With over 1,000 acres containing over 500 trees, Vassar’s campus demands caretakers: in particular, students.
The Vassar Greens is a student organization dedicated to creating a more environmentally friendly campus.
“The Vassar Greens pursue environmental and social justice through action-based campaigns that create lasting change,” reads their online mission statement.
“We recognize the connection between social justice and environmental sustainability and we strive to pursue consensus-based goals that incorporate multiple perspectives on the issues that our generation is facing.”
Last year, students found another way to take part in the way Vassar’s grounds are treated and maintained.
Members of the Greens decried the use of a fertilizer containing the chemical 2, 4-D, which they claimed is potentially harmful.
Less than two weeks later, students. faculty, the Committee on College Sustainability and Buildings and Grounds personnel met for a joint forum and reached the decision to change the fertilizer used around campus.
“We could not have succeeded had we not cared for this place in which we not only study, but live,” the article on the Greens’ page stated. “And part of students’ ability to thrive at Vassar is our ability to determine our own future. In stopping 2,4-D from being sprayed, we take command of the College into our own hands.”
Grounds Manager Kevin Mercer described the new commitments for landscaping and the new fertilizer currently being employed.
He wrote in an emailed statement, “B&G pledge[s] that they will not use anymore conventional pesticides for the campus lawns. We now use a liquid corn gluten product for our premergent and an iron base herbicide that is called Fiesta which is a safe alternative instead of 2-4D and other harmful pesticides.”
This spring, Buildings and Grounds has been busy applying the new fertilizer. The new mix, according to Mercer, is sprayed three times a year and contains organic ingredients. This fertilizer is in contrast to how Vassar lawns used to be treated.
Said Mercer, “The fertilizers they used to used before my program was synthetic which causes a lot of environmental problems and multiple applications.”
Mercer added that the crew will also employ sea kelp to help the the plant grow together with the right exact amounts of nutrients.
According to Sustainability Assistant Alistair Hall ’11, although discontinuing the use of all fertilizer is preferable, it may not be feasible.
He wrote in an email, “The fertilizer keeps the weeds away, and with the new fertilizer, it’s good because there is no need to block off chunks of area at a time and put up signs that tell people to stay away for four hours.”
Not only can students become aware of issues around campus, but also of the ways which they can help.
Vassar Greens Finance Coordinator Devina Vaid ’15 described the College’s Resource Conservation Fund.
She wrote in an emailed statement, “It’s a self-sustaining fund of up to $50,000 that helps implement students’ ideas to reduce the College’s carbon footprint.”
She continued, “This year, I was very excited that the College Committee on Sustainability decided to fund my proposal for ‘heated air curtains’ on certain doorways on Campus.” .
One of the initiatives that Taylor Mosley ‘15 of the greens has taken on is what she calls a trash project.
“We believe it is important that people begin to realize where the trash they throw away goes in order to spread awareness of the importance of reducing waste and increasing recycling efforts,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
From the pollution of underground water reservoirs to the emission of harmful gases, trash doesn’t just become someone else’s problem once it’s thrown away.
Mosley wrote, “In order to increase the awareness of the effects of landfills and to encourage people to actively think about the waste they produce, we took pictures of the trash at Vassar, from the time the item goes into the trash to the moment it gets incinerated.” These photos are then to be displayed at the entrances of residential houses
Projects like these, that were spearheaded by students, have proved successful in the past in making a greener campus
Mercer still credits Dunsmith for making Vassar grounds care go organic.
Mercer wrote, “He is a true leader and still to this day thanks me for developing this environmental safe program for our campus lawns to keep the community safe.”