Every year, the College of the Holy Cross plants commemorative trees to honor some of our community members. In 2021, a tree was planted for Jim Long and a second tree was planted for Donna Wrenn, both long-time employees of the College. These trees join the many others in the campus arboretum.
On April 21, 2021, the College of the Holy Cross will host an Alternative Transportation Appreciation Day (ATAD). You may be wondering what is alternative transportation? Why is the office of sustainability spending a day celebrating it? Alternative transportation refers to the different forms of commuting other than single-occupancy vehicles (meaning when one person drives in a gasoline-powered vehicle alone). Some alternative forms include walking, biking, using public transportation, driving an electric vehicle, and carpooling. Student and employee commuting produce 30 percent of Holy Cross’ carbon emissions. The goal for Alternative Transportation Appreciation Day is to bring awareness to options like carpooling incentives, public transit, and carbon footprints in order to encourage the Holy Cross community to try transportation alternatives to single-occupancy driving. By doing so, the office of sustainability hopes to reduce the College’s carbon emissions produced through commuting.
To support alternative transportation commuters, the College maintains a number of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations, exclusive hybrid vehicle parking spaces, and bike racks. Four dual-dual port EV charging stations are located on the third and fourth floors of Holy Cross’s parking garage. Highly desirable parking spots, exclusively for hybrid vehicles, are spread throughout campus parking lots, everywhere from Hogan Campus Center to Figge Hall. Uncovered bike racks are situated on the corner of Linden Lane and Kimball road, between the Science complex and Dinand library, as well as on each side of the Hart Center. Try to keep these locations in mind as they will be useful for ATAD activities.
As mentioned earlier, ATAD will take place on April 21, 2021 and encourages people to enjoy the outdoors while staying socially-distanced. Participants will find green posters with QR codes in various locations on campus (see the map). The QR codes direct students and employees to infographics about public transit, to a site where they can calculate their carbon footprint, and to the app store where they can download the Baystate commute app. Happy ATAD!
Michael Mahoney, a Holy Cross ‘94 graduate who studied english, says he never envisioned himself working in sustainability. Immediately after graduating Holy Cross, Michael went on to attend Boston College Law School, which led him to work as a lawyer in governmental affairs and litigation in both Boston and Maine. In 2016, he transitioned to his current position as chief legal and compliance officer at L.L. Bean. I sat down and spoke with Michael about his experience working in the sustainability field.
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?
A liberal arts education provided a base for diversified learning, giving me critical reading, writing, and thinking skills to learn in different environments. While I did feel somewhat unprepared immediately after graduation, employers are often very willing to provide new employees with the training necessary to make them feel more comfortable.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to any student at Holy Cross who is interested in sustainability?
Taking basic financing or accounting courses can be beneficial to any student in any field. Understanding these basic concepts will be helpful in any career, not just one in sustainability.
Q: What stereotypes about jobs in sustainability did you believe prior to working in the field?
This idea of an activist, Patagonia-wearing hiker is definitely what most people think of when they envision a person who works in sustainability. But that’s just not true. Sure, there are some people who fit the stereotype but it’s definitely not everyone. There’s also this belief that you need to lean heavily to one side politically, but your political affiliation has nothing to do with how credible or devoted you are to sustainable initiatives.
Q: How do you see sustainability changing in the workplace in the next 5-10 years?
There has been a shift in how people view sustainability, and it seems that more people are looking at sustainability as a civic responsibility. It’s not something that is going away anytime soon- the field of sustainability is only going to grow, and that might mean finding ways to incorporate sustainability into initiatives one might have never thought possible in the past.
For more career guidance in the sustainability field, join the Health Professions and Life Sciences Career Community in the College of the Holy Cross’ Center for Career Development.
Interview paraphrased and blog post written by Anne Kiernan ’23.
The Climate Resilient Everyday Short Story Contest ran from early December to late February with the purpose of exploring how everyday people are demonstrating climate resilience. Anne-Catherine Schaaf ’22 won this contest with her story called Blackstone Communion:
I had expected solitude on that cold February morning in the park. But there was a mallard, swimming contentedly in lazy circles. A shining emerald coat, a dark head bobbing against the water. I breathed in the fresh air, the hint of snow layered with traffic fumes from the road not too far away, and tried to understand. What was it doing here, on such a cold morning? Don’t birds usually head south during the bitter Massachusetts winters? I was mystified. I learned later, however, that sometimes, if the river doesn’t freeze, and there’s enough food, some birds will stay. I walk slowly along the bridge, listening. With every step, the snow sinks into my boots, and I’m grateful for the thick woolen socks my friend made for me. Each labored step is worth it though, when I spot the tracks of some small animal. A rabbit perhaps, or maybe one of the skunks that linger outside Dinand decided to pay a visit to the river, like me. There are birds singing, tiny puffball sparrows, that I could only spot when they shifted their perches among the trees. It was wonderful. But was it right? Did the river use to freeze? Was my peaceful solidarity with these creatures a portent, a judgment?
The next day, I go to mass and take communion. The questions still weighed on me as the wafer melted on my tongue.
People feel so hopeless. Humans suck, my friend says when we go back to our room after mass, and we all look up from our digital diet of horrible news and desperate GoFundMes to nod. I think about white-horned rhinoceros, and blue whales and sea leopards. Deforestation. Oil spills. And then again, my mind returns to the mallard.
Across America, wetlands are dug and up and paved over as business and housing developments expands. Far from “waste” lands however, wetlands offer a home to countless species, while filtering toxins through the water and soil and absorbing and slowly releasing floodwaters. We created landfills, and nature has created a place that can take in the runoff and produce flowers and cranberries and a home for turtles and dragonflies and frogs. And mallards.
When you first walk into Blackstone Gateway park, you can see a concrete and metal dam, rusted and stained a deep red. It’s remnant of the parks past, as it harnessed the power of the middle river to power the Iron and Wire works, another wheel spinning the Industrial Revolution forward as it churned up lands and lives worldwide. The giant had dug his knuckle into the land where the Nipmuck tribes used to fish, creating the canal that powered the mills that powered the city. And now, a park, where I realize just how little I know about birds.
I think about communion. I think about prayer, and I think about hope. Something can live again. Something can return.
The land does not have a destiny. It could have stayed the way it was, or changed slowly, with little or malicious human interference. But someone thought it could be more. And through the actions of many, now I can stand, enjoying its beauty just the birds enjoy the clean water and the bountiful food and the safe resting places.
These trees seem to huddle together as if they’re just as cold as I am. In the shuddering trees, something had made a nest. I can’t imagine the work that went in to, find every single stick and weave them together, like a mother knitting a blanket for her baby. I marvel, again and again, how even in winter, I could still hear bird calls. Hard work, and tender love, will have its reward. In the sanctuary of St. Joseph as rainbow light envelops me, I take communion. Out here, as the mallard lives his life as perfectly as he is meant and we both breather clean air, I take communion.
God’s alive, and she’s with me, and I’m with her.
In the spring, more birds will come back.
The earth offers us communion, if we will take it. If we dare. If we step outside our worry, our fear, our distraction. Let us let ourselves sink into glorious awareness, and rise into hope. It’s not just Blackstone. My sisters and I let our dog run along the pebbled shores of Lake Erie and his joy often propels him straight into the waves, clean waves, waves of water that have been healed because humans chose to heal them. Our choices matter. Bill McKibben often says, and scientists agree, that each degree and half-degree we keep the earth from rising means thousands, if not millions, of human and animal lives saved. A half degree rise is infinitely better than a degree rise is infinitely better than a degree and half rise is infinitely better than a two degree rise. Some scientists are beginning to speculate that wetlands could be a secret weapon against climate change as they absorb carbon and break down chemicals. Our ancestors built lives and homes, and some of them built a place to be with nature. We can build on that. In the spring, I will hike up behind the athletic fields and plant milkweed and wildflowers. The birds will return, and their love songs will fill the air. I asked my friends if they wanted to get trash bags and gloves to pick up the litter that lines the path to Blackstone, and they all agreed wholeheartedly. The earth is broken, and heals, and even if we’re afraid and unsure, stumbling like a hatchling on the edge of a twig, we can choose to be a healer.
A few days later, I return to Blackstone Park. The mallard drake is still there, but now he’s joined by a hen, petite and camouflaged in the brown shades of the reeds. They move in easy curves along the ripples of the water, the purpose of their path indiscernible to me. Across the other side of the bridge where I stand, a flock of geese is honking with the persistence of a fire alarm, announcing their presence to the world. I can’t help but think of Mary Oliver, and how often I’m unsure of where I belong in the family of things. Out here, though, at least it’s a little clearer.
You choose to take communion, when it is offered. Sometimes by a priest, offering a taste of grace. Sometimes by the people who came before you, who saw a polluted land and healed it. Sometimes, always, the earth holds out her hand, perpetually offering another chance. Sometimes even a mallard offers communion.
Story written by Anne-Catherine Schaaf ’22
Sophie Haywood ‘21, Office of Sustainability intern, sat down with Nelson Martinez De Los Santos ‘22, RHA of Alumni Hall, to explore how sustainability integrates into living in a residential hall.
Q: What compelled you to become an RA?
Nelson: Community building was the main reason I wanted to become an RA. I felt that I could have had a better first year if my RA was someone that I could turn to whenever I felt like I needed somebody to hang out with or confide in. I felt like I needed a mentor to help guide me because I did feel a little lost as a first generation latino student from the west coast that was going to a predominantly white institution on the east coast. I came to the conclusion that I would try to be that person for first years could look to, and that is what made me want to become a first year RA.
Q: What about sustainability interests you?
Nelson: Growing up in Arizona I saw a lot of solar panels, so it was something that was always on my mind. The ability to make energy out of natural sources, such as sun and wind has always been really cool to me. As a vegan, sustainability is a big part of why I decide not to eat meat because I don’t believe it is an efficient use of our resources. Personally, living sustainably is just how I live.
Q: What is one green behavior that you have seen students doing well in your residence halls already?
Nelson: Recycling! I have been seeing a lot of students recycling this year, and have not seen very many trash on the floors or outside of residence halls. I have also seen students cut back on food waste. With Kimball giving out portions now, I have seen students eat most of their food which is a good thing to see.
Q: In your experience, which kind of reslife programs have you seen students get the most excited about? What would be any advice you have to get students excited about the new Green Student Living Program?
Nelson: In my experience, students are the most excited about programs that give out free food, or do something for the student that interests them. They also get excited when they are doing something active that gets them involved in the community. For students to get excited about the Green Student Living Program, they need to understand why they are doing it. Physical representations of the impact that they have are important because many times, students have to see it to believe it. If it is something that students care about, students will respond better to it.
Q: Do you have any goals or ideas for collaboration with the sustainability department and the residential life in the future?
Nelson: One goal for sustainability and residence life in the future would be for students to live more intentionally, and to be more cautious when choosing what they are taking and using.
Sophie Haywood ‘21, Office of Sustainability intern, sat down with Hannah Baker ‘21, HRA of Williams Hall, to discuss the relationship between sustainability and residential life.
Q: How many years have you been a part of reslife here at the college?
Hannah: I was hired as an RA at the end of my first year and began sophomore year. Then junior year I became a head RA, which I am doing this year as well. During my sophomore year, I was an RA in Brooks-Mulledy. I then lived there as a junior as well, as I was the HRA of Brooks-Mulledy. I’m currently working as the HRA of Williams.
Q: What compelled you to become an HRA?
Hannah: I loved working as an RA because I got to reach a group of residents who were just beginning their time at Holy Cross. I felt that as an HRA I would have even more opportunities to connect with first year students and help them with this really important transition. I also just loved the experience of being on an RA staff. My staff had a really great connection during my first year as an RA, and I attributed our great dynamic to our HRA. I hoped I could create the same sort of positive work environment on a staff of new RAs if I became an HRA.
Q: What about sustainability interests you?
Hannah: I’ve always felt like it’s our responsibility to take care of our planet. I don’t really know how that started — I think it was just growing up in Vermont and never really giving things like recycling a second thought. It was just what we did, and I knew it was important so I did it. Then as I grew up I started to see how that wasn’t really as common everywhere else in the world. I have become really focused on educating people around me about simple things we can do, like composting and reducing plastic waste.
Q: Have you been involved with environmental programming/ taken any relevant courses/ or learned about sustainability in any capacity while at Holy Cross or elsewhere?
Hannah: I led some book talks on The Uninhabitable Earth for the Montserrat clusters in Brooks-Mulledy when I was the HRA there, since that was the first year book for 2019-2020. I’ve taken an environmental studies course and been an active participant in the sustainability-focused initiatives at Holy Cross. I also participated in the climate strike last year, which was so exciting. I participate in Plastic Free July every year, which is a really cool initiative that challenges people all over the world to be more mindful of how much plastic is a part of our everyday lives and then to make changes to that.
Q: What is one thing you would like to see change in your residence hall in the future?
Hannah: I think a big one would be installing more reusable water bottle fillers. If we could have more refill stations in residence halls, students would be less likely to buy the plastic water bottles in the lobby shop. Anything that is going to make the lives of residents easier.
Q: Do you have any goals or ideas for collaboration with the sustainability department and the residential life in the future?
Hannah: Any sort of educational programming between sustainability and residence life would be awesome! We could make the first part educational and then the second part could be more interactive and could involve student input.
Pothos plants often symbolize determination, perseverance, wealth, and good fortune. The pothos plant thrives under challenging circumstances, making the most of limited resources like light and water, and its heart-shaped leaves clean the air. The pothos plant improves its environment while ensuring its own growth and flourishing. The new Pothos Project provides students with the opportunity to help Holy Cross and our local business community do the same; become more sustainable on their way to wealth and good fortune.
The 2021 J-term Pothos Project pilot gave students the opportunity to practice real-world corporate responsibility consulting, in partnership with Holy Cross’ Lobby Shop, and under guidance from Holy Cross alumni. During the first week, students attended three hour-long interactive sessions with HC alums (Cole Worthy ’88, Megan Skwirz ’12, and Jereme Murray ’15), learning about the consulting field and picking up some of the skills and tricks needed for the job. In the second week, students worked directly with the Lobby Shop to analyze how the store can advance their operations more sustainably. Throughout the final week, students presented their recommendations to their campus partner and met with alumni mentors who offered guidance and support.
This pilot project was co-sponsored by the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society and the Office of Sustainability with the intent to expand the project in upcoming semesters.
The Holy Cross community can now donate used, unwanted clothing and household goods to Hartsprings Foundation via an on-campus collection bin behind Alumni Hall.
Founded in 1997, Hartsprings Foundation “collects used, unwanted clothing and small household items on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs in Massachusetts and Connecticut.” Savers thrift stores purchase the donated goods from Hartsprings Foundation, providing revenue to financially support six Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program locations. To date, Hartsprings Foundation has raised millions of dollars, which has helped more than 2,500 at-risk children form meaningful 1on1 relationships with mentors.
Beyond Hartsprings Foundation’s financial support to change children’s lives for the better, the collection and redistribution process of usable clothing and goods reduces the amount of material entering the waste stream, which directly supports environmental stewardship. As the College works toward its Carbon Commitment, producing net zero carbon emissions by 2040, our participation in this process will lower the amount of trash the College produces, consequently reducing carbon emissions.
Participation is easy. Simply bag any donations and place the bags into the designated bin 24/7.
- All cloth items
- Clothing (All sizes, styles, ages, and genders)
- Bedding and Draperies (No bed pillows)
- Small appliances
- Household goods
- Sporting goods
- Books (No encyclopedias, textbooks, or library books)
Everyday, ordinary people are making decisions to fortify their livelihood and personal values against the possible negative impacts of climate change – The family making an emergency kit with essential supplies for an upcoming extreme weather event; the teen lobbying for an idling truck policy to limit poor air quality days; the employee participating in an earthquake drill. What does climate resilience look like in everyday life? The Holy Cross Libraries and the Office of Sustainability invite you to submit a short non-fiction story to the 2021 Climate Resilient Everyday Short Story Contest. Let’s explore how everyday people are demonstrating climate resilience and let’s amplify those voices.
All College of the Holy Cross students, alumni, faculty, and staff as well as anyone holding a Holy Cross Libraries card are eligible to participate.
Need a library card? Library cards are generally issued at the discretion of the supervisor on-duty, primarily to Worcester area clergy, Nativity School teachers, other Worcester-area school teachers, members of the Worcester Institute for Senior Education, and members of the American Guild of Organists. The HC Libraries’ ability to issue new cards may be limited due to COVID restrictions. Learn more about library access.
- Short stories must be non-fiction and somehow answer the question, what does climate resilience look like in everyday life? Personal stories or stories about others are accepted.
- Participants must complete the digital submission form and may only submit one story. No paper entries will be accepted.
- Stories must be original and previously unpublished, including online blogs. Stories used for course or work assignments may be submitted as long as they were not published elsewhere.
- Please submit non-fiction stories with 1,500 words or less, in Times New Roman font size 12 and one-inch margins. Single, 1.5, or double spacing are all accepted. The title of the story should be in the header of each page, and stories must be written in English.
Notification of the Winner
The winner will be notified by Holy Cross’ director of sustainability by mid-March. All contestants will be notified shortly thereafter, via the email address provided during submission.
The winning story will get added to CrossWorks, Holy Cross’ open access institutional repository. In addition, the contest winner will receive $250 and an announcement on the Libraries’ Newsfeed.
The Climate Resilient Everyday Short Story Contest is financially supported by a grant from the Resilient Communities program within the American Library Association.
Submission Due Date: February 24, 2021
What’s the story behind your cup of coffee? Like most commodities produced in a globalized world, the answer to this question isn’t simple.
For many of us, coffee is a fundamental ingredient in our lives. It is responsible for our productivity, millions of jobs globally, billions of dollars in capital, and has kindled a complex global infrastructure to keep a steady stream of caffeine pouring into the world’s developed nations. While coffee-drinkers may trust the cute, green “fair-trade” labels on their coffee cups, the real story of coffee—and the people who are trying to change it for the better—is completely hidden from consumers. For years, the coffee industry has been in crisis mode as millions of farmers struggle to make subsistence income and climate change hampers production, while the developed world turns a blind-eye. The real story of coffee is about, “disempowerment, abuse, and rigged markets.”
Dean Cycon, the founder of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company, is a person committed to fundamental change in the coffee industry. A self-proclaimed “seeker of knowledge, truth, and wisdom,” Dean is a pioneer in sustainable development who sees business as an opportunity to “seek a better understanding of the dynamics of everything from racism, to ecological justice, to interpersonal and intercultural dynamics.” After a career in indigenous rights and environmental law, Dean began the first international non-profit in coffee called Coffee Kids before creating Dean’s Beans in 1993. And since its inception, his company has been an experiment to determine whether a business that puts human values before corporate values can be successful—and it has.
Dean understands the coffee industry like no other. In his 30 year-long career, he has witnessed the evolution of coffee production from every angle and has developed a clear understanding of how the current system is failing its millions of farmers. Last year, Enveritas, a sustainability non-profit, determined that 71% of the world’s coffee farmers live in extreme poverty. Like us, the quality of life for a farmer is largely dependent on income, environmental conditions, and accessibility to basic social systems such as literacy and health programs. But two important factors are trapping coffee farmers in poverty: pricing and climate.
The income of a farmer is determined by what he is paid for a pound of coffee that he produces. Theoretically, when the coffee yields are lower, the price paid for coffee should increase because of scarcity in the market and vice-versa. This is called supply and demand, but it is not the way the coffee industry operates. The price of coffee, instead, is determined by the “C-price,” a speculative value determined by the London and New York boards of trade. In this model, private investment groups arbitrarily bet on the future price of coffee, which causes volatility in the income for a farmer. Farmers may produce the same bag of coffee every day, but still experience radical income fluctuations because of individuals sitting in a board room thousands of miles away.
The coffee crisis is also an environmental crisis. Scientists predict that up to 60% of coffee-producing land will be completely unusable by 2060. Predicted increases in climate may additionally account for the loss of 72% of tree biodiversity in coffee growing regions in the future. Most importantly, coffee is now becoming increasingly at-risk for fungal disease such as Coffee Rust, which drastically reduces yields and income for farmers. In fact, coffee growing regions will bear most of the burden of food and water insecurity into the future. And this doesn’t account for the self-imposed loss of biodiversity accounted for by monoculture and pesticide use.
The coffee industry is in crisis and millions of households are at risk. In a conversation with Dean Cycon, we discuss the deeply rooted problems in the industry and open the door to discussion about the hidden world of coffee.
Alfonsi, W. M. V., Koga-Vicente, A., Pinto, H. S., Alfonsi, E. L., Sr., Coltri, P. P., Zullo, J., Jr., Patricio, F. R., Avila, A. M. H. D., & Gonçalves, R. R. D. V. (2016). Climate change impacts on coffee rust disease. AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, 51.
CARTO. (n.d.). Map of the Month: Bringing Smallholder Coffee Farmers out of Poverty. Retrieved on December 10, 2020.
de Sousa, K., van Zonneveld, M., Holmgren, M., Kindt, R., & Ordoñez, J. C. (2019). The future of coffee and cocoa agroforestry in a warmer Mesoamerica. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 8828
Waller, J. M. (1982). Coffee rust—Epidemiology and control. Crop Protection, 1(4), 385–404.
This article is part of the Disempowerment, Abuse, and Rigged Markets Series, written by Adam Guillemette ‘23.