Fisher’s campus is becoming more sustainable, but still has a long way to go

Tony Power for Bausch & Lomb delivers a presentation about becoming a more sustainable institution in Basil 135
Tony Power for Bausch & Lomb delivers a presentation about becoming a more sustainable institution in Basil 135

By Evan Bourtis, Staff Writer 

After a presentation on Jan. 17 from Bausch & Lomb’s Tony Power about sustainable institutions, members of the Fisher community began to realize that Fisher has a long way to go before it becomes a sustainable campus.

“Unless you understand the consequences from a sustainability point of view, from understanding what impact your processes have on the environment, your behaviors won’t change,” said Power.

Power, the director of environmental health and sustainability, delivered the presentation in the middle of Fisher’s transition to becoming a more sustainable campus. The most recent change is the creation of the Center for Sustainability in the Fall of 2017. The Center for Sustainability, an organization of students and faculty, works to reduce Fisher’s fossil fuel usage, energy usage and waste, and encourage students to volunteer in the community.

Although students and faculty members like Dr. Michael Boller have created many programs to inspire Fisher students to become more sustainable, Boller believes that the Fisher community still needs to become more environmentally conscious.

“I think that we need to do more to help everyone understand what it [sustainability] really means,” said Boller, who teaches biology and sustainability. “So I think there’s support but not enough knowledge.”

Just like Power said, Boller explained that making students aware of the consequences for not being mindful of the environment is important for creating sustainability.

A lesson that sustainability minor Erin Turpin took away from Power’s lecture was that becoming sustainable requires the participation and mindfulness of all members of a community, such as Fisher’s students and faculty.

“I think students could be a lot more mindful of their recycling and composting, as well as energy usage in their dorms and stuff like that,” said Turpin.

Through the Center for Sustainability, Boller hopes to make improvements in energy usage and food waste from the dining hall, and increase the number of students who recycle. He mentioned that when people don’t recycle correctly, it costs the school more money.

“We recently got a report back that suggests that, although we have a really good setup for recycling…we’re not really doing a good job of executing that recycling on campus,”  said Boller.

He believes that informing students about what items are recyclable and encouraging them to think about where their trash should go will help eliminate the problem.

“I think that we need to do more to help everyone understand what it [sustainability] really means. So I think there’s support but not enough knowledge.” – Dr. Michael Boller

Turpin is hopeful that the Center for Sustainability will help make changes in Fisher’s ecological footprint and encourage students to be more mindful of their environmental impact.

“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, since it’s [the Center for Sustainability] still a newer thing…But I think there’s a lot of potential and a lot of hope,” Turpin said.

One event at Fisher that aims at making students more mindful of their consumption is Waste Wednesday. On several Wednesdays throughout the year, volunteers sort food waste from Lackmann into compostable waste and landfill waste, which makes students mindful of how much food they are throwing out. Although Boller sees this as effective, he would like students to think about their waste everyday, not just on Wednesdays.

The Center for Sustainability has also started to work with Student Life to encourage students to use less energy in the residence halls. This will be accomplished by providing programs that will encourage students to think about their resource consumption.

Another change that the Center for Sustainability aims at making is improving public transportation on campus. Boller is working with several students to improve the bus services on campus by collaborating with Regional Transit Service (RTS).    

In addition to this, the Center for Sustainability hopes to encourage the campus to use more renewable energy. Although Fisher currently operates on almost exclusively power plant electricity, Boller said that there’s been some conversation with Facilities Services about purchasing energy from a solar park.

Another part of becoming a more sustainable campus is designing ecologically-friendly buildings. Fisher has taken on this challenge by creating the Integrated Sciences and Health Sciences Building (IHIS), completed in 2015, to comply with entry level sustainable building standards set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Some aspects that make the IHIS building more sustainable is that it has more efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), a living wall of plants, and reduced waste in the building process.

The building’s design also focuses on providing a better environment to work in, such as allowing for more natural lighting and using low volatile organic compound paint (VOC), a branch of solvents that can cause headaches and dizziness if inhaled for too long.  

Boller would like to see Fisher take the LEED certification of IHIS a step further by adding features that would reduce energy and water usage.

“Dr. Rooney has said that he would like future construction to be done to those LEED standards, such that, when we are thinking about new building, we’re thinking about their energy design,” said Boller.

In addition, Boller said he would like Fisher to incorporate a green roof and a rooftop made from plants and soil, which will insulate the building and reduce storm water runoff. He is also supports installing a rainwater collection system and solar panels.

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