Wheaton turns a new leaf on sustainability

Wheaton College has never been greener, but there is still room to grow. With the new LEED Silver certification of Chase, in addition to the LEED Gold certified Mars Center for Science and Technology, we clearly have sustainability on our minds. But is it enough? According to Giovanna Bishop ‘17, president of Farm Club, there is a lot to be proud of, but we are not quite there yet. “Sustainability on campus hasn’t been made a priority,” said Bishop.

Wheaton College is facing an uphill battle when it comes to sustainability on campus. A petition last year to add honeybees to Wheaton’s garden collection was disregarded due to concerns about liability. The Farm Club has had no success in obtaining permission to use more land, a move which could potentially allow the introduction of home-grown food on our dining hall menus. Instead, Wheaton has just signed another contract with Aramark, which will leave many students still hoping for more at their dining halls.

Brian Douglas, the college’s Vice President for Finance and Administration began reaching out to students, faculty and other member of staff and the administration last semester regarding the formation of a sustainability committee. This plan has not yet come to fruition this semester.

However, Douglas asserted that he had every intention of realizing the committee fully within the next months. The committee will work to shape better and more organized long-term sustainability goals for Wheaton to pursue in the coming years. A committee comprised of both students and members of the administration should hopefully help foster better communication channels, a problem Alden cited as inhibiting sustainability efforts at Wheaton.

“We must do better about communication,” says Douglas. With better communication, Wheaton can hopefully see an improved sense of overall awareness and engagement. Katrina Alden ‘17, president of ECCO house, spoke of a desire to change the campus perspective so as to create a culture of sustainability that can be ingrained in the minds and hearts of all Wheaton students.

While there is no denying that Wheaton can always make greater strides towards better practices in sustainability, this lack of communication has let some initiatives fall away from the eyes of students. Douglas cites the solar field that is being constructed in a field on Clapp Street (off of Taunton Ave.) as an example of such. Wheaton granted the land to Walden Renewables for the construction of two solar fields that will produce 1.3 megawatts of energy that will be sourced into the grid. In addition, solar panels are also being installed on the roof of the old science center and Haas, an investment which Douglas says will save the college $15-20 thousand per year.

While these two solar panel projects are a definite step in the right direction, are these projects a demonstration of Wheaton’s commitment to sustainability or merely a positive public relations move? Many of Wheaton’s buildings are in serious need of renovations such as better insulation, new windows, and improved heating systems. All of these renovations would greatly improve efficiency and in turn save Wheaton money. These suggestions were also voiced by Alden, who hopes that cooperation and sharing of ideas will result from the new committee on sustainability. For now, Wheaton students must demand that we as a campus and as a community take issues and questions of sustainability seriously and continue to demand positive change.