Skidmore's discussion on sustainability

Posted by Rachel Dyckman '16

A small group of students and faculty, including Skidmore Sustainability Fellows Rachel Lewis and Levi Rogers and Environmental Studies Associate Professor Karen Kellogg, gathered to discuss Skidmore's sustainability initiatives Wednesday night in Harder Hall.

One of the topics addressed included the temporary closing of the Skidmore Student Garden due to lead contamination. Rogers explained that soil samples taken over the summer revealed levels of lead that were higher than normal. Fortunately, high soil pH and available calcium in the soil limited lead consumption by the plants to a large extent. "Most of the garden is fine; only a few soil beds were concerning," Rogers said.

Skidmore College consulted with various experts at universities and the Federal and State Departments of Health regarding the soil contamination. While most experts felt that the garden was safe for growing vegetables, Skidmore decided to air on the side of caution and designate a new location for our Student Garden. "We can use this as an opportunity to improve our garden, so that it can be even more successful and productive," Kellogg said.

The lead contamination likely originated from a nearby road where gasoline may have leaked from cars many years ago, or from lead paint that may have been dumped on the site. "The plan is to have the [new] garden up and growing for the spring," Rogers said . In regard to expanding the garden, Kellogg commented that "the size of the current garden is manageable." Growing more varieties of vegetables in the new garden, however, is an option Lewis welcomes student input in developing plans for the new garden.

The meeting's participants also discussed possible structural changes in the Sustainability Office. Following the resignation of Skidmore's College's former Sustainability Coordinator, Riley Neugebauer, the leadership team wanted to take time to evaluate the structure of the Sustainability Office with hopes to increase student involvement in environmental programs and sustainability initiatives.

The Sustainability Office is actively moving to fill the position of Sustainability Coordinator by the beginning of next semester. "We want to hire somebody into a position where we know they can succeed," Kellogg said.

Another topic of discussion was geothermal energy. Students suggested that Skidmore buildings with geothermal energy systems should be labeled to increase student awareness of the viability of sustainable energy.

Rogers brought attention to the New Initiatives in Sustainability Fund, which was established to support student sustainability projects on campus. Students with ideas for sustainability projects can submit their ideas and possibly receive funding from this resource. The "Take a Mug, Leave a Mug" program was supported from this fund and is expected to be up and running again soon.

A new, expanded compost facility is in the works for next year and is expected to be located near the stables. Composting at Skidmore was started five years ago as a senior capstone project and currently takes place near the Northwoods apartments. At the present time, food scraps are only collected from the student apartments on campus. When the new facility is up and running, composting may be expanded to the dining hall as well as all dorm buildings.

The Sustainability Office hopes that their initiatives will create a cascading effect and increase sustainable practices on campus.  

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