Sustainability Action Plan Unveiled

Pomona College’s Sustainability Integration Office (SIO) held three forums last week in the Frank Dining Hall Blue Room to explain its plans to increase sustainability on campus through the Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), a comprehensive plan developed by students, faculty, and staff at the college over the last few years.

Work toward a more sustainable Pomona started about three years ago, when President David Oxtoby signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007. By signing the commitment, Pomona pledged to take regular emissions inventories, to set goals toward becoming climate neutral, to pursue immediate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to make the school’s action plan a public document.

According to an e-mail sent by Oxtoby to the entire student body, the SAP outlines the school’s goals for sustainability through 2020.

“This plan includes policy changes, technology changes, and more, and will affect a wide variety of offices, departments, and programs,” he wrote.

In 2008, Pomona hired Bowen Close PO ’06 as the college’s Assistant Director for Campus Planning and Maintenance – Sustainability, and she currently oversees the SIO. During the summer of 2009, a group of students worked with Close as sustainability fellows to gather data on the energy, water, and waste usage of each building throughout campus. This data was used in designing and writing the SAP, a process in which students were heavily involved.

At the forum, Close explained that Pomona began planning for a more sustainable campus by looking at what other small, prestigious liberal arts schools were doing on that front. She also emphasized that Pomona wanted to consider ideas from larger universities and the surrounding communities of Claremont and Los Angeles County too. The plan focuses on 11 subtopics relating to sustainability, including administration, education, energy, facilities, food and agriculture, pollution, purchasing, transportation, waste, water, and climate change.

“There is a huge variety of goals in the plan, in topics from education to waste to purchasing and everything in between,” Close said in an e-mail to TSL. “This plan was created for three main reasons: to create a vision and goals for sustainability over the next ten years, to determine our priorities for moving forward, and to create a list of measurable data points with which we’ll assess our progress.”

According to Close, an important first step is establishing metering methods in each building so the school can collect data about energy and water usage.

“One really important thing, with energy especially, is putting in the infrastructure so we can get data,” Close said at the forum. “For the most part we can only make goals for [those things we can measure].”

Chuck Taylor, Pomona Chemistry Professor and Chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (PACS), agreed that the school’s goals for sustainability need to be realistic in order for actual progress to be made.

“We’re trying to make [our goals] as transparent as possible,” he said.

Taylor also emphasized that outreach must be made a primary goal of implementing the SAP. He explained that students must be on board with the project and understand its efforts in order for it to be effective.

“We have tried to be very open and tried to engage different groups on campus,” he said. “I think we’re in a good position [toward] getting campus buy-in on it.”

Nik Tyack PO ‘11, who worked on the Sustainability Action Plan, agreed that it is important for students to be involved with the process, as it will lead to a more sustainable mind-set in the future as students travel beyond college.

“I think there are a lot of people at Pomona who are very into environmental issues,” he said. “It’s a really good document, but I hope it becomes a living document. I hope students, faculty, and staff keep revising it.”

According to Close, the SAP will be edited and reviewed by the school’s Executive Council, which includes six Pomona Vice Presidents and President Oxtoby. The plan will then have to be approved by the Board of Trustees.

Taylor said that if the SAP is approved, PACS will look into hiring a full-time Energy Manager to help with the project. Both Close and Taylor said they were optimistic that SAP would go through.

“We’re hoping to get this approved and formalized before the end of the school year,” Close said.

She added that if the plan is approved, the SIO hopes to work with at least one student over the summer to get the project started.

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