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Giving Green

Supporting Swarthmore while supporting sustainability

We were friends for most of our time at the Quaker matchbox, but dated only once. Luckily, we got together at a party before graduation and we recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, a year after our 50th Swarthmore reunion.

We’ve been fortunate to build a life and family together, but thinking about our three granddaughters made us wonder: Will the world in which they grow up be anything like the world we enjoyed?

And so together, we made choices to limit the size of our footprint. We live in a small home with solar panels that make most of our electricity, including for our plug-in Prius. It’s a duplex, which is more efficient than a single-family house, and it is part of an intentional community—Heartwood Cohousing, outside Durango, Colo. We are surrounded by friends (almost like dorm life!) and often borrow from a neighbor if we run short of something.

Concerns about climate change, sustainability, and footprint size are very important to us now, but they haven’t always been. We didn’t give a second thought to leaving the heat on and the windows open while at Swarthmore. But we realize that resources are limited and being depleted much faster than they regenerate—the most obvious example being the planet’s ability to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions. 

We’re in our 70s now and probably won’t live to see many of the consequences of climate change, but we want to make a difference with the time we have left and the resources at our disposal.

In addition to living relatively simply, we have been careful with how we invest our money. For years, we have shunned investments in armaments, alcohol, and tobacco. More recently, we divested from all fossil-fuel investments, and we have encouraged our educational institutions, including Swarthmore, to do the same. In fact, we helped distribute the orange squares of cloth (the symbol of divestment) that so many of our fellow alums wore at their reunion.

That’s why we were pleased to find that Swarthmore provides donation options that don’t touch fossil fuels and support sustainability—primarily, the President’s Climate Commitment Fund. 

In addition to sending Swarthmore students to international climate-change panels, it has also been used to hire the College’s first climate action senior fellow, Nathan Graf ’16.

Another option is The Swarthmore Fund, where your gift supports this year’s current expenses, so there is no investment in fossil fuels through the endowment.

Of course, there is the Fossil Fuel-Free Fund, established last year by the Board of Managers. Unlike the school’s general endowment, this endowment fund does not invest in fossil fuels. Donors may add to it with a gift of any amount—there is no upper or lower limit.

Finally, there are the Office of Sustainability’s student leaders programs, which include two groups: the President’s Sustainability Research Fellows and the Green Advisors. Both groups advance sustainability efforts on campus by helping build protocols and behaviors among students, staff, and faculty that reduce our carbon footprint.

We feel very strongly about this cause and will continue our activism. But even though we want to make sure none of our donations go to investments that could spell problems for the future, it’s important to us, too, to support the College that prepared us so well for life—and brought us together.