Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Called to Protect

There is a major study happening in the landscape of higher education this year. Throw in the words “sustainability,” “recycling” and “research,” and you can guarantee our own Mark Stowell of Physical Plant is there. The winner of a Green Binny Award for recycling, Stowell has been faithfully working to make our campus community more sustainable since 1989—placing Gordon as a leader in the recycling movement. Last summer Gordon joined the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and became a charter member of their new STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System) program. Stowell, Paul Helegesen, director of physical plant and sustainability, and faculty member Dr. Dorothy Boorse, biology, are leading the largest sustainability assessment we’ve undergone as an institution.

“We are doing a year-long assessment of sustainability across the institution,” said Boorse. “While it gives us a needed snapshot of where we are now, the assessment will help move us forward and focus our efforts.” Stowell agrees, “It’s very comprehensive. This study will challenge us to look at the entire campus and see areas we aren’t doing well or programs we could possibly begin.”

As a biologist Boorse knows about the outcomes of unsustainable practices and teaches Gordon students the importance of protecting the natural world. “I feel especially called to protect species just as much as I am called to care for the poor and the oppressed. Environmental degradation is leading to loss of species,” said Boorse. “That loss creates further injustice for people and countries most vulnerable.”

Gordon’s current sustainable practices are making improvements to our world every day, and there are many things we should be proud of. The cleaning supplies are greener, the Physical Plant fleet is low-energy, hazardous waste is low, water is protected, energy-efficient lights line our ceilings, and current students, through Advocates for a Sustainable Future, demonstrate our Restore Creation philosophy through leadership and education. Physical Plant personnel, under the leadership of Helgesen, have been a big part of making the institution so sustainable. Stowell is particularly pleased about a current project. “Our next project is one of the cooler ones,” said Stowell. “We will finally be composting in Lane.” Gordon began its first composting test three years ago behind a residence hall. “The dining hall is where we should really get some results, and the best part of it is that our product will be going to help a local farm.”

STARS will give Gordon a rating such as platinum, gold, or bronze. The College can look into improvements based on their assessment, and once changes are made, Gordon may resubmit for new scoring consideration. “It gives us a benchmark to measure by,” said Boorse. In addition to Helegesen, Stowell and Boorse, the sustainability audit team includes students Sarah Bishop and Aaron Nelson.
Photo: Gordon students perform research along the nearby Atlantic coastline.

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