Does Saint Michael’s have a plan to become sustainable?

By Lorelei Poch, Environment Editor

Did you know that Saint Michael’s has geothermal heating and cooling systems installed underneath the library lawn, as well as storm water retention walls, rain gardens, and solar panels spread throughout campus? If you’re an avid ultimate frisbee player or find yourself in the library most days, you have most definitely walked on top of or by these eco-friendly initiatives perhaps never knowing they existed. But with the college’s establishment of the new Center for the Environment, signs will be placed around campus to inform the community of the green initiatives. The Center will be up and running soon to work on more projects like these underground systems to make our campus a greener and more sustainable school.

“The vibe, if you will, is one of togetherness and community. One of do good, do well,” says Kristyn Achilich, Director of the Center for the Environment, using the new branding language of the school. And yes, that also means there will be fewer plastic forks accidentally composted and ending up on the 300’s field.

The Center, born last spring to create a more educated and ecologically inspired campus, will help the campus become greener and more sustainable, Achilich said. The Center serves as “…a physical and contemplative space to build partnerships across existing programs in order to challenge and empower our students to become environmentally conscious citizens as leaders, advocates, scientists, and humanitarians,” Achilich added.

This project will be under the direction of Achilich who believes, “The initiatives to support these systems need to become more robust, and there is great opportunity for student engagement.”

Students can find the physical home of the Center for the Environment in St. Ed’s 126 where they are encouraged to ask questions and chat about internships, research, and projects.

Despite the “new” title, the Center will be continuing to encourage environmental actions and practices on campus by utilizing partnerships with already established clubs and offices such as Green-Up, the Farm, and the Sustainability Committee. Doug Facey, Chair of the Sustainability Committee here at Saint Michael’s, said that a past sustainability project of installing signage around campus with the intention of educating the community about ecologically-friendly systems will be picked up and carried on by the new Center.

Facey explains that these signs can create an interesting talking point for tours, potentially enticing students in SMC’s environmental initiatives and providing visual evidence that the Saint Michael’s campus is indeed working towards being green and sustainable. Achilich agrees, as she says the college’s focus with the new Center is to engage prospective students while retaining current ones. For these reasons, the Center came with some seed money. However, Achlich reveals the plan is to “move away from the culture of ‘do more with less.’” Instead, she plans to actually do less with less by deepening experiences on campus rather than creating new ones.

For Students like ECO-rep Gabby LaRiviere ’21, who plans to be involved with the Center for the Environment, it is a welcomed addition to campus culture. “I think of sustainability and being ecologically aware as a creative process. I think once we all are geared towards that way of thinking, it’ll fall into place,” LaRiviere said.