Archive for October, 2011

William & Mary Dining – Meet the new Eco Emporium!

W&M Dining takes part in many initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. Sustainability is extremely important to us and the dining program that we have on campus. Monday, October 24 marked the grand opening of W&M’s newest shop for sustainability! Located just inside the Students’ X-Change in Sadler Center, the Eco Emporium has green products for your everyday needs. Such products include dish soap, laundry detergent, and all-purpose cleaner that are formulated from plant-derived cleaning agents and whose bottles are made from recycled materials.

New Forest Earth provides organic chocolates, seed jewelry, and handmade notebooks. The notebooks are made from recycled paper, flower petals, leaves, and sticks. To round out the collection, T-shirts and water bottles promoting W&M student Corbett Drummey’s campaign against bottled water. The grand opening was celebrated with excitement by the W&M Dining staff and sustainability interns as they saw their vision come to life. Students now have the option of easily accessible green products right in the Students’ X-Change!

From left to right: Molly Hilberg (W&M Dining Sustainability Intern), Sarah Hanke (W&M Sustainability Fellow), Angela Johnson (Food Service Director, Sadler Center), Colleen Swingle (W&M Dining Sustainability Intern), Larry Smith (W&M Dining Director of Operations), Faren Alston (W&M Dining Marketing Manager), Kathleen Shaw (Students’ X-Change Manager).

-W&M Dining

October 28th, 2011

Eco Policy Blog: New policy to clean up coal’s trash

This is a containment facility for coal ash – a by-product created when coal is burned for electricity. Maybe you’ve never considered the stuff. I hadn’t until it started appearing in the news recently. Like most environmental problems in the US, coal ash didn’t become a national issue until this high-profile accident in Tennessee in 2008 demonstrated the potential destruction of this material. The risk isn’t only in Tennessee. Virginia is a large coal producer – the 13th producer in weight in the states in 2009.

In response to the attention brought on by the accident in Tennessee, Congress is racing the EPA to produce a policy to regulate the disposal of coal ash. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act” (H.R. 2273) that would give each state the authority to implement a permitting plan for disposal of coal ash as non-hazardous waste. The bill is an attempt to preempt much stricter proposed EPA regulations that would classify coal ash as a type of hazardous waste.

I was surprised to read that the disposal of the dangerous coal by-product is currently unregulated. Companies are no longer allowed to release ash into the atmosphere, but how they contain or dispose of it hasn’t been touched by the national government. Unregulated, the ash is usually stored in landfills, wet or dry embankments (pits), or recycled into building materials. The accident in 2008 happened when a wet embankment gave way and billions of gallons of wet ash spilled into the river and people’s yards, destroying homes. The House bill requires coal landfills and ponds to be lined and groundwater monitored in the same manner as solid municipal waste (regular household garbage), requiring all landfills and impoundments to designed to hold a maximum weight of the material. The EPA proposal classifies coal ash as a hazardous waste. This differs from the House bill because the program is administered by the EPA, allows lined landfills but phases out wet and surface impoundments within 5 years, and requires 30 years after-care on closed sites.

In Virginia, eight of our 11 members of the House of Representatives voted in support of H.R. 2273. Three opposed it. To become law, the bill still needs to pass the Senate, comprised mostly of Democrats, and receive a signature from President Obama. Although support seems unlikely from Democrats who generally support stricter environmental regulations, there has already been bipartisan sponsorship of the identical Senate bill just introduced. Similarly, President Obama released this statement in opposition, but did not specifically threaten a veto.

Why is this so important? According to the energy industry, we will pay higher energy bills due to the harsher regulations for hazardous waste. They also warn that the ash recycling business would be hit, raising prices for things like roads, bricks, bowling balls that recycle coal ash. But environmental groups point to the heavy metals and carcinogens in the material, and the devastation in Tennessee. The EPA estimates there are 600 dams constructed similarly to the one that collapsed – 50 of them “high-hazard” for collapse. The debris has potential to poison drinking water, aquatic environments or dry up portions of river.

For broader national policy, we will have to see if the exposed dangers of coal ash will inform decision making in favor of renewable energy.

Caitlin Kilpatrick
Master of Public Policy Candidate, Class of 2013
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy

October 26th, 2011

Eco Policy Blog with Caitlin Kilpatrick: Introduction

I am excited to be assigned to the Committee on Sustainability for my graduate assistantship. There is a phenomenal body of student research ongoing for sustainability at William and Mary. Sometimes unfortunately, the practical side of promoting sustainability involves politics. For example, natural resources are commonly owned by the government, and we need laws to deal with them. Because of this necessity, I thought it would be interesting to add a thread focused on sustainability and environmental issues before Congress and the Virginia legislature to the Sustainability blog.

I know many of you are educated and/or involved in politics. Congressman Whittman held a forum with the campus community last Wednesday to address our questions and concerns. Kudos to those of you who participated! The policy posts seek to bring attention and background to some of the major issues our policy-makers are facing regarding sustainability.

Thanks for reading!
Caitlin Kilpatrick

Master of Public Policy Candidate, Class of 2013
Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy

October 26th, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

October 26th, 2011

A New Leaf


My name is Sharon Hartzell. I am an undergraduate at the College, and one of the Committee on Sustainability’s Fall 2011 Eco-Ambassadors. For my project, I am working with our Sustainability Fellow, Sarah Hanke, to improve the  Committee on Sustainability’s web presence. I am interested in diversifying the content of COS’s blog and website, ensuring that the College’s sustainability information is highly accessible and appeals to the widest possible audience. As I learn more about website management, I will strive to incorporate more multimedia content into the COS website, and make navigating the website as intuitive as possible.

I plan to make the COS blog more interactive than ever before, with regular updates and guest posts from a number of organizations, departments and committees at the College. Our campus has an impressive number of initiatives relating to sustainability and the environment, and I hope to create a shared space to get the word out about the tremendous efforts W&M is making to live green.

The blog already has a fresh new look, and we will soon be introducing our first guest post. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out National Geographic’s feature on creating eco-friendly Halloween costumes. It’s geared towards kids, but remember – you’re never too old to play dress-up!

Until next time,

Sharon Hartzell
Class of 2014

October 16th, 2011


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