Scripps Seeks to Conserve Water Through Lawn Removal

The Board of Trustees at Scripps College recently approved the
proposal of a lawn removal project on Scripps’ campus at their February 2015 meeting. Scripps’ Sustainability Committee and the Scripps
Water Task Force (SWTF), a student-led club that advocates for water
conservation, have been advocating for this
project since last academic year.

Jessica Ng SC ’15, the
Sustainability Chair for Scripps Association of Students and the founder of
SWTF, initiated the campaign for the project. Ng said that she first saw the
need for lawn removals at Scripps last academic year, when she heard frustration from Scripps students about excessive water usage of the lawns.

“We’ve been looking forward to having these lawns being removed
for a really long time, and we wanted to have an institutional water reduction
rather than students reducing their water usage,” Ng said. “I am really happy that that
proper process of going through the Board of Trustees has been done and can
move forward after this.”

The process of getting the project approved was long but ultimately successful. Ng
said that Lola Trafecanty, the head of the grounds department, played an
important role by submitting a formal proposal to the Board of Trustees. As the proposal
was being reviewed, SWTF demonstrated students’ concern about Scripps’ water
usage through a survey circulated from September to December of last year, which resulted in 100 responses that showed students’
enthusiasm for the lawn removal.

California’s
rebate program for water conservation, which gives financial support
for water conservation projects at districts in California, will help offset the cost for the
project. Trafecanty wrote in an email to TSL that “the College will take
advantage of this opportunity to support additional improvements for outdoor
seating and gathering areas.” 

Kristiana Kim SC ’16, a student in the Buildings and Grounds
Committee wrote in an email to TSL that “some of the lawn will be converted to outdoor communal
spaces with seating areas,” while “others will be replaced with succulents that
will match Scripps’ landscaping style.”

Ng
said that students are enthusiastic and supportive of this project because
it shows Scripps’ commitment to environmental protection.

“I think that lawn removal project is great because it is very
visible,” Ng said. “If you remove a lot of the lawn, people can visibly
notice that Scripps is really trying to be more sustainable. I hope that it
would also be encouraging for students who want to see more institutional
changes at Scripps.”

Katherine Pecoulas SC ’15, a student on the Buildings
and Grounds Committee, also expressed her enthusiasm in an email to TSL.

“As one of the 5C
campuses that has been highly criticized for its high use of water, I think it
is really important that with this decision the college prioritized
sustainability given the current drought in California,” she wrote. “This is such a timely
issue, and by removing some of the lawns, it sends an important message about Scripps commitment to
sustainability and where the college’s priorities lie.” 

Trafecanty emailed the Scripps student body March 23 with further details on the exact locations of the lawn removal project. She wrote that the Grounds Department started working on March 20 at four locations; 1030 Dartmouth House, Dartmouth Parkways, the lawns around the West and East sides of Steele Hall, and the lawn on the East side of Baxter Hall. 

Trafecanty also shared the expected timeline at these four locations. Herbicide will be applied to kill roots in the grass March 20; the lawn will be removed March 31; the areas will be replanted with low water use plants between April 1 and April 8; a new drip irrigation system will be installed by April 12; and a mulch dressing will be applied while plants grow in by April 12.

The project is expected to finish by fall of 2015.

The article was updated April 1 to include further information about the locations and timeline of the project.

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