Our heartfelt congratulations to Kelsey S., Frank R., and Shayne V.. While many of you have been told things about “the real world” after you graduate, these folks were doing the real work of sustainability on the ground at Unity College. All told, these three must have personally raised 500 lbs of chicken, diverted 18,000 lbs of waste from the landfill, and written 30,000 words on sustainability at Unity College. Their long-term commitment to our shared work has a made a real difference at Unity College. We’re grateful for your many contributions. Keep in touch.
Congratulations to our graduating students! Tomorrow’s commencement activities are a tremendous public celebration of our focus on sustainability science, and the real achievement of our students in the field. We know you’ll continue to do great things in your communities.
Graduates wearing the green ribbon at tomorrow’s ceremony have signed the Graduation Pledge, which states:
“I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”
By choosing Unity College, all of our students have committed themselves to a sustainable future. By signing the Graduation Pledge, they’ve made that commitment public on this important day.
Martin Maines, Unity’s Recycling warrior, has been hard at work developing a range of tracking and reporting systems to really understand our waste diversion rates and campus recycling habits. The good news, by the tremendous effort of our stellar recycling crew and the support of recycling users throughout campus, our recycling stream is really clean. Our waste diversion rate — that is, all campus waste that we keep OUT of the landfill, averaged about 42% last calendar year. Not too shabby, but definitely needs some work.
A February waste audit of residence halls revealed just how much better we can do. The above image shows the percentage of waste found in residence hall trash that could have been recycled if disposed of properly (in green). Waste Audit results by residence hall have been posted in each hall for users to see the details.
This week, we’ll be checking residence halls again and the most improved hall will win a pizza party — sponsored by Student Activities and our Earth Week planning team. Come out to the Earth Fair on Friday at 3pm to see the results. Additional prizes if you correctly guess the most improved residence hall.
So keep your trash recycling free! And get that recycling out of the landfill!
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: Earth Day, Earth Week, earth week challenges, Get Out, get out of the landfill, Recycling, Sustainability, Unity College, Waste, Waste Audit, waste diversion | Leave a Comment »
GET OUT! ….for Earth Week.
Cardboard Kayaks, Contra Dance, Goats, Chickens, Trashion Show, Night Paddle, Food Fun, Open Greenhouse, and more!
Earth week activities are planned for the entire week of April 15 and include a full slate of campus events, sustainability challenges, presentations, and trips. This year’s Earth Week theme, “Get Out!” will include daily emphasis on a variety of sustainability initiatives.
- Monday 15 – “Get Out…of Your Car” | Alternative Transportation
- Tuesday 16 – “Get Out…the Word on Climate” | Climate Change
- Wednesday 17 – “Get Out…and Dig In” | Food & Farm
- Thursday 18 – “Get Out…and Serve” | Community Engagement
- Friday 19 – “Get Out…of the Landfill” | Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Saturday 20 – “Get Out…side” | Outdoors
EARTH WEEK FUN FAIR WILL TAKE PLACE FROM 3-5pm on Friday this year.
(not Saturday as held in previous years)
A full schedule of activities will be available on campus and online.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: Alternative Transporation, Cardboard Kayak, Climate Change, Community Engagement, Earth Day, Earth Week, Farm & Food, Get Out, Outdoors, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »
We’ve gotten a lot of deserved attention for our recent fossil fuel divestment announcement. By now there are nearly three hundred (and climbing) divestment campaigns – mostly student-led – at colleges all over the country. The aim, as you no doubt know by now, is to keep our endowment money from supporting the fossil fuel industry through stock purchases or other financial investment. As a college fully dedicated to sustainability science education that meets climate change head on, our Board of Trustees and administration have asserted that we cannot directly support an industry that has as its core business model, the destruction of the planet. You can read all about the decision to divest on Unity’s website. But let’s explore below what this actually means for the College.
Endowment Basics: Stewardship of the endowment is a primary function of the College’s Board of Trustees; they make sure it’s invested wisely to support the central aim of the institution in perpetuity – namely, providing an education for our students. We don’t spend the endowment directly on operations at the College. Rather, we invest the money in stocks and funds, and use the profitable return on those investments to offset operating expenses. A big chunk of those expenses for us – more than $4 million – is direct financial aid for students. With our 2011 endowment gift of $10 million, we expect about half a million dollars of income from investment profits per year. So essentially, we’re investing our endowment to help pay for our students’ education.
College Finances: It may be helpful to think about Unity’s annual budget picture more broadly. Consider the revenue side (see figure below): tuition and fees, auxiliary enterprises (e.g., bookstore and dining sales), grants, gifts, and endowment investment income (green at the top) amount to about $18 million a year. As mentioned, we give more than $4 million of that in financial aid to students (black at the bottom), bringing our net revenue down to roughly $14 million annually. Over the last few years, we’ve spent just about that amount to run the school – the expense side: instruction, student services, institutional support/administration, facilities/physical plant, debt payments, and additional scholarships, etc.. $14 million in, $14 million out, a balanced budget.
Endowment practices impact revenue. The more money we can make off of our endowment investments, the bigger the endowment draw we can add into our annual operating budget on the revenue side – adding more to the top (green) to offset what we give back to students in institutional aid. As with many small private schools, Unity is a tuition-driven college, and the bulk of our annual operating budget comes from tuition and fees with only a small fraction coming from investment revenue. As you might imagine, colleges and universities with greater percentages of their revenue coming from endowment draw might find challenges to their traditional investment practices unsettling. After all, these Board and Foundation stewards have been doing their best to maximize return and reduce risk for their institutions – often relying on a presumed sure bet: fossil fuel investments.
Divestment at Unity: About five years ago, our Board of Trustees made a concerted effort with our investment manager to move away from what they called “big energy” investments, citing Unity’s focus on environmental and sustainability programming and an interest in pursuing clean energy investments. At the time, an estimated 10% of Unity’s endowment was invested in fossil fuels. By 2012, only 2.5% of the investment portfolio was supporting the fossil fuel industry. When we caught wind of last fall’s Do the Math Tour and related divestment campaign, we knew we had already done most of the math. A review of our current holdings against the Carbon Tracker Initiative’s list of 200 companies with the greatest fossil fuel reserves mapped out a clear path to minimize portfolio exposure to fossil fuels: avoid investments in those 200 companies, and shift exchange traded funds (ETFs) where possible to non-energy sectors. Debbie Cronin, Unity’s VP for Finance & Administration, explains:
Investments in emerging international countries cannot be moved specifically out of fossil fuels, as there are no sector-specific ETFs at this time. Thus, the endowment target is <1%, not 0, as the emerging international sector needs some fossil fuel tolerance.
The loudest recent objection to college and university divestment is a concern that moving funds from fossil fuels will negatively impact endowment returns. Unity’s experience drawing down investments in “big energy” over the last many years suggests otherwise; even through the market downturn, our returns tracked with market benchmarks. The recent Aperio Group study, “Do the Investment Math,” demonstrates that the impact on returns from screening out fossil fuels is minimal, and the risk – though higher than conventional investment – is much lower than commonly asserted by divestment skeptics.
We’re fortunate at Unity College to have a Board of Trustees committed to the sustainability mission of the college. And Cronin points out that having a flexible, proactive fund manager is key to a successful divestment effort.
For more on fossil fuel divestment and Unity’s leadership on the issue, join Sustainability Director, Jesse Pyles, and representatives from 350.org and the Responsible Endowments Coalition on February 26th for the upcoming AASHE Webinar, “Investment and Divestment: Making Sustainable Choices with Campus Endowments.”
Filed under: climate science, Tar Sands Action, Uncategorized | Tagged: #GoFossilFree, #tarsandsfreene, 350, 350.org, Divestment, fossil free, No KxL, nokxl, President Stephen Mulkey, protest, rally, Sustainability, Sustainability Science, Tar Sands, Tar Sands Action, Tar Sands Free Northeast, Unity College | Leave a Comment »