David Landis Barnhill
was sunny and warm on April 22, 1999, at Guilford College. On
the 29th anniversary of Earth Day, President Don McNemar took
the podium on the lawn outside Founders Hall to announce the Green
Campus Initiative: a new major in Environmental Studies had recently
been approved by the faculty; the endowment for the Zvi Cohen
Memorial Environmental Award (given annually to a student who
has shown deep commitment to environmental activism) had just
matured, becoming one of the largest student awards at Guilford;
a Green Campus Committee had formed to direct and monitor environmental
responsibility in campus operations. Having made those announcements,
President McNemar then signed the Talloires Declaration.
event marked the beginning of a serious commitment to environmental
citizenship at Guilford. It was also a culmination of ten years
of work. In 1989, as the 20th anniversary of Earth Day approached,
I asked the administration to make Guilford a leader in a new
movement of greening college campuses and make a public commitment
to environmental responsibility. But the proposal was ignored
and Guilford continued its old ways.
the following years, Guilford saw sporadic efforts in recycling.
Sometimes a student group would start a program on its own, but
at busy times in the semester student volunteers were hard to
come by, leaving overflowing recycling bins for the staff of Housekeeping
or Grounds. At one point the administration asked the head of
Grounds to initiate a recycling program, but gave no support or
direction to the effort and it failed. The result for the staff
was resentment and distrust concerning recycling efforts, and
frustration for all. The faculty always had some major issue to
focus on, leaving environmental concerns to "future consideration."
The lesson was clear: to be successful, an environmental program
needs to have a clear institutional policy as well as a systematic
and coordinated operation that involves all aspects of the campus.
seemed to be a time to try again: some younger faculty members
had recently arrived at Guilford and energized the Environmental
Studies program; the student environmental group was particularly
strong; and the Talloires Declaration provided a good model for
institutional commitment. At an Environmental Studies conference
at Harvard early in the fall semester, I spoke with staff from
ULSF and Second Nature. The student environmental group arranged
for Kevin Lyons (Director of Procurement and Contracting at Rutgers
University) to come to campus in October to discuss the Declaration
and the logistics of working toward its goals.
Then it was time for systematic efforts to gain support from all
sectors of the college. After Lyons' visit, a memo was sent to
the faculty about the Talloires Declaration, informing them that
it was under consideration. Students organized a petition drive
in which they obtained several hundred signatures affirming the
importance of environmental citizenship and urging President McNemar
to sign the Declaration. An article about this issue was printed
in the student newspaper. Three faculty members met individually
with the Chief Financial Officer and the heads of Residential
Life, Facilities, Housekeeping, Grounds, Purchasing, and Dining
Services. Agreement was reached to establish a Green Campus Committee
in which all departments would be represented, activities would
be coordinated, and the work would not simply be dumped on an
challenges remained: gaining official faculty support and getting
the President's signature on the Talloires Declaration. The faculty,
however, was in the middle of a complex and tense curriculum change
and simply would not consider the issue. It was certainly frustrating
that we would have support from every part of the campus except
the faculty, but we could not wait until the next year (which
already had another major issue waiting for faculty consideration).
So we went to President McNemar with the Green Campus Initiative,
arguing that environmental citizenship was in keeping with Guilford's
Quaker tradition and the President's call that the college focus
on developing leaders of social change. The Declaration served
the critical function of an existing policy statement that other
college presidents had signed. McNemar agreed to join their ranks,
and the Green Campus Initiative became an institutional policy.
of course, comes the hard part: developing sustainable environmental
practices in the day-to-day operations of the campus, overcoming
inertia, financial constraints, and everyone's busyness. Our first
project last fall was to test a new recycling program in one of
our dorms. With cooperation from students, Housekeeping, and Grounds,
the program was successful and will be implemented in all other
dorms in spring semester. This spring we also will decide on next
year's projects, including recycling in faculty and staff offices
and posting classroom schedules by the light switches so we know
when to turn off the lights.
to those colleges that started greening the campus years ago and
have a stronger institutional commitment, Guilford's efforts are
very small steps indeed. But thanks in part to the existence of
the Talloires Declaration and the pioneering work at other campuses,
we have started on the road to environmental citizenship.
David Landis Barnhill is Associate Professor of Intercultural
Studies and Religious Studies, Co-Chair of the Green Campus Committee,
and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Guilford College
in Greensboro, North Carolina. He can be reached at tel: 336-316-2357;
fax: 336-316-2950; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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