Both The Citadel and MUSC have a "Sustainability Coordinator" on their payroll, but at the College of Charleston, arguably the school with the most progressive student body in town, little has been done in the way of becoming environmentally friendly. This complacency frustrated a group of students in the school's Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) graduate program, inspiring them to form the Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCI). "[SCI co-founder David Lansbury] basically had a meltdown and instead of having an intervention, we said we're going to help him through this by going environmental," says planner Tim Willard. "We decided to put together a seminar for students to look at how we impact the environment through our everyday choices as consumers."
That seminar, called Environment 101, drew over 70 supporters, most of whom stayed after to discuss methods of cutting energy use and material waste. "There's been a lack of leadership," says organizer Jess Barton. "Talking to students, everyone seems to care. They just haven't had an outlet."
A key component of SCI's mission is to "institutionalize principles of environmental sustainability on campus." To that end, they have avoided becoming a club, shaking the exclusiveness and president/vice-president structure that clubs entail. Their hope is to involve an array of students, not just "gung-ho environmentalists," so that sustainable practices become the accepted norm.
"The College of Charleston as a responsible campus should be leading the way in environmental issues," says Dean of Education Fran Welch. "Making sure we've got a plan in place to promote sustainability is one important way to do this."
Engineer and physical plant project manager David Tomayko echoes Welch's sentiments, adding, "I'm excited that there is an interest in this field. Green buildings might take a little bit of time, but I think it'll take place. I have to commend the student group that's getting it started."
"The purpose of having a tangible environmental committee is to pass ideas from the student body to the administrative body," explains co-founder David Lansbury. "Then they can look at the feasibility of ideas like reducing pesticide use in landscaping, or 25 percent local organic produce in the cafeteria. For 20 bucks per student, the school could purchase wind energy credits and totally offset their emissions. That's something the school could highly publicize and get noticed for."
To promote the cause, SCI is hosting a kickoff day on the green behind the Addlestone Library, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Wed., Nov. 1. The Coastal Conservation League, the Sierra Club, and Charleston Moves will be among 20 environmental organizations present. The S.C. Department of Energy will give a presentation on renewable energy at noon, and the U.S. Green Building Council will be on hand to explain their criteria for certification. Attendees can trade incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent bulbs that use 80 percent less energy, donated by GE and Phillips, and the "Lug-a-mug" program will be launched, through which students carrying a mug with an SCI sticker receive discounts on drinks at many area restaurants. A surfboard, scuba lessons, and gift certificates will be raffled, and there will be recycling-oriented games with giveaways, as well as free food and live music from local bands.
The organizers are hoping the event will generate enough interest to fuel their efforts and produce actual change at the administrative level. "The event is mostly to tell people who we are and what we plan to do," says Willard. "Our next goal will be to get paperwork signed and policies implemented. We want the college to say, 'We'll build our next dorm, parking lot, or science building green.' Most other schools in the Southeast are already doing that."