With college students being deeply interested in sustainability, it is important to note the sustainability efforts being made by Alma College’s recent planning, services and rural initiatives.
Previously written on was the topic of the new recycling program partnership with Granger Waste Services coming to Alma College’s campus. Granger was successfully implemented to reach a goal in the College’s Evergreen Strategic Plan.
“We realize this is an essential step in our sustainability efforts and one we can build on in the future. So, it had symbolic importance in many respects, and [this is] why it was identified in Evergreen as an essential milestone,” said Raymond Barclay, the Chief Operating Officer and senior vice president of Alma College.
This was no easy feat. It is mentionable that it is difficult for a rural school like Alma to implement a recycling program due to the lack of collection sites, the need for internal collection and sorting and the cost associated with these checkpoints.
“Granger worked with Ryan Stoudt, [the Alma College Facilities Director], to identify a strategy for single-stream recycling… This type of recycling has many advantages, including reduced collection frequency, costs and emissions,” said Barclay.
While this is a major accomplishment, Barclay bears in mind what is yet to be completed. “We will request Granger begin reporting on our recycling outcomes… Additionally, we need to work with Student Life on a residential training program for recycling,” said Barclay.
Among the tasks left to accomplish, Barclay expressed his interest in expanding sustainability efforts at the college. “Once we have ourselves strongly situated on the recycling front, I would like to begin looking at the materials we use through dining and hospitality services, composting and so on,” said Barclay.
“There are several ways that Alma College can improve its sustainability moving forward… As we are having these renovations, they should continue to consider green building choices… We can re-evaluate our lawn and facilities maintenance practices,” said Amanda Harwood, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies.
On a different note, Barclay voiced his support for the creation of an “active campus-wide sustainability committee” of which would be directed by himself and a faculty member with representation from students and staff.
“I think [a committee is] honestly something that we need. I was glad Alma did something with the recycling, but then we saw so much waste in SAGA the past couple of weeks that I think a committee would be good to have for solving stuff like that,” said Kylie Demarets (‘25), referring to the recent use of plastic cutlery and dishes while the dishwashers were down in SAGA.
Alma College sustainability and environmental efforts will be furthered with the Rural Michigan Initiative Conference taking place on Wednesday, April 5 in the Wright Leppien Opera House. The conference has been dubbed “Climate Change and Small Towns: Building a model for resilience through collaborative partnerships and education.”
“It will explore the creation of a collaborative, sustainable structure that facilitates solutions to climate-related problems,” said the Alma College website. It will be a forum based on numerous questions surrounding resources, leverage and science related to small town communities and climate change.
It is prominent to mention that this conference will “serve as the launch of a new, innovative institute that will create partnerships and collaborations between academic institutions, community leaders and environmental nonprofits, in order to weave real-world environmental and economic issues into [the] current academic curricula,” said the website.
“One of the greatest strengths of Alma has been its interactions with the community,” said Harwood, and the Rural Michigan Initiative looks to be doing ample work in extending this relationship between the campus and community of Alma.“I am hoping 2023 is a year that we will renew and further our sustainability efforts and start to lead among Michigan private colleges in this space,” said Barclay.