Sustainability in the Workforce: An Interview with Emma Cronin ‘15

Two female students laying in front of a greenhouse
Two students in front of one of the Holy Cross greenhouses
Emma Cronin graduated with a double major in English and Spanish from Holy Cross in 2015. After graduating, she interned and worked in the Obama Administration as a climate policy agent. Since leaving the White House, she has also gone on to do work at the UN Foundation in the climate sector. I spoke to Emma to learn more about her path to working in sustainability.

Q: How do you think your particular major prepared you for working in the sustainability field?

The education at Holy Cross, being a liberal arts school, is extremely comprehensive. There was a lot of stress put on creating multi-faceted approaches to complex problems, as well as stress placed on the importance of effective communication. Despite my majors not being environmentally focused, there was plenty of preparation done that made me comfortable when I began working in sustainability.

Q: How would you define the term “sustainability?” Has your understanding of what sustainability means changed throughout the course of your career?

I used to think that sustainability was all about individual action because that’s how it is marketed to the masses by big companies and corporations, but since I’ve begun my career, I have seen how it is a much larger issue and policy is needed to control climate change. I believe that climate and sustainability is the big issue of our generation.

Q: How can students become involved in sustainable initiatives at school and in the workplace?

There are tons of ways to get involved with sustainability on campus. Food waste on campus and divestment initiatives are a couple of areas that have been recently active, and you can always get involved in Worcester. My advice would be to do what you can, but don’t feel obligated to do something if you are too busy or don’t really want to.

Q: Did you have any pivotal experiences that made you interested in working toward a more sustainable future in your field?

Working in the White House was certainly a pivotal experience for me in my professional life and has made me more interested in working in sustainability. Those you can meet can and will help shape your path, so be open to meeting new people and having new experiences.

Interview paraphrased and blog post written by Anne Kiernan ’23.

Freezer Composting Program Expands to Loyola Hall

White chest freezerAfter piloting a successful freezer composting program in Figge Hall and Williams Hall, residents in Loyola Hall will also now have this composting service. The freezer is located in the basement near the communal kitchen. Students who would like to participate should follow these steps:

1. Grab a compostable bag located near the freezer.
2. Collect food waste in your room (Pro Tip: If you have a mini fridge or freezer, store this waste there to avoid unfortunate smells).
3. Bring and drop your bag in the collection freezer at your convenience.
4. Repeat!

What to compost:

  • Fruit scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Meat scraps

Please keep anything containing large amounts of oil, fat, or grease out of the compost.

Take a Leaf of Faith, Join the Sustainability Community This Fall

Three students viewing research tank
Marine Biology Summer Research 2021

Our student environmental involvement opportunities are expanding. Whether it’s implementing a project with the Holy Cross Green Fund, becoming a Roomside Recycling Facilitator, or consulting with community partners through the Pothos Project, consider joining this fun and inspiring community. Explore a few options below:

Pothos Corporate Responsibility Consulting Project
Through the Pothos Project, students, with the support of alumni mentors, help Holy Cross and our local business community become more sustainable on their way to prosperity and good fortune via real-world consulting engagements. Learn more

Green Living Certification
The Green Living Certification recognizes students for their positive environmental choices. Certification is simple. Complete at least one action item in each of the six categories on the MyHC checklist and submit the form. Get certified

Roomside Recycling
Instead of a community of wishful recyclers, we’re shifting to a community of confident recycling gurus! Roomside Recycling Facilitators go door to door in residential halls with a partner to facilitate a quick waste sorting game with residents. Through this process, student facilitators educate their peers on proper waste sorting. Become a facilitator

Green Influencer Program
Holy Cross’ Green Influencer Program brings awareness to environmental issues and promotes approachable sustainable practices by having a small group of HC micro-influencers share content on their personal Instagram profiles. Sign up now

Sustainability in the Workforce: An Interview with Larry Haley ‘72

Three students sit on a bench
Holy Cross students enjoy each other’s company at the Cookies on the Hoval event in March 2021
Larry Haley is a member of the class of 1972 who majored in Theology (current day Religious Studies). After graduating, Larry became a teacher and then a carpenter before attending Boston Architectural College to become an architect. With an interest in sustainable architecture and building housing for the homeless, Larry has rooted himself in building greener spaces in and around Worcester. I spoke with Larry about his time at Holy Cross and how it prepared him for a career in sustainability.

Q: How do you think your particular major prepared you for working in the sustainability field?

A degree in Theology allowed me to explore my interest in religion and literature, which ties into every aspect of life. Creating a culture of teamwork and the ability to work with people that you do not necessarily like is a lesson that carries into everything I do, including professional work. We are in church at every moment, and my education has taught me that life itself is a religion that is practiced at all moments.

Q: How can students become involved in sustainable initiatives in college and in the workplace?

Don’t be afraid to speak up, it is never too early to start networking. Once you make a few connections, the people you want to speak and work with will come to you. Networking can be as simple as emailing someone in the field or starting a conversation, don’t be intimidated to reach out.

Q: What advice would you give to a student who is interested in working in sustainability but is worried about job stability, pay, etc.?

The best job opportunities come from building relationships and networking in the field that you are interested in. At the end of the day, money isn’t what will make you happy and isn’t everything. I’ve worked in carpentry which is a blue-collar job and architecture which is a white-collar occupation, and both have brought me joy and satisfaction.

Q: If a student wanted to get involved in your field, is there an organization, association, or group they could join?

You’re only disconnected if you want to be. Get involved in Worcester or at home at local organizations and nonprofits. I also recommend doing more reading on topics that interest you, one good book recommendation for learning more about sustainability is Worldchanging by Alex Steffen.

Interview paraphrased and blog post written by Anne Kiernan ’23.

Dining Services Practices New Plant-Based Recipes

Kale, white bean warm salad closeup

Menus of Change is a set of principles that integrates nutrition and environmental science to develop recommendations that help food service and culinary professionals achieve optimal nutrition, environmental stewardship and resilience, and social responsibility within the food service industry. The vision is to guide food and food service professionals, like Holy Cross’ Dining Services, in creating meals that are not only delicious, but also nutritious and healthy, environmentally sustainable as well as socially responsible and ethical.

In June, the culinary team in Dining Services worked with Leslie Cerier, “The Organic Gourmet”, to develop new plant-based recipes for the upcoming semester. This four-day workshop, full of discussions and cooking demonstrations, explored sea vegetables, teff, and tempeh. Recipes included everything from miso based sauces and teff based croutons.

Leslie Cerier portrait
Photo from Leslie Cerier

When students return this Fall, they will likely see a few new plant-based dishes at Kimball Main Dining Room. Have specific ideas? Dining Services always welcomes feedback.

Holy Cross Recycles Its Wooden Pallets

Stack of wooden pallets behind a dumpster
Photo taken by Brian Griffin
While most wooden pallets are reusable, there comes a time when they no longer have the structural integrity to fulfill their purpose. According to GMR, that takes about nine reuses. Once a pallet reaches this stage, there are recycling and refurbishing options. Reclaimable pallets will get fixed then resold and other pallets will get used as surplus wood. As a last stop, exhausted pallets could become mulch or a source of fuel.

Holy Cross participates in wood pallet recycling by contracting with a third party vendor to annually pickup the College’s wooden pallets and recycle them offsite. This action contributes to the College’s 35+ percent diversion rate, which helps keep recyclable and compostable materials out of the landfill and incineration. Reducing the College’s trash production also supports Holy Cross’ carbon commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Stack of large wooden pallets
Photo taken by Brian Griffin
Watch the video where Bo’s Pallets & Mulch, Inc. demonstrates how they recycling wooden pallets.

Sustainability in the Workforce: An Interview with Rebecca Beaulieu ‘18

A few Holy Cross students planting seedlings in a garden bed
Holy Cross students participating in Working for Worcester 2021
Rebecca Beaulieu graduated in 2018 with a degree in English and a minor in Environmental Studies. After graduating, Rebecca participated in a year of Americorps where she taught at a high school in Boston. She is currently the director of communications and youth program organizer at 350 New Hampshire, a non-profit organization advocating for the expansion of reusable energy and an end to the use of fossil fuels. I spoke with Rebecca about how her Holy Cross experience prepared her for her career.

Q: What was your major at HC? How do you think your particular major prepared you for working in the sustainability field?

Majoring in english helped me become a more effective communicator, which has been great because communicating is a large aspect of my job. Minoring in environmental studies provided me with a broader understanding of climate issues and the need for change in how we approach sustainable practices.

Q: In what ways do you think a liberal arts education has benefited you in your career? In what ways has it (if any) impeded you?

Overall, I think a liberal arts education is the best way to become a well-rounded professional upon graduating. I do wish that there was more emphasis on learning about the tangible effects of climate change during my time at Holy Cross, such as the effects of climate change on farming and the economy. I think that integrating more social justice and humanities based information into the curriculum would be beneficial.

Q: How would you define the term “sustainability?” Has your understanding of what sustainability means changed throughout the course of your career?

I think that a liberal arts education has helped me to look at the bigger picture, which is important in sustainability. It is not the consumer’s responsibility to fix climate change through individual action, which is an emerging idea in sustainability that has become more accepted recently.

Q: How do you see sustainability impacting your daily life?

While individual action can only go so far, I still try to do my best to buy less from places like Amazon and watch my utility usage in my apartment. The best thing an individual can really do to positively impact sustainability is support the right policies that make you feel good and watch where your money is being invested (some banks and large corporations support fossil fuels). That’s where I see sustainability most impacting my day to day life.

Interview paraphrased and blog post written by Anne Kiernan ’23.

Will Sampson ’24 on Achieving Carbon Neutrality through Renewable Natural Gas and Carbon Offsets

The College of the Holy Cross is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. Presently, over 60 percent of the College’s carbon footprint comes from heating, which is primarily fueled by natural gas. Renewable natural gas (RNG) and carbon offsets are potential assets in fulfilling this commitment. RNG emits significantly less carbon than traditional natural gas does. This gas is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and thus can be used in existing natural gas systems, such as Holy Cross’ physical plant. RNG is essentially biogas (the gaseous product of the decomposition of organic matter) that has been processed to purity standards. RNG can be extracted from landfills, livestock operations, and wastewater treatment plants.

Other colleges and universities are utilizing RNG and carbon offsets in a cost-effective manner to achieve carbon neutrality. My proposed plan of action for Holy Cross is to contract with a major in-state energy or waste management firm to access RNG at a competitive and stable rate. The University of New Hampshire has achieved carbon neutrality by utilizing RNG. UNH partnered with Waste Management to develop a landfill biomethane plant, which now fuels most of the campus. UNH sold renewable energy certificates to finance the capital costs of the project. Similarly, with its own RNG plan, Duke University is approaching carbon neutrality. Duke partnered with Google and Duke Energy to develop a livestock biogas plant.

Meanwhile, Allegheny College and American University have achieved carbon neutrality through carbon offsets, which are voluntary offsite investments made to negate emissions. For Allegheny and American, these measures included investing in responsible trucking, forestry, international energy sustainability, and further insulation on their campuses. To reduce its carbon footprint and as an alternative to converting to RNG, Holy Cross could maintain its traditional natural gas system while increasing its portfolio of carbon offsets.

heating boiler with metal pipes above
Holy Cross’ central heating plant, fueled by natural gas.
There are commercial RNG facilities within proximity of the Holy Cross campus. These locations are listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as sellers of biomethane, a form of renewable natural gas. Some Massachusetts locations include Westminster, New Bedford, Haverhill, Hadley, and Rutland. Holy Cross can explore contracting opportunities with these locations individually, or through a major energy or waste management partner.

In accordance with the Jesuit tradition, Holy Cross is committed to active engagement with the world. The Society of Jesuits’ Universal Apostolic Preferences call us to act urgently on today’s environmental crisis, “whole nations and peoples need an ecological conversion if we are to be honest custodians of this wonderful planet.” By reducing its carbon footprint through renewable natural gas and carbon offsets, the College is dedicating itself as an honest custodian of this planet. We gain new strength to care for others and for creation when we replenish our common home.

I see three major steps in reducing the College’s carbon footprint through RNG. First, Holy Cross should continue building efficiency projects to minimize heating demand, and consequently, natural gas usage. Second, the College should contract with a major in-state energy or waste management firm to access RNG at a competitive and stable rate. Finally, Holy Cross should replace conventional natural gas purchases with RNG from a new contract. These measures will lead to significantly reduced carbon emissions, advancing the College’s mission to be carbon neutral by 2040.