Haverford College Awarded Silver Sustainability Rating
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has awarded Haverford College a silver rating in its 2014 Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), reflecting Haverford’s increased commitment to comprehensive improvements in sustainability.
STARS is a popular survey for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability progress. When Haverford first completed the survey in 2011, it received a bronze rating: the lowest rung on a scale that advances to silver, gold, and platinum. “I was really, very disappointed with the bronze rating,” says Claudia Kent, the College’s sustainability coordinator. “I thought that we could do better than that.”
With that disappointment, however, came a plan: the STARS results provided a framework for future improvements. Over the past three years, new policies and projects have been implemented across campus. For example, the Committee for Environmental Responsibility has guided the adoption of green building standards, the Green Office Program, an Enterprise Car Share, and the new Greening Haverford website. A Tri-College Environmental Studies minor was started in 2011; its first class graduated this May.
Jesse Lytle, chief of staff to the President of the College and chief sustainability officer, emphasizes that the new Silver rating was the result of a collaborative process focused on holistic, long-term improvements in sustainability. “It’s not like there’s one master switch that we can pull to make Haverford more sustainable,” he says. “It’s the accumulation of many micro-decisions we make across campus every day.”
As of now, Haverford plans to attain the STARS gold rating by 2020. Lytle says that in order to reach this goal, the College will have to move past the initial “low-hanging fruit” of sustainability reform, which includes upgrades to inefficient facilities and systems. Since receiving bronze, Haverford has spent $500,000 on energy upgrades, which have saved $100,000 this year alone. “Sustainability is really easy when it pays for itself,” Lytle says, “but choices become harder when there are opportunity costs. We will need to make sure we are investing strategically in high-impact areas.”
One proposal for future investment is the Agricultural Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), which would involve the construction of a greenhouse and attached classroom near the current community gardens. The project was devised by members of the Tri-College Environmental Studies minor during the Haverford Senior Capstone Class. ACES is meant to serve as an interdisciplinary, hands-on “learning laboratory” for student groups and classes. The proposal has received support from faculty members and the Office of the President, and it has raised $28,000 toward the total estimated cost of $226,000.
Both Kent and Lytle agree that the biggest challenge and opportunity moving forward is campus engagement. The CER’s most recent awareness campaign, the Haverford College Building Dashboard, allows visitors to track electricity usage in 14 buildings around campus which have been fitted with special meters. A Sustainability Week is planned for the beginning of September, which will target the first-year students and teach them about environmental programs on campus.
—Sam Fox ’14