This fall, the Dartmouth Sustainability Office kicked off a new program --- the Sustainability Corps, a team of student analysts who work with Office staff to prioritize and conduct measurement and assessment studies recommended in the Our Green Future report.
“One of the most exciting opportunities working on sustainability in the University context is to use our campus as a living laboratory for sustainability challenges, and for students to experience problem solving," says Director of Sustainability, Rosi Kerr. “As we were looking at Dartmouth’s operations and potential goals, it became clear to us that engaging students in the process and remaining true to our core mission was a critical priority. The first thing we needed to do was understand the data ... That’s something that students are actively learning to do in their time here, so it was a natural step to engage students in data gathering and analysis about campus operations.”
The Sustainability Corps contains a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors, who work in three teams on different areas of campus operations: Energy and Utilities, Waste and Materials, and Data and Analytics. “One of the goals of the year is to complete a substantial portion of the AASHE STARS Report (Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System)” says Marcus Welker, Sustainability Corps Program Manager. “Each team will provide a different part of analysis, and our data team will do a lot of heavy lifting in completing the report.”
The Energy and Utilities team hit the ground running by improving and verifying Dartmouth’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Welker believes this is a priority. “We want to make sure this data is as accurate and complete as possible. This is important because some of the most significant goals and some of the ones that are the most difficult to achieve are those that relate to the College’s greenhouse gas footprint. Most of that comes from energy and utilities emissions.”
The Waste and Materials group is charged with a similar task. The team began the term by familiarizing themselves with and developing a deeper understanding of the campus waste system. “Waste is increasing, but the rate of recycling is going down” says Welker. “Students are working on figuring out why those changes are happening.” In addition to their data projects, the team is partnering with Student Assembly and a focus group of faculty and members of the College Administration to develop a strategy for best communicating how to navigate the campus waste system.
The Corps Data team, meanwhile, is breaking new ground by working on Dartmouth’s water data. “We are for the first time evaluating the amount of water consumed on campus and thinking critically about that,” Welker explains. “To my knowledge, this is something Dartmouth has never done before, and it’s exciting to engage students in the process.”
As Sustainability Corps Intern, Kate Salamido ‘19 works closely with all three Corps teams. Having participated in a number of other Sustainability Programs, she is excited to be part of some of the “behind the scenes operational work.” She says she is excited to share what she’s learning to empower other students to get involved with campus operations. “Ultimately the goal of the program is to make operational sustainability something that students have contact with, are familiar with, and have opinions on that they can share with each other. I think this is three to four years down the road, but we’re committed to laying the groundwork for a future in which operational sustainability is a part of every student’s education at Dartmouth.”