WWS 402 Junior Task Force Policy Recommendations Summary

Posted on September 11, 2017

For their junior papers, students in Professor Denise Mauzerall’s WWS 402 junior task force: Sustainability at Princeton University: Lessons for Campus and the World, recommended policy frameworks to guide sustainability efforts both on and off campus. Backed by both qualitative interviews and quantitative survey data, the students’ recommendations emphasized scalable initiatives that could be demonstrated at Princeton, but also applied more broadly by others to address a range of global challenges.

Ethos – Daily Culture

Cecilia Shang ’18 argues for shifting the ethos of sustainability at Princeton to meet future sustainability goals, satisfy the university’s mission to be “in the service of all humanity,” and to maintain its reputation as a leader institution. She recommends leveraging social norms, choice architecture, and incentives to change daily student behavior towards sustainability. Such strategies include peer-to-peer sustainability training, default and opt-in systems that encourage more environmentally friendly practices (e.g. cold water washing), a centralized location for the Office of Sustainability, and more sustainability awards, competitions, and on-campus jobs.

Ethos – New Student Orientation

Due to the disparity in students’ perceptions of Princeton’s commitment to sustainability based on their degree of passion about sustainability-related issues, Olivia Davis ’18 proposes incorporating “green defaults “into the official New Student Orientation agenda to signal to all undergraduates – regardless of their level of environmental interest – that Princeton has a dedicated commitment to sustainability. During orientation, she recommends instilling messages about the university’s sustainability initiatives and how sustainability can be integrated into daily life via a presentation of the Office of Sustainability’s “Invitation to Sustainability” video, distribution of “Sustainable Living Guides,” and a peer-to-peer “Move-In Day” engagement program about on-campus recycling/waste disposal. She also recommends devoting an entire training session about sustainability to Outdoor Action orientation trip leaders to reinforce the importance of sustainability as a theme of the trip, making it more likely that the leaders will encourage first-year students to reduce their environmental impact.

Career Services

Konadu Amoakuh ’17 recommends strategies to promote greater awareness and access to careers and internships relating to the environment, sustainability, or natural resources. She argues that Princeton Career Services should leverage its position as a choice architect to provide similar recruitment opportunities for green jobs as those offered for consulting or finance jobs—coffee chats, specified career fairs, listings in centralized career databases—in order to make green jobs and internships a more accessible and practical choice for students.

Bottled Water Consumption

Colton Hess ’18 proposes several strategies to strengthen and expand the existing Drink Local program which promotes the use of reusable water bottles to decrease demand for disposable bottled water and in turn, campus waste. To reduce the high loss and throw-away rate of the Drink Local bottles, he recommends having Outdoor/Community Action leaders label the bottles with the incoming students’ names and NetIDs before distribution, including a bottle brush in the giveaway package, and installing water bottle washing stations in the dining halls. To encourage greater use of reusable bottles, he also proposes installing more filtered water stations in priority areas (Forbes College, upperclass dorms, E-Quad, McCosh Hall) throughout campus, and launching a revitalized publicity campaign that educates students about the various benefits of tap water over bottled water to reinforce drinking tap water as the social norm. Such a campaign would include social media, informational signage at the taps, and videos showcasing social referents’ preference for tap water. Once these initiatives are put into place, he recommends an eco-offset tax that would gradually raise the price of bottled water to set the stage for an eventual bottled water ban. Additional revenue from the tax would offset costs of implementing the above strategies to expand the program.

Recycling

Pleasant Garner ’18 recommends improvements to the infrastructure, education/communication strategies, and procurement practices to address the high level of contamination under the current commingled recycling program. She proposes investing in consistent and clear bin infrastructure, compost receptacles for every recycling/landfill bin pairing, and improved bin signage that highlight how to dispose correctly of commonly used items on campus. She also recommends a Zero Waste communication campaign, paid internships and class projects that study waste management challenges on campus, and an examination of procurement practices to minimize the overuse of plastic items at catered events.  

Landscape

Anthony Sgro ’18 recommends a sustainable landscape plan for the Princeton campus to improve water quality in the local watershed. He recommends replacing synthetic chemical applications with organic fertilizers and compost teas, and preserving south campus woodlands to minimize contamination from stormwater runoff. He also proposes a student-staff land management collaboration that would create public displays and lead tours to increase student engagement with university landscaping practices and commitment to sustainability.

Carbon Offsets

Adam Bradley ’18 argues that the university reconsider the use of carbon offsets to meet its next carbon reduction goal. He recommends establishing a dedicated group with student involvement, like the Duke Carbon Offset Initiative, to research, design, and implement local carbon offset projects in New Jersey. Designing its own local offset program and protocols would allow the university to prove additionality, assume a new sustainability leadership role, and adopt an aggressive emissions target by achieving emissions reductions that would otherwise be impossible on campus.

Communications

Stuart Pomeroy ’18 argues that the university should do more to communicate its commitment and advancements in sustainability to foster a campus sustainability culture. After investigating the extent and efficacy of existing campus sustainability communications, he recommends targeting outreach about campus sustainability efforts and research opportunities through both media (the most effective being emails, Facebook, and posters), and interpersonal communication streams via greater integration into academic departments and courses.