Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Going Green a Collaborative Effort on Campus


Mother Nature may have showered Red Square with raindrops in early April, but that didn’t stop members of the Georgetown community from featuring their efforts to preserve the environment during this month’s Green Day.

The April 3 event, sponsored by Project Hilltop, moved inside the Leavey Center and kicked off the days leading up to Earth Day, April 22, by bringing together people from student groups such as EcoAction, Georgetown Sustainable Garden, the Corp, the Lecture Fund, InterHall, Project Hilltop and Residence Life and faculty and staff from Campus Ministry, University Facilities, Yates Field House, the campus bookstore, the biology department and the Center for the Environment. Off-campus businesses and groups such as the Catholic Coalition for Climate Change, Solitude and Honest Tea Company also got involved.

“The idea is to bring them all together so we can see the kind of impact we can have on an individual and institutional level,” said event organizer Jess Buckley, residence hall director for McCarthy Hall and Project Hilltop member.

The Office of Residence Life created Project Hilltop during the 2005-2006 academic year in response to a spate of campus vandalism. The group comprised of resident assistants, hall directors and students has since expanded its focus to promote awareness of and care for the Hilltop community.

Campus dining’s O’Donovan Hall used the event to showcase its sustainable efforts, which include composting its organic waste to fertilize Georgetown grounds. In addition to keeping the campus lush and green, the hall uses the inorganic waste to provide energy to 200,000 homes in Virginia.

Though the composting began near the end of the fall semester, the auxiliary services senior vice president, Margie Bryant, said the program has already become a valuable addition.

“We’re excited about the success of the composting program this early in the process,” said Bryant. “Once we better understand the process and how to streamline it, we’d like to open the program up to collect organic and inorganic waste from the campus’ Jesuit community and other parts of campus dining.”

Jonathan Cohn (C’10), co-president of EcoAction, calls the effort “very responsible and cooperative.” Cohn said collaboration within the university community is key for enhancing sustainability on campus.

“I think that there has been a lot of progress over the years in terms of collaboration between students, faculty and staff,” said Cohn, whose group set up a table at Green Day. “I have always seen the issue of campus sustainability as connected to school pride. … As a university committed to the ideals of service, the ethic of working for the sake of the planet, and not for ourselves alone, lies behind such (sustainable) initiatives and seems to be fully in line with the Georgetown ethos.”

A representative from Yates Field House who participated in Green Day offered information about its bike and shower program. For those looking to reduce carbon emissions released by driving, the program allows people to bike to work and take showers in the facility for a minimal fee.

“This started about six years ago with one faculty member,” said Judith Harvey, director of membership at Yates. “We have more people using it now, and they can choose from three different packages -- just use of the shower, one with towel service and one with towel and locker service.”

In addition to the efforts being made by university offices and departments, students also had their share of projects to display. The GU Sustainable Garden project, led primarily by three students -- Madeline Howard (C’12), Ben Sacher (MSB’12) and Mara Schechter (C’11) -- looks to focus on waste composting and sustainable food consumption in urban gardening.

Through a grant from Georgetown Reimagine -- a partnership between the Corp, The Hoya and the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, the students acquired approval for a plot of land behind Yates to begin the garden.

“We’ve already started (gardening),” Howard said. “We’ve put in a couple of blackberry bushes and some flower seeds but won’t be able to really begin planting the vegetable part of the garden until our raised beds arrive.”

The students hope to begin planting before their April 25 picnic marking the sowing of the garden. They hope to extend the project to the D.C. community.

“(For) kids our age and younger, we think, it’s high time that gardening became something that brings communities together,” Howard added.

She said growing things builds character and offers the bonus of a reliable food source.

“Students are leading (many) initiatives here,” Buckley said. “One thing I found was that so much is going on in little pockets … We just tried to bring them together to see the great impact we can have.”

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