Initiatives at Mercersburg are initiated from any number of sources, from daily actions by staff to student-led projects to more institutional opportunities. Here are just a few examples.
E.E. Ford Foundation Grant: Mercersburg was fortunate to receive a generous matching grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation in 2010. Faculty members were asked to propose environmental projects that would have deep community impact. Five faculty members were awarded grants to research their proposals. After the research was completed, grant and matching funds were used to implement four of the projects:
- Electricity-generating fitness equipment (three ellipticals and two treadmills) in the McDowell Fitness Center.
- Creation of solar panels from scratch in physics classes, and the installation of two solar two arrays. The first array was installed in 2012 to power the removable roof of the (off-grid) Class of ’38 Observatory. The second array, a grid-tied 3.7kW array, is near the Masinter Outdoor Education Center, and supplies power for the pump that services the water tank for the fire sprinkler system, as well as the center itself. Installation of a 3.7 kW solar array by the Masinter Outdoor Education Center was performed entirely by faculty member Dave Holzwarth ’78, Dan Chayes (a local solar installer), and students.
- Installation of a greenhouse and purchase of supplies to expand the Community Garden.
- Lighting inventory of campus and subsequent LED pilot projects, including the re-lighting of the Plantz Courts’ 400 W metal-halide lamps that were loud and slow to come on to 150 W LEDs with focused lights and instant light; the McDowell Fitness Center in Nolde Gymnasium; and a hallway in Rutledge Hall. This also included research into various solar technologies for the Mercersburg campus.
Hurricane Sandy: When Hurricane Sandy passed over campus in October of 2012, it caused significant harm. B&G staff and faculty bailed water in South Cottage when the roof was literally ripped off, thus saving the building (B&G staff and local contractors gutted and rebuilt the entire third floor). Additionally, more than 20 mature trees were blown over; quick thinking on Buildings and Grounds’ behalf spared the worthy among them from simply going to the chipper – several were cut into 10-foot lengths, milled on-site by a local operator, and dried for future use in campus flooring projects. This included cedar, white pine, and lots of black walnut. (Some of the wooden flooring in the Prentiss Alumni and Parent Center at North Cottage came from this project.)
Mugs: In 2009, the Green Team and select faculty members teamed with SAGE Dining Services in the dining hall to eliminate the paper and Styrofoam cups that were being offered. Research showed that the community was using 10,000-12,000 Styrofoam cups per week. With an initial investment into generic mugs and the racks needed to clean them, the investment paid for itself in a matter of months in cost savings from not purchasing the Styrofoam cups, and ended up saving several thousand dollars in the first year alone. Within a few years, SAGE shifted most disposables (utensils, plates, and cups) held in reserve for the occasional day when equipment or power is not cooperating to a compostable, plastic-type material.
AFG: Through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools’ re-accreditation cycle beginning in 2009, the Mercersburg community decided to name “Environmental Stewardship” as one of the four Accreditation for Growth objectives, and “Stewardship” now appears in one of the school’s 11 Belief Statements: “that stewardship of the environment and engagement with the out-of-doors are of utmost importance.” Mercersburg selected student-centered, measurable focus areas: dorm electricity use, dorm water use, school recycling and trash ratios, and food waste in the dining hall. Data collected throughout that AFG cycle showed that the school had consistently improved relative to the baseline in all categories, except commingled recycling, which remained fairly flat. While food waste decreased (Mercersburg went “trayless” before the AFG measurements began, so that inherent savings was not in the baseline), we also complimented that reduction in waste with an initiative to cooperate with a local pig farmer to provide our food waste to him instead of sending it to the landfill.
Pig Farming Connection: Mercersburg raised funds to install a commercial composting operation, but ultimately decided that it would be cheaper and more efficient to partner with a local pig farmer beginning in 2013. Kitchen prep waste and select foods sent back after sit-down meals are now provided to feed the pigs, and the napkins used at meals are even repurposed for pig bedding.