Archive for the ‘General’ Category
Alanna Matteson ’15
For the last 40 years, Haverford community gardener, Timothy Jennings, has been hauling water from home. Last week, he was the first to try out the new water hydrant located in the center of the community gardens. Needless to say, he was delighted. Funding for the waterline was supported by the Greening Haverford Fund. The Committee for Environmental Responsibility receives money from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship each year to support environmental projects on campus. Thanks to this generous contribution, the community gardeners who once worried about carrying enough water to keep their plants alive, now have enough water to see their gardens flourish.”Students returning in the fall will be similarly well positioned to ensure that their community garden plot remains a beautiful and productive space.
By Alanna Matteson ’15
The College’s efforts around sustainability took another leap forward recently with the launch of the new Haverford College Building Dashboard.
This website allows visitors to track real-time electricity usage in 14 buildings around campus which have been fitted with special meters. Included in the group are all of the residence halls, as well as Magill Library, the Dining Center, Whitehead Campus Center, and the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center. (Five additional buildings—Chase, Founders, Gest, Hall, and Stokes—are having the meters installed and will come online soon.)
The Dashboard allows viewers to see how much electricity each of the buildings use on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. Visitors can also click on photos of the individual buildings to bring up a description, the number of occupants, and see a constantly updated flow chart of electricity usage in the building. In addition, the Dashboard page offers the Haverford College community ideas for saving energy and asks visitors to commit to taking action. Among the ideas: swap out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs, take the stairs instead of the elevator, turn off lights in common areas, or wash clothes in cold water instead of hot.
David Robinson ’14, a member of the College’s Committee on Environmental Responsibility (CER), says he’s thrilled to see the Dashboard come on line. “It’s impossible to substantively reduce energy use, without first knowing how much energy we use,” says Robinson. “In the past, Haverford has participated in a national recycling competition that showed us how much waste we divert to recycling. Whenever we measured recycling rates, and shared the statistics with the student body, recycling rates increased dramatically. I am hopeful that the Building Dashboard will have the same effect.”
It’s all about awareness, says Robinson. “It’s easy to go about your day and not really think about where the heat and electricity for the buildings on campus comes from. The Dashboard makes it very clear, and it will help students be more thoughtful every time they leave on their lights, or plug in their computer over night. While these actions may seem trivial on their own, if every student made these small decisions, we could reduce our carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy costs.”
Look for an awareness campaign to publicize the Building Dashboard to launch in the fall when classes resume, says Claudia Kent, assistant director of facilities management, sustainability and grounds. Kent, who helps coordinate the work of the students, faculty and staff who sit on the Committee on Environmental Responsibility, envisions posters in individual buildings, highlighting their energy usage and carbon footprint, as well as a series of events and activities, such as a dorm competitions, and energy reduction pledge drives.
Other colleges and universities that have adopted the Building Dashboard program have actively used its energy monitoring capabilities to challenge students to reduce usage, says Kent. Cornell University, for example, stages a “Think Big, Live Green Energy Smackdown Contest.”
“Schools that use the Dashboard and take part in energy consumption challenges drop their energy usage by about 10 percent,” says Kent. “We can really do a lot with this.”
Nell Durfee ’14
This has been an exciting year for CER: after years of work, we finally were able to bring composting to Haverford’s Dining Center! Last semester was a trial run while we figured out the logistics, and this semester we went live!
There have been a few snags, mostly on our end, as we’ve been trying to put up permanent posters and keep the student body informed and engaged about what composting means. It seems like a lot of students are still unclear about what it takes to compost, but it’s very simple: students simply have to throw out all of the plastic on their plate into garbage cans by the dish disposal, and then put their plates with food and napkins on the trays. The dining center employees then scrape the food and napkins into the composting containers, which are taken away by Philly Compost. Philly Compost is an awesome local business which collects compostable waste from Philadelphia businesses, and then sells the compost to farms in the area!
Luckily we just completed a composting video (more on that in another post), and we just made some permanent signs. We’re hoping to work hard after spring break to make sure that everything is running smoothly.
My sister and her family are very fortunate to have a weekend house in Connecticut. Bird watching has become a family past time, with multiple (and I mean multiple!) bird feeders on the property. Considering it brings my nieces and nephew great joy to watch them, I couldn’t bring myself to tell them that they are actually doing more harm than good.
I was thinking about this as the horticulturists and I watched with great awe, a large flock of robins devour the berries off a Winterberry Holly. Mother Nature takes care of her own. Winterberry Holly or Ilex verticillata is a native species that is considered to have high wildlife value. Birds love the fruit. Instead of feast on the weekend and famine during the week, planting a diverse selection of native trees, shrubs and perennials would provide both habitat and a steady source of sustenance. Diverse selection of plants equals diverse selection of wildlife. Great for everyone’s viewing pleasure.
Pollinators are essential to food production. It is thought that 1/3 of our food supply is pollinated by insects. With todays meticulously managed landscapes, lack of dead wood and other places to nest and hide, are putting our pollinators at risk. Habitat Hotels have become popular in Europe. Limited only by your imagination, these habitats help create the much needed shelter required by pollinating insects.
Check out some Habitat Hotels: www.inspirationgreen.com/insect-habitats.html
As both Grounds Manager and Sustainability Coordinator, I’m always looking for safer and Earth friendlier techniques for maintaining Haverford College’s Grounds. Last January I attended the NOFA (Northeastern Organic Farming Association) Organic Land Care Accreditation Course at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. NOFA’s overriding philosophy is to first do no harm. “Every land decision we make has either a positive or negative effect on the land in our care.” While farming was NOFA’s original focus, it has expanded to include all facets of our natural environment.
Over the last year, Haverford has been implementing some of NOFA’s principles when it comes to turf. Turf, or grass to most, is the most commonly used ground cover. In their natural state, common turf grasses mature at 12-18 inches. Center campus is mowed at 3 inches, athletic fields at 2 inches. Combine that with compaction from thousands of footsteps per day, the occasional truck or golf cart and cleats from sports teams, it can create a stressful situation for any plant. Turf weeds on the other hand love compaction. You can tell the condition of the soil just by identifying the weeds growing there. Plantain loves a compacted moist soil while crabgrass favors hot and dry compacted soil. Soil, or dirt to the uniformed, is the key to healthy plants. “Feed the soil, not the plant.” A healthy soil needs less fertilizer and water and can reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides.
Haverford tackles this on a variety of different fronts and varying degrees. First, and possibly the most important, is soil biology and testing. Soil is living, it’s made up of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and earthworms all working together. Haverford has always done standard testing for pH, micro and macro nutrients and organic matter, but recently we’ve also selected pilot areas where we’re testing the soil biology as well. We’ve also been taking soil profiles to see the extent of turf grass root systems.
Aggressive aerification and over seeding is done in both spring and fall. Aerification is either done with a seedevator, a machine that shatters the top couple inches and drops seed or with a core aerifier, an attachment that pulls a four inch plug. Both machines allow air to get to the roots and alleviates compaction. 6,500lbs of grass seed was put down in 2013, the less bare ground, the less opportunity for weeds, the less pesticides need to be used. Aerification also keeps the thatch layer down. Thatch is a mat of un-decomposed plant material. Excessive thatch can cause disease and pest problems in turf grass as well as interfere with grass rooting.
Currently, Haverford uses an all organic fertilizer made up of chicken manure in the majority of it’s turf areas. Organic fertilizers have several benefits over synthetic fertilizers, the main one being it doesn’t require fossil fuels(oil) to produce. As they break down they also add organic matter which aids the soil structure and its ability to hold nutrients, water and air. You also have less salts in organic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers have the capacity to burn if applied incorrectly. We’ve also been experimenting with compost tea. Swarthmore College, after upgrading their equipment, donated a 100 gallon tea brewer. The benefits of compost tea are many. As long as the organic matter in your soil is around 4%, soil biology can be supplemented with compost tea. When brewed correctly, it contains many beneficial organisms essential in the soil food web. Compost tea has been shown to suppress disease and extend root systems which in turn reduces the need for supplemental irrigation. It also improves plant growth by improving nutrient retention in the soil.
While Haverford may never be 100% organic, it’s important to explore all avenues when it comes to turf care.
Thanks to the NOFA Organic Lawn and Turf Handbook
For those of us who know Richard, we admire his tenacity and love of gardening. Watching the transformation over the last few years we have often been puzzled and appreciative of the work that has transpired at the old Oakley House. His love for the garden is unmistakable. Richard follows in the footsteps of the house’s namesake, Cletus Oakley, professor of mathematics and passionate gardener.
Recently, we were given a private tour. It was great to see how the garden has evolved over the last few years. Last time we spoke, Richard had been waging war on invasive plants. It appears that war has been won only to be replaced by another. Richards new nemesis is Pennsylvania’s heavy clay soil. Growing up in northern Virginia, Richard is very familiar with the hardship that gardeners face with these soils. Instead of doing battle, he decided to remediate. He started excavating portions of the garden, completely removing the red clay. Not a couple inches, but feet! I’d get the occasional email asking for wood chips, leaf mold or any excess soil. We’d deliver by the truck load. Holes would start appearing in the front garden as he excavated. The pile of discarded soil across from the house would get larger. We were all impressed by his dedication.
We wandered through his garden admiring the display of lilies, phlox, dahlias and black eyed susans. Each plant has a story. The Oakleaf Hydrangea seedling dug out from a suburban Washington D.C. swim club, the little Pitch Pine pulled from a sidewalk crack in Avalon and the many small trees from his family’s home in Maine. Each plant lovingly tended.
When asked how he got into gardening he told us of a trip to England. He had admired the hanging flower baskets, and upon his return hung several from his porch. While the basket eventually died a bird nested in one of them and over the years this has come to define Richard’s gardening style: “wild, but a little cultivated.” His garden attracts a variety of different wildlife: birds, rabbits and the occasional fox. The bird and hanging plant inspired him to find more plants that would attract wildlife, and with encouragement from Grounds and Arboretum his garden has grown to what it is today.
Our tour brings us to what Richard calls Stonehenge, two stone tables with benches. During my last visit four years ago, these tables were loaded with different types of stone. During his gardening endeavors he has uncovered stonework laid by Cletus Oakley: Flagstone, Belgian Block, brick, rocks of many different shapes and sizes and large slabs of glass which were once the Magill Library floor. Over the years he has hired students who’ve assisted him in creating walkways and edging throughout the garden. Looking at the piles he has materials for many years to come.
Our last stop was the woodland that screens the house from Walton Road. Haverford’s tree contractor, John B Ward, removed several Norway Maples creating dappled shade, perfect for some of our native understory trees. In order to eliminate non-native competition, Richard blanketed select areas with a foot of leaves. His reasoning being that you nurture the good and suppress the bad. Small specimens of Beech, Shadbush, American Holly and Redbud are scattered on the woodland floor.
The glimpses from Featherbed lane do not do justice to the beauty that is hidden behind the house. 1 Featherbed Lane is truly a labor of love.
As Haverford students made preparations to leave school for the summer, many parted with their old belongings, mostly clothes and furniture. These possessions did not, however, end up in the trash. Thanks to a new partnership with Goodwill, Haverford students were able to recycle 25,010 pounds of items, left behind as donations.
The Move-Out Recycling Committee, consisting of Haverford students, faculty, and staff, primarily concerned with the school’s environmental impact and Facilities efficiency, first met in December to brainstorm ideas of how to deal with the large volume of goods left behind in dorms at the end of the school year (45 tons in 2012!). Original ideas, influenced by peer institutions Swarthmore College and Dartmouth College included collecting the unwanted items and holding a summer community sale or a back-to school sale. A busy summer schedule at Haverford, along with a lack of personnel and storage, discrepancies over funding allocation, and the possibility of thefts made these sale ideas less than feasible for the Fords.
Assistant Director of Facilities Management Claudia Kent, who also serves as advisor of the Committee on Environmental Responsibility, was operative in making the connection with Goodwill. Donating goods or funds to charity was an idea that surfaced promptly in the brainstorming process, and by early February, Claudia had already met with Goodwill staff and given them a tour of Haverford’s campus. This meeting provided an early vision of how the Move-Out Recycling idea would become a reality. A huge obstacle was overcome when Goodwill confirmed that its own staff and volunteers would come to Haverford at the end of the year to be the manpower behind moving thousands of pounds of goods.
During finals week, large containers were present outside all of the dorms up campus, and students were encouraged to drop off any unwanted items as they packed up to go home for the summer. Sarah Glass ‘14 remarked, “I put so much stuff in there. It was great to get rid of a ton of clothes that I would have felt bad about throwing out, but I didn’t wear them anymore. I live far away and didn’t want to travel with a lot of extra stuff, and it was really easy and convenient to donate.”
Other students felt the same way, notable by the 11,360 pounds of goods that were donated during finals week alone. After Commencement, Goodwill went through the dorms as housekeeping crews were cleaning up, and claimed another 13,650 pounds of unwanted furniture, desk accessories, and more. Kent explained, “The list of items [Goodwill] will take is extensive. The only exception is heavily soiled clothing, food, and toiletries. What’s not fit to be sold in their stores will be recycled.”
Haverford’s Move-Out Recycling Committee was thrilled with the results of this spring’s event and hopes that this event can become an annual effort to divert lightly used clothing and furniture from ending up in the trash.