In 1886, Florence Merriam Bailey, a student concerned about the plight of birds, started the Smith College Audubon Society and began weaving the fabric of sustainability at Smith that can now be found across all aspects of the college—in academics, operations, research and student life. Smith prepares women through active learning and societal engagement to foster and lead sustainable, just communities and to make significant and lasting contributions to address the critical issues of the times. Like Florence, students are frequently at the heart of sustainability issues on campus. You’ll find their stories throughout these pages.
What Makes Sustainability at Smith Special?
Use The Campus as a Classroom. Through Campus as Classroom, students can take concepts they’ve learned in class, apply them to projects on campus and see firsthand their direct impact on the Smith community. Recent projects have included research to move sediment out of Paradise Pond and the implementation of a program to save energy in science labs.
Study What You Love. Smith’s open curriculum enables students to personalize their education. More than half of its academic departments, including anthropology, economics, engineering, environmental science and policy, geosciences and landscape studies, offer courses in sustainability. In addition, students from any major can add a concentration in climate change or sustainable food.
Get an International Perspective. The college is committed to creating global citizens who participate in the communities in which they live and steward the resources that sustain them. Through course work, internships, research or a semester abroad, students learn how other countries and organizations are addressing sustainability issues and often return to apply those ideas on campus.
Eat Delicious and Nutritious Food. Local foods and sustainability efforts are a priority for Smith College dining. All 15 campus dining halls serve products from local farms whenever possible, and they compost pre- and post-consumer food waste. Many campus events are Zero Waste. Students recently led efforts for Smith to join the Real Food Challenge, a national sustainable food initiative.
Live Sustainably in Your House. Ecoreps—student sustainability leaders—help educate their housemates about sustainable living in all 35 of Smith’s residential houses and complexes. Students have initiated a number of programs, including in-house composting and an inter-house competition focused on water conservation.
Explore MacLeish Field Station. The 260-acre Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station is home to the Bechtel Environmental Classroom, the world’s fifth certified Living Building. The Living Building Challenge uses a stringent set of design and construction standards for environmentally friendly buildings. Students, faculty and staff conduct research and hold events, such as dance performances and art exhibits, at the liberal arts station.
After seeing the waste produced by students moving out at the end of the year, Emmy Longnecker ’20J, a chemistry major and environmental science and policy minor, was determined to solve the problem. She worked with staff and faculty in CEEDS to create a two-semester special studies to understand the issue and develop a solution. As a result she has created Smith Cycle—the college’s first student-designed, comprehensive move-out waste reduction program.
When Breanna Parker ’18 began working on a strategy to help Smith reduce its carbon footprint, she didn’t expect her research to become a national model. But that’s just what happened with a carbon-pricing tool that Parker helped create for the college during her senior year.
A modest change in Smith house living aims to have a big effect on campus energy use: A new laundry drying-rack system proposed by students in Capen and Morrow was the winner of the college’s first-ever House Sustainability Challenge.
Smith and four other leading liberal arts colleges have formed a pioneering collaborative that will allow them to offset 46,000 megawatt hours per year of their collective electrical needs with electricity created at a new solar power facility to be built in Farmington, Maine.
The Sustainable Office Certification Program offers tips on how to make small changes in everyday work practices to create a more environmentally friendly campus.