Report to the President, 2014

Parrish Hall

Note from the author:

This report [pdf] is intended to provide a snapshot of the College’s past and current practices and policies regarding environmental sustainability, some of the gaps in action, and the challenges the College faces to improve its environmental practices. It should serve as a working document that will be modified as I continue to serve as director of sustainability, and I plan for it to become the starting place for a community conversation on sustainability and all of our roles.

When I was hired in February, my directive was to focus a significant portion of my time on reducing the College’s carbon footprint and improving the College’s practices regarding environmental sustainability. As this report illustrates, the College has made great strides in these areas thanks to the work of numerous dedicated staff, faculty, and students; much of this work has been performed with volunteer labor or outside of employees’ regular job descriptions. However, the challenge of meeting the goals of carbon neutrality by 2035 and drastically improving our practices will require more than the devoted effort of a few people. It will require community members to self-monitor their behaviors and daily activities at the College, i.e., individual consumption of energy and water, types and quantities of materials purchased, modes of waste disposal, and frequency and means of travel. It will also require a significant investment in our infrastructure to eliminate use of fossil fuels for energy; the creation of a consistent and clear waste system across the entire campus so that good habits are easy to form; improved storm-water management practices to minimize the impacts of our current and future development; the capture and reuse of rain- and gray water to reduce the use of drinking water for non-potable purposes; and the development of standards and policies to guide our future actions.

These changes will not happen overnight, and they will require difficult, complex choices and creative thinking. I look forward to working with each of you as we take on this challenge as a community. I will be reaching out to each department in the coming year, but in the meantime, please feel free to contact me directly to start the conversation.

Laura Cacho
Director of Sustainability
sustainability@swarthmore.edu

This report was written with significant contributions from Ralph Thayer, director of maintenance.