29 April 2008

Congratulations, winners!

We had quite a year… between swimming in the bathtub to studying by cell phone, the WC campus went out of their way to go green with George! But as always, some went a few steps further- there’s something to be said for spending all your time in the dark!

Congratulations to Somerset, Wicomico and Worchester, winners of the 2008 Do It in the Dark competition! They reduced their energy consumption by the highest percentage from last year. Each student in these dorms will win a $10 iTunes gift certificate.

View photos of creative energy conservation from this year’s George Goes Green.

On the academic side, congratulations to Toll! The faculty and staff of Toll made that extra effort to go green, which is especially difficult considering the number of appliances consuming electricity in their building. From turning off office and hallway lights to lab equipment and computers, the occupants of Toll did their very best. In addition, many faculty members walk to work, bring their own mugs, and teach sustainability in their regular classes. Toll also puts out the most recycling, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the building’s faculty. Overall, they’ve made a concentrated effort to go green!

Check out the profile of Toll faculty member Jeff Brown below.

A final congratulations goes to Jake Deal, winner of the 2008 George Gets Ingenious prize! His idea for sustainability on campus, as well as the rest of this year’s submissions, can be viewed here.


25 April 2008

Pedal with a Purpose

While some are ostentatious about their shade of emerald, others are going green as a matter of course. “Being green is not my primary goal,” says OIT Systems Admin Ted Knab. Yet on select sunny days, you can find him pedaling his bike to campus- from Centreville. He rides 35 miles two days a week, mostly for the exercise and the pleasure of riding a bike through the green fields of the Eastern Shore. The rest of the week he drives to work, as do many faculty and staff who find they can’t live in Chestertown.

Yet by cutting his drive down on two days of the week, Ted reduces his weekly driving from 350 to 280 miles- for a carbon dioxide savings yearly of nearly 4000 pounds! While he rides his bike mostly for exercise, burning about 1000 calories each way, he’s also saving about ½ to ¾ gallon of gas, which adds up 2-3 gallons less per week. This is a great example of how going green doesn’t have to be something outside your daily routine. Even small activities you probably already do can make a big difference!

At home, Ted has also improved his insulation and installed more efficient lighting- and has noticed the savings on his energy bills. A desire to save the environment does not have to be the primary reason for going green, though it certainly doesn’t hurt. For most people it probably won’t be. But one of the things we like to point out is that activities like riding a bike to work and improving the insulation in your house make sense. Bike riding is great exercise, gets you outside and into the fresh air, and gives you a better appreciation for the outdoors and the environment- in addition to using renewable human power instead of relying on fossil fuels, and keeping harmful carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

There’s always more than one reason to go green- so kudos goes to whoever carries the banner, no matter the reason!


23 April 2008

More Creative Clothes Drying

We're down to the wire with George Goes Green- three more days! Some students are going that extra mile to make it down the home stretch. Check out this creative arrangement of clothing for drying- perfect for the room without space for a drying rack. Extra kudos for using the flamingo to dry clothes. Sent in by Brittany Dunbar in Minta Martin.


22 April 2008

Recycling Gets a Facelift

Count on the girls of Minta to make recycling more attractive. First Floor RA Lindsay Koenig decided it was time to take action and increase the amount of recycling on her hall. In her own words:
"I thought maybe it was because people would throw away their bottles and cans along with the rest of their trash in their personal trash cans, and then not feel like sorting out the recyclables when they went to empty their trash into the large trash bins in the hallway.

So I counted the recyclables that went out last week- there were 68. Then I provided each of the rooms on my hall with a small trash can specifically for their recyclables, so they could be sorted out as they were used. In addition, I posted a few signs to remind everyone to recycle. I just counted the recyclables for this week, and there were 140- we more than doubled our recycling rate."

Check out the bulletin board Lindsay made to educate her residents (Buildings & Grounds, maybe you should take note):


What is sustainability, anyway?

What with all these contests and events, it seems appropriate to take a moment and ask a few relevant questions to see what this is all about. It seems even more appropriate as today is officially Earth Day.

So what is sustainability?

The most common definition comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, otherwise known as the Brundtland Commission, from which we derive most of our ideas on sustainability. In 1983 they defined sustainable development as “[meeting] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

But what does this mean at Washington College? The college has overlooked the Chester River for over 200 years, and with careful management, can stand for 200 more. This can mean a number of things, from reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, to buying locally in order to support our local economy and community. It also may mean building a community at the college that supports its members- faculty and staff, students and alumni, and their families- to provide a social environment in which we can all live, learn, and grow.

One of the overarching principles of sustainability is the emphasis on balancing environmental, economic, and cultural needs in the community. Educating for a sustainable future calls for integrating knowledge from many disciplines so students have the tools to be decision-makers and stewards of a sustainable world.

So what do we mean by “going green”?

This one is a little harder. “Green” is a term applied to any number of products and activities, many of which barely qualify for the label. In fact, a new phenomenon known as “greenwashing,” defined as “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service” has taken root in our environmental language.

At WC, we may make a lot of jokes about May Day being a green practice, and the fact that the George Washington statue happens to be green. But what are we actually doing to go green? Actually, quite a lot. Between upping recycling on campus, building the composting program, purchasing more locally-grown foods and eco-friendly products (including recycled paper towels, recycled paper with post-consumer waste content for printers and copiers, and green cleaning products), and building to LEED Silver standards, we’ve made quite a start. All over campus, individuals are stepping up to green their own everyday activities, by turning out lights, walking to campus, and bringing reusable mugs to the dining hall.

This still doesn’t define “green.” Most often, green is used to mean something done with concern for the environment. There are many “shades of green,” as explained by wikipedia. Everyone seems to have a rather different idea of what it all means.

Personally, when I think of “going green” and sustainability, I look out my window. My window overlooks the Chester River, and on the other side I can see trees and houses; if I crane my neck I can see the dock and the bridge. It’s beautiful. There are ducks and seagulls and I’m sure, under the surface of the water, fish and turtles and crabs and things. There are also boats, and I can see the Sultana making the rounds with a cargo of elementary school kids. This, all of the kids and the animals and people living together and enjoying the water, sharing in the history and the future of the river, exemplifies sustainability. If in another 200 years someone stands on the bank of the river and there are still fish and birds and kids, and all of them are relatively healthy and have places to live and food to eat, and will be able to do so for yet another 200 years- that will be sustainable. In my mind, that’s as green as you can be: alive and loving it.


17 April 2008

Come one, come all!!

Calling all those who walk, bike, or otherwise transport themselves to work without the use of fossil fuels! Come out to the Cater Walk THIS FRIDAY between 10:15 and 10:30 for a photo op of all the walkers and bikers on campus! We’ll be gathering next to the bust of George to show support of George Goes Green, and how easy it is to drive less and reduce carbon emissions when you live in a beautiful town like Chestertown. The weather should be excellent and we greatly appreciate your time (ie you will get a chocolate bar for your efforts!).


Tip of the Week

Now you can recycle cell phones, iPods and computers at the OIT Help Desk in the basement of Wm. Smith Hall. They are recycled through Apple’s electronics recycling program, through which you can also receive a rebate for old iPods when you turn them in at the Help Desk (without paying shipping like you would if you went through the website!).

You can also take batteries to be recycled at the Help Desk, including alkaline and laptop batteries… all at no extra charge.

If you really want to get crazy, you can bring used electronics, including cell phones, cameras, mp3 players, and other small things that plug in or use batteries, to Earth Day in Wilmer Park next Saturday the 26th. Find out more about recycling at WC.


15 April 2008

Stories of the (Green) Revolution

You might think going through the trash is a little unusual, but for Dr. Jeff Brown, professor of biology, it’s all part of a day’s work. “If you point out to a student that they’ve thrown away a plastic bottle, when there’s a recycling bin right there, they’ll apologize, but they won’t get the bottle back out,” he tells me, on a break from collecting the recycling before it goes out one Friday morning. “But I will,” he adds.

Anyone who has ever struggled to get a recycling program off the ground knows that sometimes it takes extremes like pulling plastic bottles out of the trash to set an example and get people thinking about recycling. “Fundamentally most people think it’s a reasonable thing to do,” Dr. Brown explains, “the economics make sense.” But that doesn’t mean everyone is automatically on board. “It has to be convenient,” he points out. Decisions such as the placement of recycling bins, as well as the design, color, and labeling all factor into the likelihood of student and faculty participation.

Washington College’s current recycling program depends on the initiative of building occupants to take recycling to the curb for Kent County to pick up on Tuesdays and Fridays. Only the Shred-It bins are picked up by the company. While this works reasonably well for most of the dorms, it is more difficult in academic buildings unless a particular staff member takes the responsibility of going from hall to hall collecting recyclables. In Toll, where faculty have taken an active role in getting the job done, they recycle several tons of cardboard each year, in addition to having more green bins out on the curb than any other academic building.

The success of the recycling program in Toll is largely due to Dr. Brown’s own efforts. Every week he can be found bringing recycling down to the curb with the help of a cart purchased specifically for the purpose. Faculty and staff in the building are also on board, collecting recycling under their desks and breaking down boxes. Tri Beta, the biology honor society, contributes by taking turns collecting recycling in the building. Institutional support is slow in coming, but Dr. Brown is confident it will happen in the near future. Recycling is not an insurmountable challenge, if approached properly. If it were written into further building plans to allow for recycling areas and uniform bins, with consideration given to the materials recycled in Kent County, many issues would be solved at the outset.

Dr. Brown’s advice to students on getting involved is to take action locally. “People don’t think individual actions are significant, but multiply those and it does make a huge impact. Recycling is something everyone can participate in,” he says, as are actions like turning out lights and not using water. In his own office, a file cabinet and his official robes block the path to the light switch. If it’s harder to get to, he knows he will be much more likely to think twice before turning on the light. Most actions, including recycling, are largely a matter of changing habits to reflect more responsible practices.

You, too, can make a significant difference to help the environment. All it takes is a little creativity, and a healthy dose of dedication- because as Dr. Brown has proved in Toll, every little bit helps.

Learn more about recycling at WC.


10 April 2008

Prizes Galore

There are many ways to win, dedicated readers. Allow me to reiterate:

For the Do It in the Dark student energy competition, the dorm (or team of dorms) that reduces its electricity use by the highest percentage (compared to its own baseline, ie Kent is competing with the numbers from Kent during the same time period last year) will win a $10 iTunes gift certificate for every person in that dorm. No kidding. Every person.

For the winner of the George Gets Ingenious prize, we have a check for $250. And all you have to do to enter is send your idea for a sustainable WC to tholste2@washcoll.edu.

And for every picture of you or your friends going green sent in (comment here, post to facebook or email tholste2@washcoll.edu), a candy bar will find its way to your mailbox. Promise!


Here's a picture sent in from someone in Queen Anne's (year one winners):


09 April 2008


Last night’s 60 Seconds or Less Video Festival was a tremendous success! We filled Litrenta for the awards ceremony and everyone left with a stylish tote bag, a few t-shirts and giant smiles on their faces. The Center for Environment & Society was on hand, too, to tell everyone about George Goes Green and their excellent green efforts.

Without further ado, I’d like to congratulate our winners:

  • Best of Show: “Mr. Doodle” by Christina Izzo
  • 2nd Place: “Late to Class” by Corey Holland
  • 3rd Place: “Crazy Stairs” by Kevin Reagan
  • Avant Garde Media: “Mr. Doodle” by Christina Izzo (sponsored by Multicultural Affairs)
  • Rookie Award: “An Ordinary Day” by Andrew Laux (sponsored by The Department of Drama)
  • Green George: “Bring on the Revolution” by Maureen Sentman (sponsored by CES)

Thank you to everyone who submitted! If you were unable to attend last night, please see Nancy Cross for your entry tape and a special prize bag.

Thanks, too, to our crack panel of judges - without you, we’d have no idea who to pick since they were all so good this year!


07 April 2008

Tomorrow: 60 Seconds or Less Video Festival

You shot your videos, you submitted your entries and now you want to know: who won?! Well, tomorrow evening is your chance to find out! Join Instructional Technology in Litrenta at 8:00 pm for the 4th Annual 60 Seconds or Less Video Festival!

Judging is wrapping up today and the feedback so far points to this being the best 60 Seconds or Less yet. Not only do we have great entries for our Rookie and Avant Garde categories, but we also have teamed up with the Center for Environment & Society and will be awarding our first annual Green George award for the most eco-conscious entry!

Come out to Litrenta tomorrow evening (at 8:00 pm!) to see all the entries, the winners and watch George Go Green on video, too. Hope to see you there!


04 April 2008

G3 Update- Week 1

Well, I took a walk around campus today to find out how many people know about George Goes Green. Faculty and staff, you are well informed. I was surprised and impressed to see lights out in almost all unoccupied rooms, staffers bringing in their reusable coffee mugs, and the recycling bins out on the curb where they belonged. Congratulations!

At the same time, I realized the number one thing this college could do to save energy would be to install light switches around campus. Forget geothermal- we need those ubiquitous, unnoticeable things we call the common light switch. Almost every time I saw a light on today, it was because there was no switch to be found. Seems like the builders weren't paying a lot of attention when they wired the buildings.

But never fear, dear readers! Based on participation, it looks like Bunting and Toll are pulling ahead- both buildings have been coming up with creative solutions to keep their energy use to a minimum, even when faced with banks of lights without light switches, especially in Toll. From working by daylight to walking to work, these WC employees are stepping up the challenge! Keep an eye open for faculty and staff profiles, and more tips and suggestions as the month progresses!

Also, the I-House students are bringing it again this year- check out the article in this week's Elm, and the picture below. Way to live up to the name of George!