A Push for Sustainability Curriculum for Next Year's Freshmen

Photo Courtesy of One IMS Insider By Sean van der Heijden, '16, Copy Editor

Last week, sustainability education and activist group Turning Green visited campus and, among other events, held a meeting in which students were able ideas for helping Skidmore become even more sustainable. One of the most intriguing ideas came from Maya Cohn ’17—a sustainability representative and peer mentor who wants to educate incoming freshmen on how to live more sustainably.

The idea is very recent and still in the works, but Maya hopes to get some sort of program running for next year that would “focus on having more education so that people know how to live a more environmentally-friendly life while they’re here at Skidmore.”

One option is to go through the FYE. “Currently, our orientation doesn’t really have any aspects of sustainability in it,” she said, adding how “there are so many student’s on Skidmore’s campus who either don’t know about all our cool sustainability initiatives, or… don’t know how to utilize [them].” She wants to add education on how to compost, what is recyclable and what isn’t, and possibly provide students with reusable water bottles.

Professor Janet Casey, head of the FYE, said, “Peer Mentors are already trained in sustainability issues,” but that implementing that education into the seminars would be difficult. “We are constantly being asked to ‘add’ new requirements to both the Seminars themselves and the PM training,” she continued. “Keep in mind, however, that no single program—not even the FYE—can accommodate everything and be all things to all individuals.”

Casey acknowledged the importance of an education in sustainability—it is part of the core curriculum that she teaches—but said, “Nothing can be imposed on all Scribner seminars without the vote of the faculty,” which Maya thinks would be “extremely difficult.” Maya went on to say that the FYE already has a jam-packed orientation for its peer mentors, and she would love more opportunities to pass this knowledge onto freshmen.

Another option is Skidmore’s First Six Weeks Program, led by Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun. Maya claims this program has “more leeway in terms of… the amount of time they have and how much flexibility there is.” Through this program, Maya hopes to educate freshmen on the work S-Reps do here at Skidmore, as well as “going on trips to the solar field or our new micro-hydro energy sources.” Additionally, she wants to add workshops such as how to make homemade cleaners without using toxic chemicals and how to eat sustainably in the dining hall. Dean Calhoun did not respond immediately for comments.

When asked about how to be more sustainable while at college, Maya said that one of the easiest things is to get a reusable water bottle, something that saves a lot of plastic and is cost-effective in the long run. Also, using Skidmore’s Bikemore program or taking public transport, buying produce at the farmer’s market in town, or even investing in a CSA program through farms such as 9 Miles East are great ways to be environmentally friendly and support local businesses at the same time.

If you are interested in helping Maya with this initiative, you can email me at svanderh@skidmore.edu or the sustainability office at sustainability@skidmore.edu.

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