up to drop plastic bags at a local recycling site. We hope this program can be formalized and publicized in the coming year.

Maybe a list or article about what paper, cardboard can be recycled?)eg staples, tape & tape okay oily food bags not ok, cardboard & bubble mailers?
Swarthmore College Recycling 2011-2012   New for this year is *"SINGLE-STREAM RECYCLING"*. This means that all recyclable materials are deposited into the same receptacle---all mixed together.

We can now recycle plastics numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7. Do not recycle number 3 or 6 plastic.

*All paper and cardboard*-- Types of paper to recycle include: office paper, newspaper, envelopes, magazines, glossy paper, junk mail, paperback books, posterboard and cardboard.It is permissible to recycle envelopes with clear windows, tape, metal clasps and string ties. DO NOT RECYCLE any paper or wrapper that has been contaminated with food. DO NOT RECYCLE PIZZA BOXES. If you have cardboard boxes to recycle, please BREAK THEM DOWN and place them next to the recycling can.

*Aluminum cans, bimetallic cans, all colors of glass bottles, #1, #2, #4, #5 and #7 plastic containers. Deposit all of these materials MIXED TOGETHER into the same recycling waste cans that paper is deposited. These containers are at desks and in the hallways of academic,
office and residence hall buildings. Please make sure all cans and bottles have been emptied and food rinsed out of the plastic containers.   

Installation of automatic water faucets would probably keep people from using too much water... they only use it when they need it. This is also a general hygiene/health issue... everyone uses the bathroom, so sickness spread by touch is facilitated by a touch-based bathroom. So by extension this would mean automatic soap, flushing (I don't know if others do this as well, but I always flush before I use it, since I can't be sure the last person has flushed... tmi?), etc... Automatic lights in the bathrooms would also be good.
With any new construction the College is planning on installing automatic water faucets.  As funding becomes available Facilities will start retrofitting automatic faucets in existing buildings.
Automatic lights is a FAQ, please see the full response below.

Dryers are annoying because they take so long, but having automatic paper towel dispensers would be nice, and maybe a separate recycling basket for them would be good as well.  
The balance point on hand dryers versus paper towels is difficult.  Making paper is a large consumer of water, however cleaning up a spill requires towels.
Unfortunately, paper towels should not go in recycling at this time. Our hauler says that they are too likely to be wet or soiled and will be rejected at the recycling center. This is one of the challenges of single stream recycling. Paper is more likely to be contaminated (eg. from a not-quite-empty bottle in the co-mingled bin) and have to be separated out as waste.

I don't know what kinds of lights McCabe and Cornell use... but they sure aren't as bright as LEDs, which are probably more efficient.
Facilities has not found a suitable LED replacement for fluorescent lights.  They are hoping the technology will develop suitable replacements in the near future. Mccabe is in the process of having the fluorescent lights upgraded from old style T12 bulbs to new, more efficient T8 bulbs.  On the lower level of McCabe, buttons to turn the lights on for 30 minutes at a time were installed. The first week after installation, the automatic lights reduced electricity by 82%, 844 kWh!

This is a more ambitious program, but getting rid of water fountains (or at least most of them); most of the water ends up going down the drain rather than the person's mouth, so replacing them with water dispensers would be less wasteful in this regard. People would have to acquire their own nalgenes (or whatever)... perhaps the college can provide these free of charge?
Facilities has received requests both to install water dispensers and to keep standard water fountains. It's a surprisingly controversial issue! The delivery of jugs of water for water dispensers is a highly inefficient use of fuel and are cost-inefficient, as well. Most water dispensers are leased and as such have a premium price over the one time price of installing a standard fountain. However, this decision is in the hands of each department. We encourage our community to use public water. There are water dispenser systems available that link to the public water plumbing, avoiding the transportation issue. However, we are afraid that eliminating traditional fountains will increase the use of disposable cups. We suggest that whenever possible, people fill up their reusable bottles from a fountain. That eliminates the excess water going down the drain, compared to drinking directly from the stream. Read below about the college's water bottle giveaway...
 

Concerning the idea about providing nalgenes for water dispensers (in place of water fountains), the college could replace their handouts of class year mugs with class year nalgenes.
Each year during Orientation, Alumni Relations gives out biodegradable and BPA-free water bottles to freshmen and new students. 

Water fountain quality is variable/questionable, whereas the black water dispensers in the libraries are universally acclaimed.
We are not aware of any fountains on campus with questionable water quality. If you notice one, please report the nature of the problem and its location to Workbox. Most campus provide water exactly as it would be from any kitchen faucet in Swarthmore. You can read a detailed report about our tap water quality from our provider, Aqua . Some fountains on campus have additional purifying filters, which are changed on a schedule by the Maintenance department.

Finding a bigger plot of land for the Good Food Project!
Participation in the Good Food garden fluctuates based on the academic cycle's demands and the enrollment or graduation of highly motivated students, among other factors. The Sustainability Committee supports the idea of a garden or farm being integrated with college life and the curriculum. However, until consistent management is institutionalized, it is not feasible to provide a larger space.

Lights (especially in public places/bathrooms) should be motion activated. I can't tell you how many times I've turned off the lights in our laundry room.
This is an ongoing point of discussion. Facilities recently completed installing occupancy sensors in the 200 & 80 seat lecture halls at the Science center (rooms 101 & 199).  Facilities found the lights are often left on in these spaces when they are unoccupied resulting in the overheating of the room by just the lights.  Now, after 8-10 minutes of the room being empty the lights will go out.  This expense to the college-- $3,610! -- is far from trivial. We believe that the people using a room should be responsible for turning off lights in most cases, including average classrooms and laundry rooms. Remembering to switch the lights out is a habit that will benefit the earth wherever we go. *We applaud you for taking note and action when you see lights on.*

Have timers in the showers.
Great suggestion! The GAs are buying a few timers to try out in some dorms. If it works well, we'll try to buy more.

Tell college how much energy/resources the college uses. Maybe have a spot on the dash to monitor/compare energy use?
Good news, it's already on the web, you can also view by building.

Hybrid cars for everyone ~or~ student train passes to cut down on fuel emissions that I spend driving downtown.

The college provides bus or train reimbursement for academic and recreational activities organized by Swatties. You could also ride the college's Philly Shuttle: http://www.swarthmore.edu/x10940.xml . This suggestion led us to discuss the idea of more fuel efficient vehicles in the college fleet. Many groups wind up driving just a couple people in our 10 passenger vans. Because each vehicle is owned by a particular department or program, not by the college as a whole, they tend to be large to accommodate the maximum possible need of each group. However, we think that Student Council might be a suitable host for a compact or hybrid passenger car. We will present this idea for StuCo's consideration.

More classes with outdoor experiential components! & I think it would be really cool if there were a Peace and Conflict Studies or SOAN or Bio class devoted to agriculture where students were required to work on a farm. I would sign up for that class in an instant!!

President Chopp has expressed a commitment to experiential and community-based learning in the Strategic Plan. The Sustainability Committee is excited to support those developments. In the meantime, students and faculty can share the names of existing courses with outdoor experiential components via GreenBox. For example, Betsy Bolton is currently teaching a class (Eng 70H. Natural History and Imagination) that involves one 50 minute session most weeks out in the woods.  ENVS 1 has also spent some class time out in the woods.  Hopefully soon there will be more classes with outdoor experiential and/or farming components. Professor Bolton has put in a request for a course release to develop a class that would require extensive urban farming practice, and another class that would begin with an 8-10 day canoe trip down the upper Delaware, with additional river-based field trips.

Place to recycle Odwalla bar wrappers or candy wrappers (terracycling)
Many product wrappers are recyclable through TerraCycle, and we applaud any method of waste reduction. However, we are currently unable to identify a system for processing these wrappers on campus. There are complications due to quantity requirements (at least 500 units per shipment) and the food residues on them. *We will gladly try to help anyone wishing to head this up to work out the kinks.* Another way to make an impact is to write to stores and manufacturers about your preferences, and of course to vote with your dollars by purchasing items with minimal, compostable, or otherwise-recyclable packaging.

January 2012

Is there a place on campus where you can recycle toner cartridges? On the website it says across from the Post Office but there is a sign there saying not to leave toner cartridges there.
Many replacement toner cartridges arrive with a pre-paid return address sticker in the box.  Just put the old cartridge in the box, seal it and place the pre-paid shipping label on the outside. The College post office can give them to the UPS driver. If yours did not come with a shipping label, visit the company's website to print one for free. In a search engine, type "toner recycling" and the brand name. Here are some common ones:

Inkjet cartridges can be left in the specified recycling bin across from the post office.

December 2011

It is a great idea to keep the travel record from now on.
Thanks for participating. The data has been integrated into the college's greenhouse gas inventory, which will soon be posted online and integrated into a Climate Action Plan.

 Hi, Folks--  Thanks for all you do.  I just took the Faculty and Staff Commute and Air Travel Survey. Interesting (if depressing, in my case) survey! Well designed, and quick and easy to complete.   For the next round, two suggestions to improve its educational value and sustainability quotient: (1) send or show the survey-taker their resulting carbon calculation, so that individuals can compare their numbers year to year, and (2) have the PDF export button work, so that if you want to keep your results you can do so electronically, and not print out.  Thanks for listening!
Thank you for your suggestions for the employee commute and air travel survey. I will definitely look into building those two features into the next survey. Though whether or not it can be implemented will be determined by the flexibility of the commercial survey software the College uses.

November 2011

I head the academic technology team in ITS. Within the next few months, we are planning to update software that interacts with our AV control systems in about 80 classrooms and performance spaces on campus. With this software, called RoomView, we can automatically (remotely) turn off AV systems that have been accidentally left on overnight. We'll need to figure out what the "right" (safe) time is to have projectors shut off automatically. Midnight in most rooms, but a little later in Science 101 on weekends (for late night movie screenings?)   This is one of those easy-win sustainability actions. The software is free to us. There will be a server, but it is small and uses very little in the way of our server resource pool. And we can cut waste of electricity and extend the life of the very expensive lamps in the overhead projectors.  Eric Behrens Associate CITO Information Technology Services

We applaud your work, Eric and ITS!

Students should have a printing quota like in many other universities.
Most colleges which have quotas also charge for printing.  The typical scenario is that they either have a small quota of free copies, to cover pages that come out badly and have to be reprinted, or a large quota of free copies, to provide nearly the entire student body with free printing but charge people who print an exceptionally large number of pages. While Swarthmore has considered these options, we are concerned that charging for printing may compromise economic equity.

All printers should print on both sides by default.
Almost all of the public computers are set for duplexing. The non-duplex printers are older printers for which there are no duplex units available.  In these cases ITS has the sustainability conundrum of deciding whether to replace a perfectly functional printer with a new one which has more features.  They have opted to keep the old ones until they are no longer serviceable. If you come across a computer that isn't duplexing, please pass it along to ITS (help@swarthmore.edu). They would be more than happy to provide info on what printing options are available in a particular space.
 

Registrar's bureaucratic paperwork should be done electronically (i.e. add/drop forms).
The Registrar wants very much to implement electronic drop/add for a variety of reasons, but the project hasn't gotten momentum behind it (yet). There are some theoretical/procedural things to sort out, such as how much faculty involvement is wanted.  One way to do it would be to let faculty add students to the class list.  That would protect faculty control of their class lists, and function very similarly to them signing permission now.  Adviser approval would need to be assumed, and somehow confirmed later or something -- seems doable.  Alternately, we might let students add and drop themselves on mySwarthmore, but that could be problematic for faculty.  Either way we go, there will be technical help needed along the way, and that would need to be prioritized from a list of tech projects -- doable but not instantly available.

Please encourage campus grounds maintenance to use recycling containers (not trash) when working at campus-owned faculty housing.
Grounds staff are expected to recycle in all areas where they work. This comment has been shared with the department.
 

Temperature of rooms in winter and summer or their transitional time. I understand the system doesn't work in that way, but it should make AC and heater on/off control easier.
Most buildings at Swarthmore use systems that can accommodate either heating or cooling, but not both. This means their systems are transitioned partway through the school year, first to heating and then back to cooling again as the outside weather warms. This can sometimes present issues where rooms may get too warm, for example, on unusually warm winter days. Unfortunately, it is not possible to toggle back and forth between heating and cooling in the same season. Dates for transition are based on weather projections, but typically Fall Break is the switch point for heat.

Our goal is to provide heating temperatures within the comfort range, 68-72 degrees, during regular work hours. In winter months, we use night and weekend setbacks to 60 degrees to maximize our fuel savings at the heat plant.

More details can be found on line at - http://www.swarthmore.edu/x34091.xml

Lighting and AV needs to be turned off. It seems that people cannot remember, then make it automatic.
The automation of lighting and AV is a hot topic. We are working with Facilities to increase technology-based energy savings, but want to equally emphasize personal responsibility and citizenship. We will post progress on both fronts, soon.

October 2011

Low-flow shower heads!

The college uses low flow showerheads, 2.5 gallons per minute, as per EPA limits for any new or replacement heads.

Turn off the computerrrrrs.
The computers that ITS maintains in the libraries and public labs are set to turn off automatically each evening. Computers for faculty and staff offices are set with an inactivity time out so energy use will be minimal when they are not in use. If you notice a computer not set to these standards, you can contact Mark CJ Davis Jr, Software Specialist, at davis@swarthmore.edu.

September 2011

At Mary Lyons, we would like to use a compost bin for organic waste.  As an aside, why isn't there a compost option at Sharples? (There may be already, but we don't know about it.) I think this is a necessity; my family can handle it--a cafeteria has the economies of scale to handle it. I'm sure the Arboretum would love to get in on that as fertilizer.           
Thanks to this suggestion, the Grounds Department has started a compost pile behind ML breakfast room, monitored by a generous student volunteer. Normally, composting in the dorms is a responsibility of the GAs. There is not currently a GA in ML, but if anyone in ML would like to become a GA, contact Laura Laderman--lladerm1@swarthmore.edu. As a GA your responsibility would be emptying the compost bucket every few days, and ideally posting occasional GA digests in the bathrooms and attending weekly meetings (that last about 30 minutes) at 9:00 on Monday evenings.  Hopefully by next year the GAs will be an institutionalized position. If that happens, we will ensure that there is a GA in every dorm.

There is now fruit composting at Sharples through lunch, next to the dish window. Currently, composting is not available at dinner because of the way the system is set up for taking it out. Waste accumulated after the daily compost pickup must be thrown out in order to prevent pest problems-- but improving the system is in the works. The public might not be aware that Sharples kitchen staff sends all compostable food prep waste to the compost, as well. We had to discontinue the composting of post-consumer plate scrapings following a trial in 2007. Diners did not consistently separate non-compostable items (meat, dairy, etc) despite a strong education and outreach effort by Good Food students.

We need more recycling cans around campus. There are plenty of trash cans, but few recycling bins along the walk-ways. 
Over the years, we have reduced the number of trash cans outdoors, the goal being to encourage people to carry their waste to their indoor destinations, where there are abundant recycling cans and staff available to maintain the receptacles. Outdoor recycling is limited to high use areas, due to staff limitations.

 Put up 5 minute hourglasses in showers to encourage people not to run water for more than 5 minutes. Will save time, money, water and the environment at large.
We have discussed this with Maintenance and find it unfeasible at this time due to the risk of breakage, cost of installation, and inability to assess whether they result in water savings. We would consider implementing this in tandem with an educational campaign and a system to monitor its effect, in the future.

August 2011

I've never been sure whom to approach about this, but I've observed (and have heard from others) that EVS staff combine recycled items with the trash before taking them outside. I don't know whether this is because students aren't sorting the recycling properly or because it's much more difficult for EVS staff to take the recycling and trash outside separately. It would be great if there were an efficient but tactful way to investigate and solve this problem. If all that recycled paper and plastic isn't actually making it to the recycling center, what a difference it would make!
The Environmental Services department is dedicated to proper recycling. Concerns about specific situations may be addressed confidentially to the Director, Patti Shields (x8014 or pshield1) who will assist our staff in achieving full compliance. In some cases, it may be a misconception: There are a variety of routines for getting the trash and recycling outside, depending on the technician and the building layout. For example, staff may put bags of both trash and recyclables into the same receptacle in the building and then sort them into the proper dumpsters outside. The department is also exploring options to make the bags of recyclables more easily identifiable so that they don't get accidentally thrown into trash dumpsters-- since commingled recycling began, the contents of each bag is less obvious. A long term goal is to eliminate the bags, themselves, from the waste stream

Hand blow driers in Willets Dorm instead of paper towel dispensers.
Within the next two years the bathrooms in Willets are scheduled to have major overhauls. We will investigate installing hand blow dryers if ADA clearance can be found for them.

July 2011

Invest in the toilets that have the two button that manage the amount of water needed to flush liquids and bodily waste. They, undoubtedly, conserve water. It's a cool concept too! Think about it. Though I'm pretty sure this novel idea isn't that novel at all. Just something that can be implemented really easily! Good luck.
The Maintenance department has ordered a number of dual flush conversion kits to try out. If they perform well, we may be seeing more of them on tank toilets around campus soon. Note,these are easy and affordable for home use and available at local hardware stores. We also are going to install a dual flush handle on some of our water closets that have the flushometers rather than tanks.  They will be readily identified by the green handle and the instruction plate mounted above the flushometer.

However, many toilets on campus are of the old style tank-less types which do not support a two level flush system without replacing the entire toilet to a new low flow type. To replace a single 3.5 gallon per flush toilet with a new water saving 1.6 gallon toilet and flush valve costs about $665.  The payback would require saving 52,000 gallons of water, or 27,369 flushes, and is not feasible for those units at this time.

June 2011

Why not turn off some of the lights in the hallways in Kohlberg in the summer?

Facilities does schedule the lights off in Kohlberg hallways and the coffee bar (along with other buildings) throughout the year, however code requires emergency egress lighting to remain on 24/7. This means there will always be some lights on in the hallways and stair towers.

Hi! I've been saving my "green" coffee cups ever since the end of the semester so I can pop them into the composting bins next fall. (The few times I forget to bring my own cup.) This inspires me to suggest that the college create a summer sustainability fellowship along the lines of the other fellowships for students' summer research. This person could take care of the composting bins (otherwise we're tossing compostable cups in the regular trash!), maybe feed the campus chickens or tend the bees or work with the organic garden at Cedar and Elm. For those of us who are here over the summer, having at least the composting bins available year round would help us stay in good habits - not to mention all the people who visit the campus over the summer.  My home experience with composting makes me wish there were a student who came round once a week to collect our compostable stems and rinds; I guess there would have to be a campus pig, or at least the campus chickens, to consume food leftovers.
Currently the Arboretum pays Good Food students to tend the bees and garden over the summer. A student worker could be hired to tend to the composting over the summer, however, to make this worthwhile something would have to happen to ensure that people composted more. Currently there are even problems justifying composting in the coffee bars this semester because only a very small percentage of faculty/staff seem to be using them. Because during the summer the volume of waste is so much less, composting would not be at all economical. However, we welcome your suggestions on how to encourage people to start composting more (both during the year and over the summer). We would love to make it an option over the summer as well if it were more justifiable in terms of waste volume. Also, kudos for saving your cups! :

Turn off all unused computers at night!
The computers that ITS maintains in the libraries and public labs are set to turn off automatically each evening. Computers for faculty and staff offices are set with an inactivity time out so energy use will be minimal when they are not in use. If you notice a computer not set to these standards, you can contact Mark CJ Davis Jr, Software Specialist, at davis@swarthmore.edu.

April 2011

As the massive lawn mowers roar outside my office window for the second time in less than a week, I am wondering why it is necessary to start our outside lawn contract so early in the year (most of the area has not started cutting its grass yet) - they will continue to mow the lawns well into the Fall (again, well after most of us have stopped). It seems to me that this must be a huge expense, one that could be reduced, not to mention something that adds to several types of pollution - the gas powered edgers, and massive lawn mowers add to air & noise pollution, and it just seems like something that could be done for a shorter amount of time each year, and doesn't need to be done multiple times a week. I guess it would make sense to ramp up the lawn care a bit when there are major campus events occurring (so we don't look shabby on Alumni Week-end or Graduation-?!?), but the rest of the time, would it really be so horrible if the grass was actually allowed to grow beyond a 1/2 an inch-??
Our lawn mowing contracts run from April through November and are designed to avoid wasteful or unnecessary mowing. Early in the year, mowers focus on the south sides of buildings, where grass grows earliest due to the warm microclimate. During summer, when dry weather slows grass growth, the amount of mowing is reduced. In the autumn, mowing is for the purpose of mulching fallen leaves in place-- a more environmentally friendly practice than removing leaves from lawns, and a natural way to fertilize the turf with their organic matter. For most of campus, the mowing height is 3". Removing a large percentage of the grass blade is stressful to the plant and invites pests and disease, so during active growth, it is paradoxically most sustainable to mow relatively frequently.

How about a "please don't sit here in your car with the engine running for 20 minutes while you're waiting to drop off or pick up your child from pre-school" sign by the Friends Meeting House?  Five minutes is sufficient.  People arrive way to early, tying up circle traffic, and polluting the environment.  Why not widen the circle toward Whittier so that cars can park and turn off their engines?           
Thanks to your suggestion, we will add signage this spring to discourage idling outside of loading times. The drop-off and pick-up situation at the Friends Nursery School is less than ideal, but the School makes every effort to facilitate the process by having staff assist children in getting out of and into cars each day. While the line of traffic may appear to be idling, the cars do creep along as drop-offs and pick-ups are accomplished. Asking drivers to turn off their engines during drop-off/pick-up would only slow the process; the line moves more smoothly, though slowly, when the cars keep moving.

March 2011

I have two questions about recycling that I hope suscom can try to address. How can Swarthmore better make electronic recycling available to students? How can we be sure that recycling in the bins makes it to recycling, not just the trash can (a few people have reported seeing EVS personnel throwing away recyclables)?      
There is a fee to dispose of equipment properly, and while ITS provides electronic recycling to departments for College-owned equipment, the service is currently not offered to students. There are other options for students interested in electronic recycling: Goodwill and Best Buy will accept electronics for free. We will also look into cost-effective possibilities for providing electronic recycling to students on-site.

More information about off-site electronic recycling:

Best Buy: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Global-Promotions/Recycling-Electronics/pcmc...)

Goodwill: http://reconnectpartnership.com/

General information: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm

As for recycling bins being dumped in the trash, concerns about specific situations may be addressed confidentially to the Director of Environmental Services, Patti Shields (x8014 or pshield1) who will  assist our staff in achieving full compliance.  In some cases, it may be a misconception: There are a variety of routines for getting the trash and recycling outside, depending on the technician and the building layout. For example, staff may put bags of both trash and recyclables into the same receptacle in the building and then sort them into the proper dumpsters outside.  The department is also exploring options to make the bags of recyclables more easily identifiable so that they don't get accidentally thrown into trash dumpsters-- since commingled recycling began, the contents of each bag is less obvious. A long term goal is to eliminate the bags, themselves, from the waste stream.

I was a little confused as to why the television was turned on (for the first time ever) in Sharples to promote sustainability.  Isn't that wasting energy/ironic to be promoting sustainability and energy-saving practices by running a television that no one could read for a few hours?  I was disappointed that this was what the first use of the television was for; it did not seem appropriate.
We are sorry you felt this way but we thought it a good way to communicate our progress on buying local and the sustainability measures we have taken. It was promotional and we would consider this tool in the future. Please notice that we also receive suggestions to increase use of monitor displays as a paper-saving alternative to flyers (see January Greenbox submission). Your preference has been noted and will be considered when this is discussed in the future.

January 2011

I believe that eliminating student event/group meeting advertisements printed and posted all over campus is the most feasible immediate way of reducing paper waste on campus. The school should invest in several monitor displays to install in prominent campus locations (ex: Sharples, McCabe, Science Center, Parrish). Student groups can submit advertising slides to a monitor coordinator, and then these slides can be added to a Powerpoint "reel" that loops continuously throughout the day.
This topic has been debated with no definitive environmental winner. On the one hand, digital signage means more electricity use and e-waste. On the other hand is paper waste. A recent use of a monitor in Sharples to display sustainability-related information was criticized as un-ecological (see Greenbox submission from March). Your preference has been noted and will be considered when this is discussed in the future.

The sustainability committee should work on better insulation in campus buildings. For example, Woolman is terribly insulated, with misplaced doors and uninsulated walls and windows that not only accrue costs in heating, but also students' health.
There is an on going effort, campus wide, to replace old inefficient heating systems and insulate many spaces. Recent years have seen many buildings receive new windows. The progress of this project is limited by time and dollars. Old stone buildings, by design, are very limited to installing any insulation in the exterior walls.  The plaster walls are attached directly to the inside of the stone, often with less that one-inch of space between them.

Woolman dorm is tentatively scheduled for a review of the systems in fiscal year 13-14.  Worth dorm  and the Lodges are tentatively scheduled for window replacement starting in fiscal year 14-15 and going for 3 years. Worth dorm heating system is tentatively scheduled for replacement starting in 15-16 and having one section completed each summer for 6 years.