Ecosphere February 2017

Welcome to the Swarthmore College Sustainability Newsletter! Read on to learn more about sustainable happenings in the Swarthmore campus community.

This issue features two of the projects of the Presidential Sustainability Research Fellows (PSRF's). These students are part of a year-long 2-credit program that works closely with the Office of Sustainability, the Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility, and the Environmental Studies program to develop new sustainability initiatives on campus. Also, this issue will highlight recent and upcoming events in sustainability, Ecosphere groups, and the Scott Arboretum.

Meet the PSRF's

Adina Spertus-Melhus & Vanessa Meng

Waste audit conducted September 2016

Waste Characterization Study


  • Waste Audit identifying what is going into our waste streams and how we're sorting it (conducted last September)
  • Education - training on how to sort waste and compost both for faculty staff and students (laying the groundwork for more extensive freshmen orientation training)
  • Video project highlighting suggestions and stories from members of EVS to both teach people things they could do better, and bring their voices more prominently into the conversation (after all, EVS techs are the people who work with our discarded materials on a daily basis and are often ignored)
  • Changes to end of the year move out to both prevent students from throwing out usable items that other students could benefit from (e.g. lamps, mirrors), while also helping students become more aware of the items that they bring to school vs. what they actually need.

Why this project matters to us:

From our waste audit, we found that we're diverting (compost & recycle) less than 32% of our waste, although looking at composition alone we could be diverting more than 80% (i.e. less than 20% in trash). This is based on all waste disposed from Sept. 7, 2016 and Sept. 9-11, 2016 in the following buildings: Black Cultural Center, Kohlberg, Parrish, Science Center, Willets. Percentages calculated by weight.

How others can get involved:

If anyone wants to get involved in any of these projects, email


Project: Planning & Assessment Team/STARS


  • Complete a Swarthmore Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) report for the 2016 calendar year. The STARS report, created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), is a widely accepted, comprehensive sustainability data collection framework for higher education institutions that includes annual metrics derived from academic, operational, campus engagement, and campus planning and administration data.
  • Draft a qualitative report that provides a general sense of sustainability related ideas and concerns gathered from staff members from offices and departments across the college. in administration. This report will encapsulate the common trends related to campus sustainability ideas, concerns, and expectations, and the factors that may be inhibiting progress towards those matters.
  • Build a replicable framework for future Planning & Assessment teams. This report will include our processes and best practices and advice for gathering the vast amount of data for STARS.
  • Review the collected information from both the STARS report (1) and the feedback report (2) and offer suggestions for next steps towards improved campus sustainability based on that data.

Why this project matters to us:

  • The data we collect is integral to understanding where we currently stand with campus sustainability, and to identifying where we might improve.
  • The data we collect is integral to measuring sustainability improvements in the future.
  • The project is a great opportunity to do good work alongside traditional academic studies.
  • Put simply, this project will make Swarthmore a more sustainable institution.

How others can get involved:

  • Sign up to do the PSRF program!
  • Be more conscious about your carbon footprint.
  • ...Not sure how? Reach out to your GA or a PSRFer with any questions to learn why this matters!

PSRFs Not Featured (yet!)

Other PSRFs include: Aaron Metheny, Brittni Teresi, Chase Williamson, Gavi Mallory, James Chen, and Kyra Harvey. Hopefully, we will hear about their projects soon!

Recent Ecosphere Events

events with Peterson Toscano, SAGER speaker

Poster for "Everything is Connected" event with Peterson Toscano

A dinner at the Swarthmore Inn was attended by the Green Advisors, PSRFs, the PSRF staff mentors, the Deans, Office of Sustainability staff, Environmental Impact Committee and President Smith on February 2nd. It was rewarding to hear each member of the PSRF (Presidential Sustainability Research Fellowship) give a 6 minute spiel about the projects they had been working on since early Fall. As the inaugural year, this program (run by Betsy Bolton--the head of Environmental Studies and Aurora Winslade--the Sustainability Director) has gone through difficulties, but has been overwhelmingly well-received and successful. Val Smith displayed her enthusiasm for the students' work in her closing remarks. She also talked about her pride in being one of the first colleges to put a price on carbon, especially in the tough political climate of late.

Right after this event the attendees rushed over to Sci 101 for "Everything is Connected" by Peterson Toscano, a performance artist, activist and comic storyteller. Peterson drew the crowd in with the engaging characters he portrayed and the striking optimism that has been hard to find since the Inauguration. Peterson winded the seemingly unrelated and emotional stories of his personal struggles with conversion therapy, the Biblical story of Jacob and Joseph, and Climate Change. In addition to this talk, Peterson has made guest appearances in a variety of classes over the last couple of days. The Office of Sustainability hopes to continue and strengthen our partnerships with the Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, Lang Center, and the Sager Fund to bring in more outstanding individuals and groups to campus. - by Indy Reid-Shaw

Green Advisors Climate Change Movie Screening

The GA’s program recently hosted a screening of National Geographic’s climate change documentary Before the Flood, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film was followed by a brief but profound discussion about the themes of the film and ways to combat climate change and climate change deniers.

Mountain Justice & National Day of Action

Photo from The Phoenix article

MJ recently participated in a national day of action on Monday, January 23rd with students at 25 other schools across the country who walked out to demand that their institutions reject the deadly climate denialism of the Trump administration and divest their endowments from fossil fuels. At Swarthmore, over 150 students and faculty walked out of class and rallied in Eldridge Commons to demand climate justice.

Here is the Phoenix article on the action from Abby Saul:

Upcoming Events and Announcements

Apply to be a 2017-18 Green Advisor!

2016-17 Green Advisors on AP's green roof

This year's GAs defined their mission statement as: To foster behavioral and structural change by raising campus environmental conscientiousness. If this resonates with you, and you see yourself as a peer leader, then this program is the right fit for you! GAs primarily serve three roles:

  • RESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP: provide sustainability support to their peers, host study breaks in their assigned residence halls, meet weekly with their 'Dorm Teams' (DPAs, RAs, SAMs), and oversee move-in/move-out waste management.
  • CAMPUS COMPOST: manage the campus compost system and assist in the transition to campus-wide compost coverage.
  • SUSTAINABILITY GUIDES: serve as a liaison to about 5 academic departments or offices through the new Sustainability Guides program, which will train faculty & staff to become sustainability experts within their departments.

Applications are due **Wednesday, February 22 at 11:59 pm**

Read more about the GA program and the application process here:

Scott Arboretum

Nature's Narratives: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

  • Wednesday, February 8, 5:30-6:30 pm at the Scott Horticultural Library
  • Join fellow garden enthusiasts and book lovers as they discuss books about plants, nature, and the environment. “Nature’s Narratives” is a book discussion group sponsored by the Scott Arboretum where readers come together to discuss a book once a month and share in the reading experience.

Wanderings at One

  • Weekly series on Thursdays, 1-2 pm at LPAC
  • Free and open to the public, Wanderings at One is an informal way to share what has been seen and discovered in various gardens and natural spaces both in the United States and abroad.

Green Cleaning Workshop

  • Wednesday, February 15, 5-6:15 pm at the Wister Center
  • Learn a number of ways to reduce toxic chemicals around your house (and your watershed) by creating your very own green cleaning kit! We will make safe and wonderful smelling products as part of our educational experience in this hands-on workshop. Each participant will create and take home an all-purpose cleaner as well as a jar of scouring powder. Limit 12 per class.

Renovating a Garden

  • Friday, February 24, 10 am-12:30 pm at the Wister Center
  • Every garden has an aesthetic lifespan and every gardener knows there is a time when the garden needs to be rejuvenated. Elizabeth Haegele, owner of Fine Garden Creations, will present ideas, plans, and solutions to renovate gardens of all sizes and styles. Her illustrated presentation will also include before and after photographs to show what a difference a renewed garden can make as well as rejuvenative pruning techniques on common older garden plants such as lilacs and rhododendrons. There will be time at the end of class for questions and answers to help inspire you to make some exciting changes to your garden. Limit 30.

Go to for more info!

Update to Ecosphere Groups List

Animal Allies

Mission: Animal Allies is a club whose focus is to bring attention to animal rights issues and injustices and strive to combat them through awareness and animal rights advocacy. We plan on accomplishing this through various mediums such as screening of animal rights films, discussions, animal-related volunteering, as well as by providing individuals with informative resources to guide them to lead a more animal-friendly lifestyle.

Get Involved: Contact Natalie LaScala (President) at or Bryan Alvarez (Vice-President) at

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for checking out our February newsletter! Before you go, did you know Swarthmore can't recycle straws, plastic bags, or #'s 3 and 6? Brush up on your recycling skills to show a little love to the earth this Valentine’s Day!

Unsure about what can be recycled? Ask a GA or look for one of these helpful signs posted around campus!


If you have any comments or suggestions, or would like your group to be featured in the next publication of Ecosphere, please contact Emily Kibby ( or Michelle McEwen (

Created By
Michelle McEwen

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