Office of Sustainability Open House Welcome Address

Parrish Parlors, Parrish Hall, Swarthmore College

Thursday, February 25th, 2016


Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Office of Sustainability Open House. Although she has been with us for more than six weeks, I am pleased to welcome Aurora Winslade, our new Director of Sustainability, to the Swarthmore community.  Swarthmore strives to be a leader in efforts to improve sustainability and protect our natural environment; I’m glad Aurora brings to our campus her deep experience leading transformative change in higher education. I look forward to working together to realize our goals of reducing energy use and waste, managing storm water, stewarding Crum Woods, and collaborating with the local community. Please join me in welcoming Aurora Winslade.

I would like to thank Sustainability Coordinator Melissa Tier ’14 and the student Green Advisors for their tremendous work organizing this event, and for their ongoing efforts to demonstrate practical and immediate steps for all of us to reduce our environmental impact. On behalf of our whole campus, I am also grateful to the Sustainability Committee for their work to establish and support the Office of Sustainability.

Swarthmore has a long tradition of sustainability through our Quaker legacy of social responsibility, simple living, and conservation of resources. Now more than ever, I believe we have a responsibility to educate our students and campus community on the causes and consequences of climate change, to model best practices, and to provide leadership in the wider community.

As we continue to carry out that responsibility, I am encouraged by the wide array of initiatives that demonstrate our commitment. They include the work of the Sustainability Committee, which created the Green Initiatives Fund to support innovative projects contributing to the College’s environmental sustainability. This commitment is reflected in the delegation of five students and two faculty members that attended the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, marking the third year a Swarthmore delegation has attended UN-sponsored climate talks. We see this dedication in the meaningful work of the Environmental Studies program, which continues to deepen its impact on campus and beyond by building community-based learning opportunities with the Lang Center. We renew this commitment each time we construct a building following the Sustainability Framework, which will help us make progress toward our goal of carbon neutrality by 2035. Most recently, our commitment to sustainability was highlighted by the approval of a $300,000 carbon charge that will provide funding for campus initiatives and projects that increase energy conservation and efficiency and promote renewable energy.

Looking ahead, I hope you will all share my enthusiasm for new initiatives on the horizon including the 1st Annual Sustainability Summit to be held in Eldridge Commons during the afternoon of Friday, April 15th.  Later this spring you will also hear more about the new President's Sustainability Fellowship Program. This collaboration between the President's Office, the Lang Center, Environmental Studies, and the Office of Sustainability will launch next fall, providing students with an opportunity to engage in a year-long course and internship to research and develop solutions for campus sustainability challenges in collaboration with faculty and staff mentors. 

Climate change will shape our society in the decades ahead. Through collaborative efforts of the College and our community, we can take meaningful steps to demonstrate Swarthmore’s leadership in pivotal environmental initiatives. I hope you have a chance to learn more about these opportunities and the critically important work of the Office of Sustainability as you enjoy today’s event.