College Makes Dramatic Strides in Sustainability

Lafayette received a B from the Sustainable Endowments Institute in the 2011 Green Report Card, an assessment of sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices, released last fall. The College has made dramatic progress in just three years, rising from a grade of D- in the 2008 Report Card, released in fall 2007.

The Lafayette Organic Community and Student Garden at Metzgar Fields. The Sustainable Energy Fund awarded the College a grant to install a three-kilowatt solar array to power equipment for the garden.

The Lafayette Organic Community and Student Garden at Metzgar Fields. The Sustainable Energy Fund awarded the College a grant to install a three-kilowatt solar array to power equipment for the garden.

Only a small number of the 322 institutions reporting in 2011 made the same or a slightly better improvement over the same period. Three other schools improved their grades as much as Lafayette, while only three institutions improved more than Lafayette.

The Lehigh Valley Branch of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council honored Lafayette this year with its Green Campus award for sustainable policies and practices.

“I am pleased to see that our efforts over the past few years have helped us to make meaningful progress toward our goal to be more effective stewards of our resources and the environment,” says President Daniel H. Weiss. “The improvement in our score over the past three years places Lafayette among the most improved colleges in the nation, and this is the result of a concerted team effort. We recognize that there is much more work to be done, but we are prepared and up to the challenge.”

In fall 2007, when the College received the D-minus grade, initiatives reflecting the commitment of the president and administration to environmental sustainability were already under way. Weiss signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in January 2008, saying, “Campuses that address the climate change by reducing global warming emissions and by integrating sustainability into their curriculum will better serve their students and meet their mandate to help create a thriving ethical and civil society.” A Sustainability Committee of faculty, staff, and students was appointed to oversee environmental initiatives, and George Xiques was named manager of sustainability and environmental planning in December 2007. In January 2009, the College adopted a new Campus Energy Policy.

“The College has made steady progress in its commitment to sustainability by regularly discussing our collective long-term vision and plans and by making actionable decisions and taking tangible steps, even small ones, in the near term,” says Mitchell Wein, vice president for finance and administration and chair of the College’s Sustainability Committee.

Lafayette is in the second phase of a campus-wide energy audit. The Board of Trustees has authorized funding to implement energy conservation measures that will reduce energy and water usage, decrease greenhouse gases, and provide a net, positive financial return. Xiques reported that the campus heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system was changed to reduce the amount of “make-up” water by 15 percent, and repairs to the steam trap subsystems have reduced water consumption by 50 percent and reduced the energy required to produce steam. Landfill reduction rates have increased five-fold from 2 percent in 2003 to more than 10 percent. The new parking lot on Snyder Street features LED lighting, which reduces energy consumption by 50 percent compared to traditional lighting standards.

Across the campus, the intensity of commitment to sustainability has led to a variety of significant achievements. Representative changes have included installation of solar arrays on the roof of Acopian Engineering Center and at Metzgar Fields; installation of water-saving fixtures in new and renovated buildings; use of 100-percent compostable packaging and dinnerware and organic cleaning supplies by Dining Services; re-direction of composted food waste from landfills to on-campus compost through the College’s new pulpers and Earth Tubs; adoption of a policy to strive for LEED certification for new buildings and renovations; planting a vegetated roof on a portion of Acopian Engineering Center which filters water, stores carbon, and provides insulation; adding water stations for filling re-usable bottles as an alternative to single-use bottles, and setting up a green move-out program to recycle or donate unwanted items.

The College has also taken steps to encourage walking, riding bicycles, and using mass transportation. The LCAT shuttle service has been expanded, hybrid vehicles are now part of the vehicular fleet, more bicycle racks have been added, and a pilot program for charging electric cars has been implemented. This summer, the College will begin a two-phase renovation of the Quad that will include converting inner-campus roadways to pedestrian walkways (see “A More Pedestrian-Friendly Campus” in this issue).

“Many of the projects and initiatives have been achieved by student, faculty, and staff leadership, energy, and support,” Wein says. “The College-wide partnership is the foundation for the progress that has been realized.”