Section: News

Kenyon strives for sustainability

Kenyon strives for sustainability

By Maya Lowenstein

Red, digital numbers record the number of plastic water bottles saved by students using the new eco-friendly water fountains installed around campus, such as in Olin and Chalmers Libraries. Yet Kenyon’s environmental impact is much larger than a few plastic bottles. It extends to a multitude of ways students on campus utilize local resources.

Kenyon’s website states that the College “recognizes that it has a responsibility to its students, the surrounding community and future generations to make conscious decisions that reflect the changing nature of the environment.”

“Kenyon has made a lot of strides but we still have far to go,” Lauren Johnstone ’15, co-coordinator of the Environmental Campus Organization (ECO), said.  A a hub for environmental awareness on campus, ECO has committed itself to improving Kenyon’s sustainability.

PEAS, or People Endorsing Agrarian Sustainability, promotes local foods and sustainable agriculture. The heads of PEAS, who act as liaisons between Kenyon and the local farming community, are Katie Leisek ’17 and Laura Gumpert ’17. Leisek said there should be more “awareness of foods in season” by students so as to improve their perspective on local food. “People are disappointed when their favorite vegetable isn’t available year-round,” she said. In addition, Gumpert would like Kenyon to address the “lack of compost bins in the NCAs and New Apartments.”

In conjunction with the hard work of Kenyon’s maintenance team and dining service and partner, AVI, the College has “a very comprehensive composting program,” according to Kenyon’s chief business officer, Mark Kohlman. In an email, Kenyon’s grounds manager, Steven Vaden, wrote that the food waste from Peirce is combined with yard waste and waste from organic labs to create mulch; this material is then used to improve the soil in areas for seeding, shrub and flower beds and for the topdressing of athletic fields.

Kenyon’s  sustainability efforts have focused on energy and waste water, gas and electric power, according to Kohlman. “Last year we completed a big energy conservation project,” Kohlman said. This project included the “retrofitting of lighting fixtures, heat fixtures, a steam plan upgrade and other waste water upgrades to reduce the amount of electricity, gas and water that is used at Kenyon.” According to Kohlman, during the project’s first year there was a 25-percent reduction of energy being used. Last year was not as successful however, due to the harsh winter.

Kohlman said Kenyon is in “transition right now” in regard to initiatives on campus for sustainability and long-term project.  Ed Neal, Kenyon’s former director of sustainability, was recently let go, an event Kohlman said was “not related to Kenyon’s transition in sustainability.” He said he could not speak further on the matter.

Kenyon is working on incorporating its sustainability plans with academic programs. “This year we are reframing sustainability and how it functions at Kenyon with an eye towards better integration within the academic programs that support sustainability issues around Kenyon,” Kohlman said. Agreeing with Kohlman’s sentiments, Johnstone, an international studies major with an environmental focus, attributed Kenyon’s lack of an environmental studies major to a weaker environmental mindset on campus. “Sustainability needs to be part of our goals,” Johnstone said. “It has to be implemented in every corner of campus.”


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