Small actions add up to big results
Being “green” at Randolph is all about making a series of seemingly small actions add up to big results. Whether it’s local food sourcing in the Dining Hall or at presidential events, an extensive push to recycle on campus, or the pursuit of sustainable renovation practices, the Randolph community is making a difference in the world— and being recognized nationally for its effort.
“I want to know that I helped make a difference in the world, and that I didn’t just sit by idly watching our resources dwindle away.” – Jessy Spencer ’18
For students like Jessy Spencer ’18, helping Randolph become more sustainable is a big part of everyday life. When she’s not pulling weeds and planting vegetables in the College’s Organic Garden or volunteering at the Red Door Café organic coffee shop, she’s distributing bottles of laundry detergent she makes from natural ingredients or encouraging others to recycle. “Sustainability is important to me because I want to be able to pass the Earth down to the next generation with a clean conscience,” Spencer said. “I want to know that I helped make a difference in the world, and that I didn’t just sit by idly watching our resources dwindle away. I think it should be important to everyone because we live here, this is our home. And just as you keep your own household clean, you should keep the Earth clean.”
The collected efforts of students, faculty, and staff have paid off with several high-profile awards and recognitions, including a ranking of 46th in the nation for Top Green Colleges for 2015 by the Princeton Review. The College was also one of just seven schools in the nation to earn a Gold Level Student Actions Award from Purposeful Networks this year. One of the reasons Randolph won the Gold Award was for its strong showing in an eight-week Recyclemania competition, which takes place annually among schools across the country.
More recently, the College was the only higher education institution in Virginia featured in the National Wildlife Federation’s recent publication, The Campus Wild: How College and University Green Landscapes Provide Havens for Wildlife and “Lands-On” Experiences for Students. The publication recognized Randolph’s Organic Garden and the experiences it provides to students. In addition, the Sierra Club named Randolph one of its 2015 Cool Schools. Randolph was just one of two schools in Virginia to earn the honor for sustainability efforts.
At Randolph, sustainability is not limited to the great outdoors. Many professors have incorporated concepts of sustainability into the classroom. John Abell, the Carl Stern Chair of Economics, is having his students read environmentalist Bill McKibben’s book, Deep Economy, which focuses on sustainability. In his Intermediate Macroeconomics course, he introduces students to ecological economics and the work of Herman Daly, author of Beyond Growth.
“I’ve come to know that it is not necessary to have some flagship building on campus that is certified as LEED Platinum or beyond, or to have installed solar panels on every building that sends this unmistakable message that ‘our campus is really green’ to, in fact, be a green campus,” Abell said. “A lot of the day-to-day actions add up, like recycling, turning off the lights, or getting students off campus to explore sustainability efforts in the community.”
A Long-Time Commitment to Sustainability
Students learn about sustainability-related clubs and organizations at the Involvement Fair, which is held in the fall.
The commitment to sustainability is not new at Randolph. In the early 1990s, then Randolph-Macon Woman’s College President Linda Lorimer was among the first college presidents in the United States to sign the Talloires Declaration sponsored by University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. In 2006, Randolph was the first institution in Virginia to sign the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. And the Board of Trustees endorsed a long- term sustainability plan in 2010.
In recent years, a surge in student, faculty, and staff interest has led the College to make many enhancements to its efforts to be environmentally sustainable. Many faculty and staff, including College President Bradley W. Bateman, commute to campus via bike when possible. Students often take advantage of the on- campus bike share program; others volunteer with local organizations such as Lynchburg Grows, an urban farm focused on sustainable food production.
Dining Services staff members often work with students to implement environmentally friendly practices, including the decision to eliminate trays, as well as a student- created program that utilizes reusable and ultimately recyclable to-go containers. And Bateman and his partner, Cyndi Lee, have made a commitment to feature locally grown food options at events at the President’s House, while also working to reduce and eliminate waste by recycling or composting most leftover items.
Sustainability is a long-time passion for Bateman, who has made it a priority for his administration. He said students benefit from seeing College staff and faculty making environmentally friendly choices.
“Not only is it important that we do things green and that are more sustainable, but I think it’s a chance for students to see these as examples so that they can carry the lessons into their own lives after they graduate,” he said.
Setting an Example
Ludovic Lemaitre ’11, sustainability coordinator, shows children at the Randolph College Nursery School a chicken from the Organic Garden.
Many students, like Spencer, are setting their own example. She recently spearheaded the implementation of a “green fee” to fund and encourage even more ways to help the environment. Student Government decided, beginning this fall, to set aside a portion of the fees it collects from students to fund student-proposed campus sustainability projects. To propose a project, students fill out formal applications that go to the Sustainability Council for review. From there, proposals go on to Student Government for final approval.
“The majority of big schools have it, and some of them have accumulated millions of dollars that their students can use for sustainable projects,” Spencer said. “The point of it is to try and get things done on the campus sustainability plan, like getting water bottle fountain stations, solar panels, and permeable pavement. If students tell us they really care about these things, we can make them happen.”
According to Randolph’s Sustainability Coordinator Ludovic Lemaitre ’11, the funding could pay for projects like additional recycling bins around campus, prizes in energy-saving competitions between residence halls, or even a kayak share program.
“The hope is that each project will impact students directly,” he said. “I think we’ll see a lot of good come from this, and it’s not just about the money. It will give students the tools they need to make a difference through their involvement and give them a greater sense of ownership in the projects.”
Students are also planning to merge many of the existing environmentally focused student organizations under the umbrella of the Environmental Club. The hope is that a collective effort from student groups like the Organic Garden, the Red Door Café, and others will produce even greater results on campus.
“Without the accepting and helpful community of Randolph, student initiatives would go nowhere,” Spencer added. “It’s nice to know that people can learn from these ideas as well. And honestly, I feel like the student body has become much better at recycling and turning off lights just within the past year.”