Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From Waste to Stewardship—Class Project Inspires New Practices

Students in SW401 Community and Sustainability, taught by Diana Schor, wanted to make an impact in environmental sustainability on campus. They wanted to see waste at Gordon decrease, and worked together on a composting research project that has inspired many in our campus community.

The 18 students, working a total of 815 hours on research, completed their findings last semester and produced three products—a 52-page main report, composting pamphlets and a photodocumentary.

Today many of their recommendations have been adopted by the College or are being carefully considered in future plans, and 70 percent of the student population now better understand the importance of residence hall composting.

Working with faculty and staff at Gordon, secondary research in professional journals, and a site visit to Tufts University, they generated three products:
Gordon College Composts: From Waste to Opportunity—a detailed report that includes 52 pages on composting; Gordon’s commitment to environmental stewardship; results from recent initiatives; and recommendations.
Composting Photodocumentary—a visual educational tool for student awareness.
A Gordon College Guide to: Campus Composting—a printed guide to improving current practices and help expansion.

The main report begins with inspiring words from President Carlberg. Though the quote is a few years old, it set the tone for the importance of the data and student recommendations that followed. “As a Christian I am convinced I must be a good steward of the environment. I personally practice creation care as consistently as I am able. Conserving our natural resources is a vital part of our God-given plan for the world community. I hope many in our Gordon community will join me in taking the small steps which will result in a greener world for generations to come. It is not an option; it is a mandate.”

“It’s only one piece out of a much larger picture,” said Schor. “The students’ research project was very similar to consultancy projects that M.B.A. students must complete as a graduation requirement. Through their work, students learned team work, interpersonal and communication skills and also sharpened their interviewing and research skills.” Though Gordon has been composting yard waste for 15 years to top dress our athletic fields, and voluntary composting has been available for students in Bromley and Tavilla for three years, the findings and proposals from this new research provided excellent information for expansion. In January Gordon began composting preconsumer waste in Dining Services, and we’re now averaging 200–600 pounds per week. Also, this semester Physical Plant began offering composting to all students in any residence hall on campus. The campus-wide program, though only initiated in recent months, has received several requests for composting buckets in residence halls.

Photo: Gordon students visited Brick End Farm in Hamilton on Thursday to learn more about one of the state’s largest organic composting farms.
Read more about students working on sustainable projects online.

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