Pomona College announced progress on its sustainability initiatives earlier this month, declaring a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 through a movement dubbed CN 2030. Its initiatives, dubbed the Sustainability Action Vision Education, began as a movement in the sustainability office to enforce a healthier and more eco-friendly environment on campus.
If conducted as planned, both initiatives would mean a zero net carbon footprint by 2030, but the practicality of this project is up for debate. Divest Pomona, a student group advocating Pomona cut ties to fossil fuel companies, claims that Pomona has not taken steps to divest, but would not provide additional information.
Nevertheless, many students have faith in Pomona’s plan for environmental sustainability. Abby Lewis PO ’19, who has been an active member of the sustainability office since her first year, believes the SAVE plan is feasible.
“Within the student body and from the administration there’s a lot of interest in environmental issues, and people really recognize the importance of getting to this point,” Lewis said. “With that commitment, it will definitely be possible to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.”
Of course, this does not mean there are no potential obstacles.
“One of the setbacks is making sure everyone is on board, whether that is with getting every department to purchase sustainable paper or getting students to reduce their water usage,” Lewis said. “It requires the cooperation of everyone on campus, and not just a central commitment by the office.”
The SAVE plan isn’t the only initiative boosting environmental sustainability awareness at Pomona. According to Lewis, groups like EcoReps – which designates one student in each first-year dorm to serve as a resource for first-years to learn about sustainable living – have strengthened on campus, and their yearly meetings with sponsor groups during orientation have ensured that every first-year has the opportunity to get involved.
Head EcoRep Alex Seidel PO ’18 said one of the biggest goals for the sustainability office is eliminating all types of waste, including food and electricity.
“Energy is one of the biggest components of our carbon footprint on campus,” Seidel said. “EcoReps do a lot to contribute to that – whether it be through the drying rack [rental] program or the Power Down competition across the 5Cs.”
Seidel said it would be difficult to create a 5C-wide movement to reduce the schools' carbon footprint, because many of the programs are focused on infrastructure, which differs drastically among schools. But “as members of the 5Cs, we can all individually work to reduce our energy use,” she said.
Each school has its own take on environmental consciousness and what that entails. Scripps College has the Scripps Edibles program, Pitzer College employs the Green Bikes program, and Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College have schoolwide movements to reduce carbon emissions.
Lewis said the best way to reduce the 5C carbon footprint is through individual choices.
“Personal changes are important to increase awareness for bigger issues,” she said. “When you reduce water, you also think about how the institution using water and how global water systems operate.”