ENV 327 Students Propose Sustainability Recommendations

Posted on February 2, 2017

This past fall, students in Dr. Shana Weber’s seminar, ENV 327: Investigating an Ethos of Sustainability at Princeton, engaged with faculty and staff of diverse expertise to examine global sustainability issues and how they manifest locally on the Princeton campus. For the final assignment, students proposed demonstration-scale campus interventions with the overall goal of strengthening the sustainability ethos at Princeton.

Below is a summary of the students’ recommendations by topic:

Buildings

floorplan Floor plan of the Frist 100-level. Points marked with an “X” represent the most effective locations for water fountains based on observation and informal discussions on movement within the space.

Alie Fordyce ’19 emphasized the importance of building design and layout in influencing human behavior, and in turn the sustainability of a building. She recommends constructing campus buildings that influence sustainable behaviors, both directly through social default strategies such as conveniently-stationed water fountains, as well as indirectly through more subtle designs like exposure to wood and natural light.

Culture

Cecilia Shang ’18 used insights from psychological and behavioral research to make the case for holistic culture change around sustainability. She recommends implementing Sustainability Ethos guiding principles in executive decision-making, offering students more opportunities to engage in sustainability problem-solving in existing social and academic structures, and leveraging the power of social norms through targeted messaging and interventions to facilitate pro-environmental behavior.

Education

Tristan LaCombe ’19 and Allison Glossinger ’19 argue for more formal instruction on sustainability to better instill an ethos of environmental responsibility among students by giving them the knowledge, motivation, and tools needed to live sustainably. LaCombe recommends adding a General Education requirement for sustainability in a convenient and flexible way by leveraging current course offerings, while Glossinger proposes an online sustainability teaching tool and literacy test for first year undergraduates during pre-orientation.

Energy

electric boat motor prototype Prototype of an electric boat motor being built by Sorkin and other students

Benjamin Sorkin ’17 recommends and outlines a plan for electrifying the University’s crew team coach boats by utilizing his current campus research in electric propulsion systems. Complete electrification of the fleet would contribute to the University’s 2020 carbon emissions goal, improve the local aquatic ecosystem, and establish Princeton as a pioneer in the adoption of sustainable marine propulsion systems.

Food

Aubree Andres ’17, Elizabeth Haile ’19, and Sam Rob ’18 proposed strategies to reconnect students to their food to empower them to make healthy and sustainable food choices.

  • Andres recommends small changes in the layout and information provided to students in the dining halls, while implementing a mindful eating seminar.
  • Haile also advocates for providing more information about the sustainability of menu items in the dining halls, as well as greater and continued support of coursework and programming on sustainable food systems.
  • Rob recommends creating a “sustainability as service” program in which students work for shares at nearby organic farms and then donate those shares to low-income communities.

Investment

Marc Decitre ’17 recommends that the trustees of Princeton University formulate and adopt a framework for socially responsible investment (SRI) so Princo can raise the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues with its asset managers in a systematic way. He also proposes a two-committee system, like the one at Harvard, to allow the Princeton community to advise Princo on how its shares should be allocated within the adopted SRI framework.

Landscape

Théo Keeley-LeClaire ’18 advocates for expanding sustainable landscaping practices in existing and future green spaces to improve the psychological, communal and nutritional value of the campus landscape, while engaging as many students as possible in the design, implementation, and maintenance.  

Waste Reduction

David Kim ’19 proposes utilizing institutional norm signaling and default strategies to change campus culture and behavior around waste, while addressing sustainability contradictions. He recommends standardizing waste collection, collecting trash (but not recycling) less frequently, and revitalizing and expanding the Drink Local program through strategies such as increasing the price of bottled water for students, faculty, and staff. He also calls for increasing the transparency of sustainability initiatives through regular communications to the campus community.

waste station Resource recovery station with different bins corresponding with recycling, organics, or landfill. Photograph courtesy of the Zero Waste Planning Guide created by the company Seven Generations Ahead.

Allie Klimkiewicz ’19 recommends strategies to combat the culture of waste at Reunions and make the event as close to zero-waste as possible. She proposes implementing staffed “Resource Recovery Stations” in Reunions tents to ensure proper waste disposal, and requiring attendees to sign a waste reduction pledge before receiving an admittance wristband. 

Reed Melchionda ’19 argues that unsolicited and numerous gear giveaways from the residential colleges are built on a faulty assumption that doing so promotes belonging, and have fostered a norm of excess consumerism. He recommends changing the giveaway default to an opt-in system to save costs and promote conscious and sustainable consumption choices among students.

Alana Reynolds ’18 advocates for instructional and standardized trash and recycling bin labels to limit contamination and improve overall recycling rates, as well as administration inquisition into more economical donation and storage options to tackle the large amount of waste that is left behind during dorm move-out.

Nick Safian ’17 makes the case for gamification to increase recycling efficacy. He proposes a smartphone app that continuously tracks the recycling quality of zee groups to engage the student body around recycling, and in turn other sustainable behaviors, while signaling a norm that sustainability is important to the University. 

For access to copies of the full student papers, please contact the Office of Sustainability at sustain@princeton.edu