By Chelsie Derman
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Have you ever wondered what the planet will look like in 30, 40 or 50 years from now?
The College’s Environmental Sustainability Council (ESC), which consists of 10 to 12 members, ponders this question all the time. The ESC’s Greener Going Forward plan is all about making strides to a sustainable, green future. The plan was created in 2020 by Brian Potter, an associate professor of political science and international studies at the College, along with various faculty members, staff, students and student clubs. The plan served as a time frame for when different green implementations would go into effect.
“TCNJ did not have a sustainability plan before we wrote this one,” Potter said. “I gathered groups from across campus to ask what were their priorities regarding sustainability. We also took input from a campus-wide poll. The highest priority ideas, and to the degree that they matched TCNJ's non-sustainability objectives, became part of ‘Greener Going Forward.’”
In the fall of 2020, Lauren Madden — an elementary science education professor at the College who was previously on sabbatical — stepped into the role as ESC co-chair, taking a leadership role to make the world a little bit greener and cleaner.
“This year it’s been really great, especially because we were able to get a small amount of funding, budgeted, so that we could award faculty and students and small grants to do projects, either on our campus or in our surrounding community,” Madden said, “and that really has been, to me, the most rewarding part of working on the committee, to be able to elevate the work of our students, faculty and staff.”
As most College students know, the solar project, an ESC initiative, is well underway as contractors had come to campus earlier this semester to add solar panels over lots 4 and 5.
However, there are other unseen projects the ESC council are currently working on, like the sustainable landscaping plan, which got approved.
“Some of the things that are a part of the sustainable landscaping policy are to have more native plants, to make sure that we’re reducing the use of pesticides, things like that, to ensure that our campus is [a] good habitat for pollinators and a place where we grow some plants that avoid flooding and help maybe capture some of the rain when we get flooding and things like that,” Madden said.
Bonner students are helping to make the campus garden eco-friendly, such as adding rain-capturing devices to the garden to help with the irrigation system, as well as composting and growing crops.
According to Madden, Bonners are now working on environmental and campus garden awareness.
“I think they’ve done a really nice job advertising some of that stuff,” Madden said.
For 2022 Earth Day, Bonner held several mini events throughout the week.
Roughly a month before Earth Day, Bonner student and senior psychology major Emma Taff shared some of Bonner’s future plans (at the time).
“For Earth Week, Bonner ESC is currently planning to do a series of events throughout the week, including a tabling for Knowledge is Power and GreenStock event on Storm Water Pollution,” Taff said.
The Knowledge is Power tabling had students guess how many bottle caps were in a jar to win eco-friendly prizes. On the other hand, the GreenStock event focused on sustainability and had food, music and giveaways.
Taff has been a part of Bonner for two years now and believes the work is worthwhile.
“I would love to continue the sustainability work in the future, as in implementing waste reduction solutions for local businesses or cleaning up nearby parks with the community,” Taff said.
At this point, the ESC council has already accomplished inviting speakers and practitioners to campus, as well as building and connecting bike paths. The ESC is also close to getting the environmental studies major approved, as they had gotten the major approved by most of the deans on the campus.
Some things on the agenda that have not been accomplished yet are to register as a tree campus and protect undeveloped properties, such as the piece of land the College owns close to Interstate 295.
Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by Arbor Day Foundation and sponsored by Toyota. The program ensures forest management and engages staff and students in conversation goals. According to the Arbor Tree Foundation, colleges with a Tree Campus USA certificate must meet five standards: “maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project.”
“Most of the progress that hasn’t been made is really a result of circumstances and not of efforts on our part,” Madden said.
Covid-19 unfortunately slowed some of the ESC’s efforts, as the Greener Going Forward plan was drafted before the pandemic. Luckily, the ESC council has made a lot more progress this year to help make the campus more green.
“I’m a teacher educator, and I think I need to think about the future all the time,” Madden said. “Sustainability to me is living in a world where we can maintain and we can allow to move on and leaving things a little bit better than they were before. It’s absolutely critical that education is a part of sustainability. It's really important to me that everything we do in our work with K-12 schools is ensuring that teachers are well aware of the way we influence children.”
Madden added, “We can influence [teachers] to make decisions that allow our planet to not just survive but thrive.”