“Sustainability entails maintaining the biophysical and social systems that we rely on as humans. This happens on a global stage, but also in very local scenarios,” says Zachary Fox ’21, who is majoring in environmental studies. “To me, working toward sustainability is exciting because it involves not just preventing worst-case disasters, but also creating communities that are more vibrant, efficient and resilient.”
At Hiram College, members of the community have been leading efforts to encourage sustainability on campus and educating on the importance of environmental health. However, sustainability efforts are not new at the College. Administrators affirmed the importance of environmental consciousness during the construction of several facilities, including LEED certifications for the Frohring Lab and Visitor Center at the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station in 2007 and the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Center, which includes the East Hall residence hall, in 2009. In 2010 and 2012, the campus installed several solar arrays, located on the Les and Kathy Coleman Sports, Recreation and Fitness Center and on the north end of campus near the Gelbke Fine Arts Center and Central Services.
Today, thanks in part to the student leaders of the Sustainable Development Committee, additional efforts are underway to continue to promote environmental consciousness. Students have been working with staff in several areas related to the College’s operations to collaborate on sustainable practices that departments can put in place. Recently, in cooperation with the College’s groundskeeping and maintenance partner, ABM Industries, groundskeepers have been giving new life to some of the campus’s older trees that needed removed. Carpenters were able to take the wood from a sugar maple tree near Bowler Hall and transform into benches and other furniture to be placed in buildings and around campus.
Visitors to the Dining Hall may notice educational signage inside, informing patrons of the cheese, milk, produce and pork that Hiram’s dining and catering partner, AVI Foodsystems, has been able to locally source. Although it varies from season to season, meals at the Dining Hall often include ingredients sourced from several farms, creameries and manufacturers located within a five-mile radius of campus. Visitors to the Dining Hall may also notice signage regarding the College’s new composting program.
Students from the Sustainable Development Committee have built wooden boxes, placed close to the Dining Hall, to convert food waste into reusable compost. According to Fox, who helped spearhead the project, “The composting is important because it prevents a great amount of methane from being produced, as it would if the food waste was being sent to a landfill. The end result is an organic alternative to fertilizers that can be used on campus, at the Field Station and at local small farms.” Walking to and from their residence halls, students in the Townhouses may see the boxes daily, a visible reminder of the ongoing sustainability efforts at Hiram. “The compost program is also very important as an initial sustainability project because it is something everyone on campus is closely connected with, as everyone eats each day,” says Fox. “We hope that this program will help students consider the downstream impacts of the decisions they make daily.”
As the 2020-21 academic year nears its end, the campus community will see more programs in the future encouraging environmental health. The Varlotta Green, centrally located between many administrative and academic buildings, will be redesigned to make better use of the outdoor space with the help of the Credo Higher Education Consulting Team. The College is also establishing a new committee to lead students, faculty and staff in sustainability efforts. To read more about Hiram College’s sustainability initiatives, click here.