History of Sustainability at Vassar
Vassar has always been concerned with sustainability. Early concerns of the college centered on fiscal sustainability and academic viability. In the 1970s, environmental issues became important, as did energy conservation. Major improvements have been made to college infrastructure in the last 30 years to improve energy efficiency.
During the 1980s, before recycling was mandated by the state, the student group VEG or “Vassar Environmental Group” started a recycling program at the college, borrowing a truck from Buildings and Grounds (B & G) to pick up recycling every Friday afternoon. In the spring of 89′ VEG sponsored “Waste Not Week” with an emphasis on increasing awareness within the college community that individual choices can have significant environmental and social effects. During the 90’s, VEG became the Vassar Greens, which continues to raise awareness and run action-driven environmental and social justice campaigns today.
In the fall of 2000, a senior thesis project by Erika Diamond (INDP, ’01) proposed the formation of a joint student-faculty-administration committee to address issues of the sustainability on campus. This committee, the Environmental Subcommittee of the User’s Committee, met intermittently that year before being rejuvenated the next year by student interns of the office of the Dean of the College. The new committee was called the Advisory Committee on Recycling and Sustainability (CCS). CCS was an ad hoc committee serving at the pleasure of the President until the spring of 2008 when it was written into the governance as an official committee (Joint Administration-Faculty-Student Committees, Article II, Section 6).
With the help of six student interns, CCS has carried out sustainability-related projects large and small. It contracted with Good Company (Eugene, OR) for a sustainability assessment of the college that was completed in 2003. This assessment provided the college with 10 recommendations, which have been addressed and are being addressed at this time.
In August 2011, the committee completed the STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Reporting System) assessment. This assessment provides the college with a broad overview of Vassar ‘s environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility and will be used to identify specific goals that will become a major part of our group’s “history” to come.