Monday, December 10, 2012

Annual Winter Break Energy Conservation Initiative

It is that time of year again, time for Saint Mike's annual Winter Break Energy Conservation Initiative.  YAY! Time to save on unnecessary heating fuel and heating costs (and reduce our CO2 output as well). 

Each year, when the students leave for break and faculty/staff are away from their offices from Christmas to New Year's, the wonderful team in our HVAC department turns the thermostats down in each building and residential area.  Here's what to expect this year:
  • all unoccupied dorms/townhouses will be set at 60 degrees on Friday, December 14th (in the afternoon)
  • Administrative/Academic buildings will be lowered to 60 degrees on the afternoon of December 21st and will be raised back to normal temperatures of 70 degrees on January 2nd
  • Campus residence halls/townhouses will be reset to 70 degrees on January 12th
Tips on how to save on energy costs at your home:
  • turn your thermostat down!  For every degree you lower your thermostat around the clock, you can save 2-3% in energy costs.  If you lower your heat from 72 to 65 for 8 hours a day, you could save as much as 10% on annual heating costs!
  • seal up any drafty doors/windows (for doors you can geet weather-stripping and door sweeps; for windows you could caulk any gaps and cracks around the frames or get one of the kits available in hardware stores)
  • make sure to keep radiators, baseboard heaters and durance duct openings clean and free from objects blocking the heat
  • If you want to go the extra mile, consider getting a home energy audit (you could save up to 30% on your energy bills by working with a Home Performance Energy Star contractor:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Electronics: The Good and the Bad

Today is America Recycles Day (of course, at SMC, EVERY day is recycle day)!

Did you know that in the state of Vermont, electronics are banned from the landfill?  They are and have been since January 2011!  That means it’s illegal for students, staff and faculty to put any type of electronic device/object in the dumpsters. 

The Toxic Side of our Electronics
Why are electronics banned from the landfill?  They contain toxic materials (such as lead, mercury, chromium, brominated flame-retardants, beryllium, arsenic, phthalates etc.!) that are harmful to humans, wildlife and our environment.  Electronics should be recovered and recycled or disposed of responsibly so that all those toxic materials don't end up in our bodies, animals and our surrounding environment. 

Saint Michael’s Responsible Disposal of Electronics
At Saint Mike’s, we make every effort to make sure electronics from our campus are responsibly taken care of.  How?  For the past four years we have partnered with Good Point Recycling, one of the region’s leading “e-waste” recycling operations based in Middlebury.  Good Point is operated by American Retroworks Inc, a nationally recognized electronic recycling company and a respected expert in “Fair Trade Recycling.”  By using Good Point, we ensure that the electronics from our campus do not end up in backyard recycling operations in developing countries.  Learn more about Good Point:

The Bad Side of E-Waste
There are unfortunately some companies out there that find it more “expensive” to properly recycle electronic items.  For them, they feel that there is more money to be had by shipping the electronics to developing countries (India, Nigeria, Ghana, China) where they end up in backyard recycling operations.  Here, workers have very little safety protection to handle the electronics: workers will smash and burn them to retrieve the valuable metals inside.  This process exposes not only the workers, but the surrounding environment as well, to the horrible toxics inside.
Thanks to the college’s Electronic Recycling Program and our wonderful crew in Facilities, we’ve kept over 29 tons of electronics out of the landfill.   Is that a good number though?  Is the graph indicating a good trend or a negative trend?  On one hand, great, we’ve kept so many tons of electronics out of our landfills and have ensured that they’ve been properly disposed of.  On the other hand, the trend, in my opinion, is not encouraging at all.  Why are we throwing away so much stuff??  As the person who runs the electronic recycling program and whose office is in the same building where it’s all stored, more than half of the items I see are still in good working condition!  We’ve become a society that is constantly yearning for the next big/new/flashy thing in technology and doesn’t think about the implications of tossing out an item for another…year after year.

If I can’t put my electronics in the dumpsters on campus, what do I do?
Faculty and Staff à place a work order in the Physical Plant work order system to have the items picked up by Facilities and brought to our Electronic Storage area (for college owned items only, for personal electronics from home go to )
Students à Make arrangements to bring your obsolete electronics to our Electronic Storage area on North Campus – contact me, the Sustainability Coordinator, for more details

For a good study/work break, check out this informative video on electronic recycling:

Monday, October 8, 2012

SMC Celebrates Fair Trade Month

Did you know that October is Fair Trade Month?  Did you also know that last Spring, Saint Michael’s College joined a small number of colleges that have been given Fair Trade designation?

Thanks to a lot of wonderful hard work and persistence by the student Food Justice Club, their advisor Professor Jeffrey Ayres and the Fair Trade Committee, Saint Michael’s College became the first college in Vermont to be acknowledged as Fair Trade on February 23, 2012 (by the organization Fair Trade Colleges and Universities: .)

Fair Trade Universities states that “When you choose to purchase Fair Trade products, you are endorsing an economic system that provides opportunities for producers to lift themselves out of poverty. Fair Trade provides assurances to consumers that producers are paid fair prices for their products and labor. It gives them more direct market access which removes many of the “middle-men” who traditionally have absorbed the majority of the profits. In addition, Fair Trade provides a set of requirements that assure consumers that strict standards have been met to protect the environment, build economic sustainability, empower women, and allow opportunities for education, poverty alleviation, and health care.”

Criteria to be a Fair Trade College:
1)      Establish a Fair Trade Committee
2)      Make Fair Trade products available in campus dining venues
3)      Use fair trade products at campus meetings & events
4)      Commit to fair trade education each semester
5)      Pass a resolution outlining the above requirements by Student Association, Faculty Assembly and Administration

Fair Trade Products in the Dining Hall and Campus Cafes
In support of this campaign, Sodexo has the following fair trade products on campus: coffee, tea, sugar, and bananas (when available).  You can also request these fair trade products through catering!

Accomplishments and Upcoming Events
This Fall marks the first full semester as a Fair Trade college and already the Food Justice Club is hard at work on Fair Trade initiatives:
(1)   Helped with the 3rd Annual Forum on Fair Trade Business on 9/29 in Burlington:
(2)   Organizing the upcoming Fair Trade Market on campus!  Thursday 10/18, 11:45- 1:15 in the Farrell Room.  There will be speakers and many vendors with Fair Trade products.  Be on the lookout for more details.
(3) Looking for opportunities to increase fair trade products on campus!
Want to get involved and/or learn more?  Join the Food Justice Club or become part of the Fair Trade Committee, contact Jeffrey Ayres ( for info.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

SMC Thinks Outside the Bottle (the Water Bottle that is)

This semester, Saint Michael’s College has officially joined a small, but fast growing number, of forward-thinking college campuses that have kicked the water bottle habit!   Thanks to a lot of hard work by the student environmental club Green Up, the Office of Sustainability, many students, staff and faculty supporters, our campus has banned the sale of bottled water.  With an expanding Sustainability Program, growing Environmental Studies program and a community that focuses on social justice this was a no brainer move for the college. 

A college campus is the perfect environment for an initiative such as this.  It’s a place where we push our students and one another to be better, to make informed decisions and always look to how our actions impact the present and future generations.  Sometimes we just need a little push to get to that place ;)

In the Spring of 2009 Green up and the Office of Sustainability put together a Water Awareness week where we started to educate the campus about the impacts of bottled water.  Over the next couple of years educational programs continued and green up kept observing the general mood on campus about a possible water bottle ban.  Last Spring the timing seemed right and they took the appropriate steps to initiate such a ban:

(a) Collected more than 1/3 of the student body signatures favoring the ban
(b) Created a resolution on the ban that was passed by the Student Association
(c) Had the resolution passed by the Faculty Assembly
(d) Received approval from the Cabinet

The Specifics
1.      No bottled water sold in the campus bookstore, cafes or vending machines on campus
2.      Bottled water will not be provided at campus events (with the only exception being Commencement, Athletic Events and Admissions events)
3.      Campus clubs/organizations cannot use their budget money to purchase bottled water

Why is our campus doing this?
We are Saint Michael’s College after all, we love a good challenge that requires us to keep thinking forward and not backwards.  In case that is not reason enough for you, here are a handful of facts that led the campus to make this decision:
  1. 86% of plastic bottles are NOT recycled so they end up in our lakes, streams, oceans and landfills
  2. Tap water is more strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency than bottled water is by the Food and Drug Administration
  3. The Champlain Water District supplies campus with some of the best, cleanest water in the nation (and tests our water monthly)
  4. Half of all bottled water sold is simply tap water in a plastic bottle (including Dasani, which had been for sale on campus before the ban)
  5. We have water bottle refill stations at fountains all over campus (Alliot, Cheray, Jean Marie, Library, Founders, Tarrant and Sloane with plenty more to come this fall)
  6. If you bought the daily recommended amount of water in a bottle from the bookstore, you would spend $1,971 in 1 year; filling up a reusable water bottle for the same amount of water in 1 year: no cost to staff, faculty, students and visitors
  7. The majority of our campus community (students, staff and faculty) pushed for this
  8. SMC is the perfect campus for this since we are a community that fosters innovative, creative thinking

What you can expect in the future?
You can expect continued education programs and events on the impact of bottled water.  You will start seeing posters/signage about the ban popping up around campus.  We view this initiative as something that will only get better and better with time.  The students and Office of Sustainability will constantly be looking at new opportunities and we look forward to working closely with everyone on campus to identify areas to improve to meet everyone’s needs.  You can also expect more refill stations!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recycling: How Are We Doing and How Can We Improve?

Chittenden Solid Waste District requires that every resident, business and institution in the county separates recyclables from their trash (Solid Waste Management Ordinance).   On campus, we’ve been working hard over the past few years to make Recycling SUPER EASY!

In the Office of Sustainability, we have been working over the years to create a Recycling/Trash system that requires the same amount of effort (even less!) to recycle items as it does to send items to the landfill.  It’s up to you to send the item to its appropriate destination.

With that said, how have we been doing over the years?
Overall, since 2007 the tonnage of items we send to the landfill has been trending downward while tonnage of recyclable items has been increasing.   Our recycling rate has also more than doubled since 2007.

Sounds good right?  Yes, but there’s more to it than that.  While recycling tonnage has steadily been increasing, it concerns me that from 2010-2011 our trash tonnage is on the rise again.  In a “perfect” world, our trash would continue to decrease and recycling continue to increase while eventually both leveling off (when we would essentially be recycling 100% of what could be recycled on campus) and consuming very very little of what has to be sent to the landfill when no longer serving its intended purpose.  

The easy part now is making sure what can be recycled is recycled (if anyone looks in the trash and recycling containers scattered about campus it is clear that we aren’t doing an A+ job on this).  So let’s roll up our sleeves and be a bit more conscientious about how we dispose of items.

Everyone should be A+ recyclers!  Here’s a snapshot of our easy on-campus system to make this possible: 
  • BLUE bins are for recycling ; Black bins for Trash
  • All-in-one system: you don’t have to sort the different recyclables, they can all go together in a recycling bin (paper, cardboard, glass, plastic 1-7 etc…)
  • Recycling bins/receptacles are everywhere!:
     ---every building, every floor in the hallways (several on each floor), in your offices, next to trash bins, every class room  [recycling bins have been known to walk away from their location, so if there’s a spot that needs a recycling container let me know!]
    ---Residence Halls/Townhouses: in your dorm room, on each floor in the Trash/Recycling rooms
    ---Outside – Green Up SMC over the years has purchased 6 outdoor recycling receptacles
  • **NO Styrofoam-- NO plastic bags-- NO plastic wrapping—NO paper coffee cups**
    --Detailed list:

    Posters that have pictures of what can be recycled are posted in Residence Halls and above
    most hallway recycling bins.  Here’s a quick run-down of what goes in your BLUE bin:
          --- Glass Bottles & Jars

          --- plastic containers, emptied of contents (must be labeled #1-7)
          --- metal food & beverage cans & aluminum
          --- mixed paper
  • Think about what you purchase, part of being better recyclers is also being better consumers.  Do you really need all that stuff??  For example, if you print a lot of brochures and you find yourself having boxes and boxes left unopened when it’s time to update that brochure, stop and think if perhaps you can reduce the number you print (save paper and money!--- both on the cost of printing it but also on the cost of disposal)
  • Remember the 3 R’s: first REDUCE, then REUSE, and then RECYCLE

And finally, we can all increase the college’s recycling rate by reminding each other to properly recycle on campus and being the wonderful role models we are for another.

Pictured: Facilities Director, Dave Cutler, telling Vice President of Finance & Administration, Neal Robinson, that newspapers do not go in trash bins, they go in the blue recycling bins.  Recycling mishap averted thanks to one colleague looking out for the other!

(Please note that it is highly possible this picture was staged and Neal does in fact know how to recycle)

-If you need a recycling bin,
-if you want a recycling bin decal sticker
-if you want a Recycling picture poster for your office/building
-if you have questions regarding recycling
Contact Heather Lynch, Sustainability Coordinator,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Air Conditioning Use for the Environmentally Conscious

With the heat ramping up, many of you have asked if there’s a policy on campus for when to use Air Conditioners and what’s the proper temperature to set them to.

While the college does not have a specific policy on the window Air Conditioning units, here are some helpful tips to follow if you want to stay comfortable in the heat and still be mindful of the increased electricity load:

1)      If it’s a cool (non-humid morning), open up the windows and get that nice air inside before the sun gets too high.  Window fans work great to ventilate a space (and generally use less electricity than your AC).  Shut your curtains/blinds before the sun surfaces, this really helps to trap the cool air in and keep the hot air out.

2)      A “good” temperature setting for your air conditioner is 72.

3)      For every degree above 72 you set the air conditioner at, you can save 1-3% on your electricity bill (so if you can handle it, definitely set it higher than 72).

4)       If your work allows, seek out a building that has central AC rather than turn on an individual window unit.  The Library not only has a fabulous, friendly staff but it is also quite comfortable on hot days.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Meet This Year's Garden Crew

This summer marks the 4th year for the Saint Michael’s College Organic Garden and it has come quite a ways over the last 4 years!  The success of the garden program would not be possible without its amazing summer crew.   This summer, the garden welcomes Karri Makinen ’12 and Jerry Carter ’13.


Karri just graduated with a Bachelor of Science, magna cum laude degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies (she was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa).  A native of New Hampshire, Karri sought out the Organic Garden internship to expand her knowledge of gardening techniques and gain more skills through the program’s hands-on educational experience.

While at SMC, not only was Karri involved in numerous clubs and organizations (from being a leader of Green Up, a member of SLAM, Food Justice Club and participating in the Environmental Council), she also took advantage of the college’s amazing Study Abroad program.   Karri spent the Fall 2010 semester studying Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology in Tanzania. 

Interesting fact: Karri plays the flute!
Favorite Vegetable: Cucumbers and Zucchini (although she doesn’t play favorites in the garden)

 We’re excited to have Karri bring to the team her experience as landscaper with the Windham Foundation (Grafton, VT) and Farmstand crew member with Alyson’s Orchard (Walpole, NH).

Jerry will be going in to his senior year this fall, majoring in Sociology with minors in both Environmental Studies and Political Science.  A native of Massachusetts, Jerry joined the summer garden crew out of his deep passion of permaculture and desire to gain more hands on experience working with the soil and learning to sustainably manage a small-scale organic farm.

Jerry is very active on campus, participating in SLAM, MOVE, Fix it With Five, and the Wilderness Program.  After his first year at SMC, he participated in MOVE’s international service trip to Kolkata, India.  In his sophomore year, Jerry traveled to Ecuador to research the effectiveness of the UN Millennium Development goals.  Just this past spring, Jerry was the first student to participate in the new semester exchange program between the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges by spending the semester at Sterling College in Craftsbury, VT.

Interesting Fact:  Jerry is training for a triathlon at the end June
Favorite Vegetable: Green Pepper

We’re excited to have Jerry bring his passion for gardening and interest of pursuing a career that helps reconnect people to the land and communities they are part of to the team.

Don’t forget to follow what’s happening in the garden this season by checking out the Garden blog (updated every Friday during the growing season):  And you can check out the garden’s photo journal as well:    

Stay posted for info on when our first farm stand of the season will be (we're hoping mid-July if not sooner)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Students Compete in 2nd Annual Electricity Competition

Students living in the Townhouses, Hodson and Ethan Allen apartments competed in a 3-week Electricity Competition that started on March 26th and finished on April 16th.  Just under 500 students were challenged to see which units in each area would have the lowest total per capita kWh over the 3 week period.  The winners received a delicious local meal from Sugar Snap (thanks to the Student Association for their co-sponsorship of the competition for the second year in a row).

Each student received an excel spreadsheet that had their baseline usage, weekly usage update and what they could expect their monthly electricity bill to be based on the previous weeks usage.   Students were also able to check-out a Watts up Pro meter to learn about the electricity consumption of their appliances.  Those that checked out a watts up meter and filled out the appliance form were entered to win 1 of 3 Equal Exchange Fair Trade gift baskets.

Together, the students saved 17,623 kWh of electricity in just 3 weeks solely based on changing their behaviors.   The spring 2011 competition resulted in a bit more savings of 25,758 kWh over the 3 week period.  Why the difference?  A few thoughts:

(1) students living in the townhouses and apartments are a mix of juniors and seniors, one could assume the juniors from last year (now seniors) learned a lot of new habits from the first competition that have stayed with them (hence the lower usage from the start, this year's baselines were lower than last year's!)
(2) We’ve had a very mild winter/spring.  The competition this year occurred during some very warmer than usual days (many of the units run on electric heat)
(3) Most likely a combination of the two (I'd like to place a higher emphasis on the first one though;)!

Imagine what the savings could be if we all paid a little bit more attention to our electricity consumption habits year-round (both at home and at work)!

A Huge Congrats to the winners of this year's competition:
TH 100s --- 102
Chelsey Beard
Jordan Graves
Liane Ranagan
Cara Sherry

TH 200s --- 221
Amy Blackey
Carissa Tinker
Sarah Cino
Gabrielle Knight

TH 300s --- 309 & 335
Juliette Gaudier-Jabaut
Samantha Martell
Maria Cole
Coligny Tataro
Kevin O’Riordan
Jacob Carleen
Matthew Phillips
Patrick Crannell

TH 400s --- 413
Michaela Burns
Alyssa Malone
Susan Molzon
Arielle Smith
Eileen Mullowney

HODSON -- 202
Natalie Watson
Lisa Knobel
Kathleen Collins

Olivia McCall
Laura Levin
Molly Moran
Amy Forshay
If you would like to check-out a Watts Up Meter from the Office of Sustainability, please contact the Sustainability Coordinator (they may be checked-out for 1 week at a time, there are a limited number available).

Monday, April 2, 2012

The First Offices to be Green Office certified!

At the start of the semester, the Office of Sustainability launched its Green Office Certification program and challenged offices/departments to prove that they have what it takes to become Green Office certified.

Currently there are 4 amazing offices/departments that proved they certainly have what it takes, and there are 2 more in the running.

The First certified Green Offices:
The Office of Admission (Platinum)
The Office of Career Development and Personal Counseling (Gold)
The Center for Women and Gender (Silver)
The Office of Sustainability (Gold)

Office currently in the running to get certified:
The Political Science Department (Gold)
The Wilderness Program (Silver)

The Green Office Certification program was designed to educate and encourage members of the Saint Michael’s community to adopt sustainable practices in their workplaces. We focused on the office/department as a whole to stress the importance of peers/colleagues encouraging and supporting one another as they make (sustainable) behavioral changes.

If you would like to learn more about what it takes to get certified as a Green Office feel free to contact me or follow this link:

A HUGE Congrats to our first Green Offices! Who will be next to join?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Does the Organic Garden Team Do During the "Off" Season?

So winter decided it would pay us a visit this year, Spring is a few weeks off, Summer even farther. What does the SMC Organic Garden Team do during the “off season”? For one thing, we don’t consider there to be an off season.
There’s always work to be done: we reflect on the previous season’s successes and mishaps, start planning and mapping for next season, dream up what to plant for the campus community and place an order early (to get the varieties we want before they go out of stock), think about our garlic already in the soil and when we’ll see it above ground, etc.

For the past 2 years, we’ve been very grateful to have the wonderful folks in the Biology Department support the program and let us start our own seeds in one of their Greenhouses attached to Cheray. In 2 weeks we’ll be starting some of our seeds again for a third season! If you are looking for a good guide on when you should start your own seeds indoors, Johnny’s Seeds has a great calculator to use:

Growing Season 2011 was a great season, with about 65 different varieties of veggies, flowers and herbs. Growing Season 2012 is already shaping up to be even better with over 80 varieties of veggies, flowers and herbs plotted out on the map. To all the gardeners out there, here’s to a great season ahead. To those wanting to get involved with Saint Michael’s Organic Garden, be on the lookout for e-mails in the upcoming months on different opportunities.

During the growing season, be sure to check out our Garden Blog updated weekly: