The Claremont Colleges are slowly but surely moving toward becoming an environmentally friendly consortium. Past steps toward sustainability include converting 10 percent of Harvey Mudd College’s 500,000 square feet of landscaped area to drought-tolerant landscaping since 2001, Pomona College’s grounds crew reducing grass on campus by 43,402 square feet from 2010 to 2011 alone and Pitzer College decreasing water usage across its campus by nearly 50 percent since 2002. The 5Cs are realizing we live in a desert-like setting, contrary to what our current landscaping might suggest, and thus they are actively planning and executing goals for how to cut down on water usage and become more sustainable.
One of the things the colleges have in common in their sustainability efforts is the utilization of drought-resistant and native plants in order to replace high water use trees and minimize irrigation. By choosing a landscape that requires little maintenance, water can be conserved, and the goal of making the campus more sustainable is better achieved. Other “green” efforts shared by the colleges include drip irrigation systems that use significantly less water than the previously installed spray irrigation system. This saves HMC alone eight million gallons of water per year.
HMC recognizes sustainability as one of this century’s biggest challenges. As part of its new strategic vision, the college is incorporating concepts of sustainability into their academic and daily affairs. In 2008, president Maria Klawe joined with college and university presidents across the country in signing the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which includes adopting green standards for buildings.
Another 69,000 square feet will be converted to drought-tolerant landscaping at HMC, according to the college’s plan. According to an article about sustainability at HMC published in the college’s magazine, goals for the school include decreasing water usage by 40 percent by 2020 so that only local sources need to be utilized, as well as expanding the move to drought-tolerant landscaping and encouraging all five campuses to follow suit.
Though there is still a long way to go toward complete sustainability on the 5Cs, landscaping is an area that has already seen some aggressive conservation efforts. In 2009, Pomona opened a sustainability integration office that is solely responsible for developing and implementing campus sustainability programs. This year, the college welcomed new Sustainability Coordinator Ginny Routhe.
“My goals for this year are to get a clear vision and a clear roadmap for sustainability at Pomona, particularly and specifically a strategic plan for what our end goals are and how we are going to get there,” Routhe said.
Although the sustainability movement at Pomona is only about a decade old, Routhe said she believes it is growing quickly. Pomona’s Sustainability Integration Office has a number of current initiatives that include drought-tolerant plantings to reduce the grass blends, advanced irrigation equipment to ensure that landscaping is watered appropriately, drip irrigation systems to reduce the use of spray and other sprinkler types on campus and reduced watering schedules.
Similarly, Claremont McKenna College is working to establish more sustainable grounds through a campus-wide irrigation control system and implementation of the best practices for landscape maintenance. The college aims to use a mix of native and drought-tolerant plants appropriate to the climate. According to Matthew Bibbens, Vice President for Administration and Planning at CMC, the college “implemented these principles in its recent North Mall project, which incorporates a range of drought-tolerant and climate-appropriate plant materials, and other sustainable features” such as bioswales, landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution.
CMC’s mission is to prepare students to become responsible leaders in business, government and other professions, in part by modeling social and environmental responsibility. The college’s overarching goals for sustainability and landscaping are set forth in their Master Plan, published in May 2012. With respect to sustainability and landscaping, the Master Plan Beliefs include “key planning and design assumptions,” which state that the college’s campus should reflect the utilization of “best practices” with respect to environmentally sustainable design and operation.
For Pitzer, environmental sustainability moves beyond a goal to act as a core value of the college. This means sensitivity to and preservation of the environment is a key value of Pitzer life, and students shape their daily activities and studies to ensure that they leave the environment stronger than they found it. According to Joe Clements, Grounds Manager at Pitzer, future landscaping at the college will revolve around Mediterranean-climate plants and plants that are native to California.
While the grass on the Mounds requires considerable watering, the grounds crew will not eliminate the landscape due to its popularity among students. However, Clements said that Pitzer is “interested in using less water in the future” and will continue to look at “sustainable alternatives.”
Scripps College, known for its lush lawns, has also been reducing its grass for quite some time. According to Lola Trafecanty, Director of Grounds at Scripps, the college has removed lawns from six different locations on campus and replaced them with decomposed granite. It is now working with HMC to decrease lawn areas and “to plant some California native plants and/or drought tolerant plants.” As the college is on the National Register of historic places, it also has the added challenge of looking for possible lawn reductions without impacting the historical significance of the campus.
Yet, as Trafecanty said, “We are definitely looking at becoming more sustainable.”