If you came to Wesleyan because of some vague, or obvious, interest in environmentalism, then you’re in luck! If you find the right people, organizations, classes, etc. then you’ll have a great support system for keeping green on campus. If you thought it was impressive that the admissions building has solar panels on top of it (mostly a ploy to get environmentalist students to apply), then you’ll have a great time getting involved with sustainability efforts at Wes.
First of all, Wesleyan has a sustainability coordinator, whose role is to help further Wesleyan’s mission of sustainability, including making things clearer to you. Her name is Jen Kleindienst and you can send her an e-mail at jkleindienst[at]wes. For questions regarding sustainability, you should also check out Wesleyan’s sustainability website.
Every fall at the beginning of the year, the sustainability interns put on the Waste Not! tag sale (it’s also really fun to volunteer with Waste Not!. I highly recommend it). At the end of the spring, they collect copious amounts of unwanted stuff (usually fun stuff)—from couches to sweaters to kitchenware to lots of random decorations—and store them so that you can buy them for ridiculously low prices your first weekend on campus. This year, the sale will be on August 30 and August 31. A percentage of the proceeds are donated to a local charity while the rest go to support on-campus sustainability initiatives and the continuity of the program in future years.
Wesleyan also has a bottled-water free campus commitment; all on-campus stores and vending machines no longer serve bottled water. To fulfill your H2O needs, consider purchasing reusable water bottles (like a nalgene or just a jar or whatever) and filling up at the various water fountains on campus. Middletown water is very safe, but if you’re skeptical you can fill it up at the Usdan filling stations, which are filtered. If you’re going to WesWings, bring your reusable container to avoid paying the cup charge. If you use a reusable mug at Pi Cafe you can get a discount on your coffee; a reusable mug will also get you free coffee at Espwesso, Wesleyan’s student-wun wate night café.
One of the most confusing and less publicized changes to keeping green at Wesleyan has been our recycling system. All central campus recycling (including all dorms) is single-stream, meaning that all paper, hard plastic, glass and aluminum can mix, mingle, and merge together in the recycling bins. Please make sure all recyclables are clean and not to put anything “contaminated”— such as greasy pizza boxes—in the recycling bins.
“Non-traditional recyclables” include stainless aerosol canisters, batteries, electronics, and light bulbs. Most are recyclable in Exley, but check out the website to find out exactly where to recycle your non-traditionals. We also have a composting program in student residences, Usdan, and some campus offices; you can even contact the composting interns for your very own bucket!
Energy conservation is the obvious way to reduce our environmental impact as a community. The mundane: turn off the lights when you leave the room—make it a habit and you won’t even have to think about it. You can make sure to avoid phantom electricity by unplugging items you don’t use daily, such as your printer or your TV. It’s warm now, but once the New England autumn and winter kick in, try not to keep your windows open. If you’re unable to lower the heating in your room, call Physical Plant at (860) 685-3400.
Each year, there are a couple of energy competitions—one for dorms and one for senior woodframe houses. The dorm energy competition relies on the information displayed on the dorm energy monitors that are up in the common areas of the dorms. There’s always a fun prize for the winning dorms (like a pizza or ice cream party). Encourage your dorm mates to reduce their energy consumption, especially in communal areas, such as the bathrooms (whether you want to keep it mellow/yellow to reduce water usage is up to you). The wood frame energy competition—also know as Do It in the Dark—relies on monthly electricity bills and carries a cash prize. On top of saving energy, President Michael Roth has pledged that all residential energy savings will go directly back to financial aid!
If you want to get directly involved in sustainability initiatives on campus, there are many student groups you can get involved with. If soil gets you going, (not just pregnant ladies are into that) then you should walk or bike down to Long Lane Farm, Wes’s student-run farm. You could also join forces with the wild kids over at WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design @ Wesleyan), who are currently using sustainable permaculture techniques to continue planting on the original WestCo site and move on to other sites on campus (like the Butts courtyard). Wes also has a great food policy group called WesFRESH, which advocates for sustainable food choices and policy both on and off campus, including an assessment of our food provider Bon Appetit’s food purchases. The Environmental Organizers Network (EON) partners with a bunch of sustainability groups on campus. Right now they’re working on something called Wild Walls, which will bring the Green Wall movement to Wesleyan for all of September. EON also publishes Loam, an environmental arts magazine, and organizes several thrift swaps and gardening workshops throughout the semester.
If you’re looking for some environmental activism, a bunch of Wesleyan students will be going to New York City during September 21 weekend to take part in the People’s Climate March, a mass mobilization outside of the United Nations summit on the climate crisis. If you’d like to take part, fill out this form and check out the Facebook event page. There is also an active student initiative called Wes, Divest! that calls on Wesleyan to divest from fossil fuel companies, which you can read more about here.
There are also program houses directly related to environment activism/liking the environment in general. They are Outhouse (basically leads Wes’s outing club), Farm House (involved with Long Lane and food sustainability), and Earth House (misc earth love student group ppl). They’re all great spaces, and if you’re interested in them by the end of your first year you can apply to live in one of them!
Students and student environmental organization are amazing, especially at Wesleyan. That being said, there is also a group with a much broader range in membership. SAGES (the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship) consists of representatives from staff, faculty, administrators, Middletown organizations, and students. They tackle topics such as recycling, procurement, and food. To find out more about SAGES, check out the website or email the Director of Environmental Health, Safety & Sustainability Bill Nelligan at wnelligan[at]wes.
Lastly, you can pursue your environmental interest in academics. Relatively new to the Wesleyan academic scene is the College of the Environment, through which you can major or get a certificate in Environmental Studies. Make sure to check out the website and email the administrative assistant Valerie Marinelli (vmarinelli[at]wes) if you have any questions about the major.