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Students, the Keepers of the Green

Smith’s 2,500 students -- all of them preoccupied with academics and college life -- are rising to the challenge of creating a culture of sustainable living on campus. Along with the college’s efforts over the years to minimize the environmental impact of its operation, cooperation from the on-campus student body has been gaining momentum.

The student effort has taken many forms. For the past three years, the student group Gaia: Smith Students for the Environment has coordinated a campuswide “paperless month” each spring, as well as a collection of electronic items and parts for recycling. The group also produced a “Consumption Guide” that thoroughly explains the benefits of using recycled and environmentally friendly products and lists local retailers and wholesalers that sell recycled and organic goods.

Smith students have been helping keep the “green” for many decades. Elinor Funk ’52, left, was Smith’s student “Grass Cop Head” in 1950 and charged with helping the college keep students and their bicycles off the campus lawns. Photo courtesy Smith College Archives.

“Clearly, it’s very important to recycle and there’s so much waste that can be recycled,” says Crisi Clementi ’07, a coordinator of the Student Outreach Recycling Program, which each year appoints “earth reps” -- students in each house who advocate for environmental responsibility. “The earth reps are there to help students recycle and make things easier for them to do so.”

A formidable movement last year led by Changxin Fang ’05 rallied the support of students for the college to begin purchasing clean energy -- energy produced by highly efficient, renewable or non- or low-polluting sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal and hydropower.

“We would like the college to use 20 percent clean energy. I think it’s very doable,” says Fang.

“I recycle everything, even stripping tape off paper so that the paper may be recycled,” says Maggie Sowell ’07, who is not involved in environmental organizations but, like many students, believes in the importance of sustainability. “I make a strong effort to make sure all the lights are off in all areas of the house. It’s my small contribution.”

Small contributions like Sowell’s will help the college attain its goals of recycling half of its waste material and reducing consumption of natural resources. To realize those objectives, cooperation of the college’s student body, especially those living on campus, is essential.

“Everyone has a responsibility,” says Sowell, “even if it just means turning the water off.” -- ESW

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