By Mackenzie Confer
If anything has been thoroughly glossed over in the presidential debates and campaigns, it is most certainly climate change and environmental impact. Bernie Sanders has been quoted as saying climate change is the greatest threat to national security; whether or not you personally agree, environmental impact is something that should be discussed. Salem College is constantly working to enhance its sustainability, or capacity to endure without devastating the environment.
Certain courses on campus, such as ENVS100: Intro to Environmental Studies and SIGN110: Environment and Society, work to not only teach sustainability, but also promote these concepts on campus by incorporating assignments that either teach about ongoing practices, update existing projects, or create new campus sustainability projects. Students in these courses have built rain gardens, edible plant gardens, educated about composting and recycling practices, and are actively working to have watering site for bees.
First year Merritt Enright worked as part of the group that added a rain garden to Salem’s campus this December. Enright said this project would “encourage best stormwater practices and prevent water source pollution.” She went on to say that, “The project helped spread awareness of water pollution issues on campus and offered a fun, interactive way for students to become involved in sustainability efforts.” Dr. Jennifer Alford, the adjunct professor teaching ENVS100, offered bonus points for those individuals helping to dig the garden and even brought her toddler son to join in on the fun; you are never too young to begin learning what you can do to benefit the environment around you.
The Fall 2014 Signature class, SIGN110: Environment and Society, taught by Dr. Dane Kuppinger, started as a class that “gardened and discussed social and environmental injustice” according to sophomore Shandani Tuitt. This class later evolved into Salem’s gardening club; Tuitt says they have even planted gardens by the Refectory dedicated to supplying, “fresh, local grown and pesticide free” vegetables to the campus.
Not only are new practices constantly being introduced and managed on campus, but there are also projects dedicated to educating Salem’s student body of ongoing sustainability. Another ENVS100 group project attempted to teach about the active composting that Salem College does; Gallin’s Family Farm comes weekly to collect compostable materials like excess food from the Refectory and Cafe to be repurposed and reused. They collect roughly seven garbage bags of uneaten food, according to Junior Amanda Blount; this adds to campus food waste reduction. This food would otherwise be left to rot in a landfill. Salem’s chapter of Food Recovery Network is also working diligently each week to reduce food waste.
Salem College is currently doing significant work around its campus to promote sustainable practices and environmentally conscious projects, but could more be done? Enright answers this very genuinely saying, “I think Salem is somewhat behind fellow institutions in sustainability because we are so driven by historical preservation. While protecting historical sites is important, updating building infrastructure to incorporate more eco-friendly practices is not a bad idea.” Tuitt concurs by suggesting that, “Updating the heating systems so we’re not wasting energy,” as well as providing “more education on what can and cannot be recycled.” While there have been educational programs on campus dedicated to educating about that materials can be recycled on campus, first year Danyelle Tilley suggests that making practices more campus wide would be welcomed and advised.