For the first three months of the school year, Pomona College’s Sustainability Integration Office (SIO), with the help of student organization Pomona for Environmental Activism and Responsibility (PEAR), is sponsoring a pledge for students to their reduce environmental impact and promote a variety of green themes on campus.“We wanted to integrate the campaign into orientation for freshmen, but then we decided to expand it to everyone,” said SIO Director Bowen Close.Through their theme for the month of September, called “There is No ‘Away,’” SIO and PEAR aim to educate students about proper waste disposal. The organizations have put stickers on recycling bins telling students what can and cannot be recycled.The organizations also intend for the campaign to increase awareness about the waste produced in Pomona dining halls.The SIO held a food audit from Sept. 17-19 to get an estimate of the amount of food waste left on dining hall plates. The office weighed the food waste, and will be keeping a year-to-year record of the data to monitor the effect of the pledge. A similar study conducted last year showed that 52 tons of food went uneaten over the course of the year, making food waste equal to approximately eight percent of the waste Pomona sends off to the landfill, according to Close.“The goal is to get students to think about where their waste goes, and what they can do about it,” said PEAR leadership team member Samantha Meyer PO ’10.Nate Wilairat PO ’11, an assistant at the SIO, gathered the data for the food audit from the dining halls. According to his work, the average diner wasted 4.87 ounces per meal in the 2008-09 school year, but only 4.38 ounces per meal this year. Extrapolating from this data, Wilairat estimated the school could reduce its waste by almost five tons this school year. He acknowledged, however, that there were certain problems with his research, as the dining halls had dumped some of the waste before he had weighed it for the food audit last year. This led him to base totals on incomplete data.The theme for October is “Power Down.” SIO and PEAR will be encouraging students to reduce their energy consumption through activities that include a residence hall energy reduction competition. The money saved from energy reductions may be used to raise money for a sustainability project.“Energy month has the most at stake,” Close said of the theme for October. “If all residence halls reduce over six percent of their energy used compared to last October, the college will double the amount of money saved to be used toward a sustainable project on campus.”SIO is currently trying to decide on incentives for the winning dormitory as well as what environmental project the savings might be used to fund, Close said.“We have a list of different projects, and it may be that the winning dorm will choose which one we do,” said Joanna Ladd PO ‘10, a leading member of PEAR. “One thing we’re interested in is getting solar panels for the golf carts. Right now they’re electric, so they have to be plugged in at the end of each day, but we could convert them to solar power and eliminate that.”On an individual level, PEAR leadership team member Grace Vermeer PO ’10 said students can turn off lights, unplug appliances, and take shorter showers to save energy. “It’s tough because some people think we don’t have a lot of control over the energy we use,” Vermeer said.Meyer also recommended changing laundry habits to save energy. “Ninety percent of the energy used when doing laundry goes into heating if you only wash in warm water. We’re encouraging people to wash in cold,” Meyer said. “Also, if you use a drying rack instead of a dryer, you’re not using any energy.”Along with the residence hall energy challenge, SIO and PEAR plan to post signs with energy facts, and get students to pledge to reduce their personal energy consumption. The organizations will also host film screenings and perform lightbulb retrofits, replacing older lightbulbs with more energy-efficient models.In November, the organizations’ theme will be “Every Drop Counts” to promote water conservation on campus. Because SIO and PEAR are unable to track water usage exclusively from the residence halls, the campaign will focus more heavily on promoting awareness, similar to the “There is No ‘Away’” campaign. Plans for the “Every Drop Counts” theme include a campaign to remove bottled water from Pomona’s campus.To pledge, students can log on to http://www.pomonasustainabilitypledge.com. The Web site allows students to choose one or more commitments. Once students pledge online, a sticky note will be placed on their door, displaying their promise to others. The sticky note system is a change from previous years, when a large piece of paper was placed on doors.“We used to stick a huge piece of paper on their door that described what they had promised to do, but we were concerned about the amount of paper we were using,” Meyer said. “We wanted to reduce paper usage, so we had people pledge online this year. The sticky note acts as representation of their pledge. It’s still visible, so it can inspire others to pledge too, but it uses a lot less paper.”Students who pledge will also be entered into a raffle for a 21 Choices gift certificate.
Pomona Asks Students to Pledge to Help Environment