Composting at Williams Hall and Figge Hall

Top loading freezer along wall
Residents at Williams Hall use small freezers to collect compost.

Even with careful thought and passionate execution, some sustainability projects take more than one trial to get right. For instance, the innovative freezer system used at Williams Hall and Figge Hall took over two years to develop. During the first attempt, the Student Government Association co-directors of environmental concerns and Presidential Task Force on the Environment members installed an aerated static pile composting system right outside the two buildings. However, student residents solemnly participated because the system was located outdoors. Possibly worse, the Facilities Department received complaints about bad odors. The implementation team decided to conclude this first attempt and pivot the project to a different model.

Today, student residents at Figge Hall and Williams Hall may successfully compost their food waste through a compact freezer system. Instead of traditional indoor collection bins, students will find small freezers at the collection zones. These freezers require less frequent pickup and provide flexibility for changing demand. They also mitigate icky smells and increase user convenience. When students have food waste to discard, they simply place their waste in a bag into the freezer. An Environmental Services staff member then removes the waste and brings it to the compost compactor located near Kimball Hall. Holy Cross’ hauler, Waste Management, picks up the organic waste and turns it into rich soil.

While some projects happen rapidly, many others take time, trial and perseverance to implement. The freezer composting system at Figge Hall and Williams Hall exemplifies this process.

Monica Martinez ’21 on the Logic of Externalities

The first topic of my Political Economy course, taught by Professor Justin Svec, explored the logic behind externalities. An externality occurs when one agent’s action affects the welfare or profit of another agent. There are both positive and negative externalities where positive externalities raise some other agent’s welfare (or profit) and negative externalities lower them. The problem with externalities is that the acting agents do not internalize the full costs or benefits of their actions leading to the socially inefficient equilibrium. More specifically, positive externalities are under produced while negative externalities are over produced.

Thinking in terms of sustainability and our life at Holy Cross, this simplified example of a student bringing a reusable thermos to Cool Beans will show how a positive externality is under-produced.

Benefits Costs
Reduce your consumption of single use cups, lids, and straws Having to carry the thermos around campus
Reduces the waste Holy Cross produces Having to rinse out the thermos after each use

Individuals behave optimally by setting their private benefit equal to their private cost. In this case, the student would fail to internalize the benefit of the reduction in waste for Holy Cross. Thus, the student’s cost of bringing a reusable thermos outweighs the benefits leading the student to choose not to bring a reusable beverage container to Cool Beans.

Shifting gears to negative externalities, I have outlined a simplified example of a student choosing to litter to show how a negative externality leads to overproduction. In this example, the student fails to internalize the cost to the greater Holy Cross community. That being said, the student’s private benefit is equal to their private cost leading the student to choose to litter instead of walking to a trash can.

Benefits Costs
Easier than walking to a trash can You see a dirtier campus
Every other student sees a dirtier campus

There are multiple interventions that college campuses can implement to help the community reach the socially optimal equilibrium. These interventions include command and control and Pigouvian tax/subsidy. Command and control can occur when the college administration mandates a certain level of production. One example of this is if the college were to limit the take out containers that the cafes on campus were allowed to use. In doing so, students might be nudged to bring their own reusable containers. College administration can implement Pigouvian taxes or subsidies that match the size of the negative or positive externality. Similar to Pigouvian subsidies, our very own Cool Beans has implemented various efforts to incentivize students to bring their own reusable thermos. These efforts include discounting drinks when students bring their own beverage container and selling reusable thermoses for students to use.

Recognizing the added benefits of a positive externality and the extra costs of a negative externality, I hope that we can make the conscious effort to produce more of the good and lessen the costs we impose on our environment. Let us work together to reduce our waste, reuse our beverage containers, and recycle our clean bottles, plastics, paper, and cardboard.

Are you a wishful recycler?

Relatable moment: Standing over a trash bin and a recycle bin awkwardly waving that hand over each opening trying to decide if that item we’re holding is recyclable. Then deciding that we’ll throw it into the recycling bin in the hopes that it will get recycled.

This is wishful recycling.

When someone tosses items in the recycling bin and hopes that they are recyclable or thinks that they should be recyclable, that person is a wishful recycler. While well-intentioned, wishful recycling results in a contaminated recycling stream, sending perfectly good material straight to the landfill. It’s avoidable! Waste Management, Holy Cross’ waste hauler, recommends three rules:

1) Recycle all clean and empty plastic bottles, cans, paper and cardboard.
2) Keep food and liquid out of the recycling.
3) No plastic bags.

With everyone’s participation, Holy Cross can expand its 35% waste diversion rate.

Recycling sign found on campus bins

Raphaella Mascia ’21 on ‘Complications of the Climate Change Narrative within the Lives of Climate Refugees’

What motivated you to explore the narrative around climate refugees?
I had a seminar about refugees and narratives through the Honors College. Our final paper was focused on connecting refugee narratives with our majors, and because I am an Environmental Studies major, climate refugees seemed the most relevant way of connecting the seminar topic with my major. In general, I am passionate about climate change communication and had recently read papers about climate change as a narrative so I had that in the back of my mind when trying to decide on the focus of my final paper.

Why should individuals working in and studying sustainable development consider the narrative surrounding climate refugees?
A key idea I found in my research is the difference between the dominant climate change narrative and other climate change narratives. And, by narratives I mean the ways in which climate change is widely discussed and thought about. The dominant climate change narrative is espoused by, for lack of a better word, the elite (highly educated, wealthy, etc.). Because this is the dominant narrative, we often consider this dominant narrative as ubiquitous, as if this dominant discourse is the only one that exists. Sustainable development is a field led by NGO’s, governments, researchers, etc. and these groups often fall within this “elite” category. They tend to have money and are led by highly educated people. They also often adhere to this “dominant narrative” and their policies can mirror this dominant narrative. However, this way of understanding climate change and its effects is not how all communities perceive climate change. By considering other narratives outside of the dominant climate change narrative, sustainable development leaders acknowledge that this “dominant” perception of “reality” is not the only perception and then can act accordingly. The goals of sustainable development largely work with communities most impacted by climate change, therefore, when establishing sustainable policies and practices, sustainability leaders must not only consider the perspective of those who create the policies, but also the perspective of those the policies and practices are supposed to serve. By considering other narratives outside of the dominant climate change narrative, sustainable development leaders acknowledge that this “dominant” perception of “reality” is not the only perception and then can act accordingly. For instance, sustainable development policies could then be more tailored or fine-tuned to better serve a specific community’s needs.

Do you have any advice for students looking to publish an article?
Look to your professors for help. My professors from the seminar, Professor Sweeney (English) and Professor Rodgers (Anthropology), were extremely encouraging about my efforts to publish the paper. They gave further edits to my article and detailed the first steps towards publishing such as how to find the right journal at which to submit my article.

Aside from working with the Professor, if you want to publish an article create an action plan. Think about what are the concrete steps you need to follow to get an article published and do your best to follow them.

Mascia, R. (2020). Complications of the Climate Change Narrative within the Lives of Climate Refugees: Slow Causality and Apocalyptic Themes. Consilience, (22), 31-38. https://doi.org/10.7916/consilience.vi22.6741

Kimball Trials Reusables and Takeout


When diners enter the Main Dining Room at Kimball this Fall, they will now use reusable to-go containers for takeout. Each student on a meal plan will receive one nine inch by nine inch container as well as one six inch by nine inch container, free of charge, when they visit Kimball each time this semester.

The best part? Dining Services will clean and sanitize the dirty containers; students don’t need to rinse them. Dining Services provides a clean container during each visit. Students return their containers to the Main Dining Room at Kimball at their own convenience.

This initiative builds on Dining’s consistent effort to exemplify and provide environmentally sustainable service. In 2009, the Main Dining Room at Kimball went ‘trayless,’ which saves over 900 gallons of water daily. Back of house composting dramatically expands waste diversion efforts and diners currently enjoy a styrofoam-free dining experience. The United States generates 80.1 million tons of container and packaging waste annually. By utilizing reusable containers at Kimball, Dining Services continues to offer exceptional dining services while exemplifying environmental stewardship.

Visit Dining Services for more information about sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability Upgrades Made by Facilities (Part 2)

Less visible projects, like improving heating and cooling efficiency, stay hidden but drastically impact the Holy Cross’ carbon footprint. John Cannon, the director of facilities operations, reveals these hidden projects that continue to advance the College’s environmental goals.

Campus Composting: Zero waste at Kimball Main Dining Hall
The 2009 decision to go “trayless” in the main dining room saved more than one million gallons of water and greatly reduced general food waste. Now, Kimball Main Dining Hall & Kimball Food Court recycle or compost 100% of its waste. Any waste that cannot be recycled or composted is burned for energy. In the first year of this initiative, 110 tons of food waste that would have otherwise been thrown in a landfill was composted.
Red large compactor outside

Single-Stream Recycling: Diverting waste since 2012
Holy Cross has diverted waste from the trash stream since the 90s. In 2012, the College adopted a single-stream recycling program. Need a reminder on the three guiding principles? 1) Recycle all empty plastic bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard. 2) Keep food and liquid out of the recycling bin. 3) No plastic bags.
Front of large compactor

Eco-Friendly Cleaning: Increasing indoor air quality
Building Services exclusively uses environmentally-friendly cleaning products, avoiding products that contain Volatile organic compounds (VOC). Furthermore, Building Services orders supplies in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
Blue cleaning liquid

Chillers at Stein Hall: Move heat effectively
Chillers help transfer heat from an internal environment to an external environment. This process takes a lot of energy, but Stein Hall has a high-efficiency system. This system supports the College’s energy conservation efforts.
Grey chiller

Loyola Hall Heating: Delivering comfort and energy efficiency
More than 300 upperclassmen experience highly-efficient heating at Loyola Hall. A heating system that cuts energy usage by maximizing the conversion from fuel to heat.
Black heating system

Apartment Composting: Offsetting carbon a pound at a time
Figge Hall and Williams Hall residents drop off food waste at two freezers. This waste then gets composted off-campus. Fun fact: The composting process offsets carbon instead of contributes to carbon emissions.
Top loading freezer along wall

Campion House Heating: Maximizing combustion
Over 90% of fuel used in the Campion House heating system actually becomes heat. An older system may only convert 56% to 70% of fuel to heat. A higher conversation rate means more energy savings and less carbon emissions.
Heating system

The College’s 2017 Carbon Footprint

Holy Cross’ efforts continue to show! The College’s carbon footprint is almost 48% less than in 2007, with 12,053 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE) recorded for 2017. Heating and cooling continues to be the biggest carbon emitter (and the greatest focus for the Department of Facilities). Waste and the Holy Cross vehicle fleet are the smallest emitters at less than 2% each.

heating boiler with metal pipes above
Holy Cross’ central heating plant, fueled by natural gas.

Heating & Cooling
During those nippy nights and scorching summers, Holy Cross’ physical plant takes the spotlight. At the heart of campus, and the College’s carbon footprint, the physical plant heats 67% of Holy Cross’ buildings. Natural gas fuels this process. To maximize efficiency, consequently cutting carbon emissions, the College has updated boiler controls and added insulation to steam pipes.

Don’t worry, the College hasn’t ignored the other 33% of campus buildings. A neat infrared camera system measures building surface temperatures, which allows Facilities employees to identify and rectify heat loss. Individual buildings also possess energy recovery systems and extensive insulation to keep comfortable air indoors and unwanted air outdoors.

Renewable Electricity
Holy Cross uses quite a bit of electricity each year. In 2017, the campus used 21,490,864 kilowatt hours. That’s equivalent to watching over 53.5 billion cat videos! However, electricity accounts for zero percent of the College’s carbon footprint. Why? Holy Cross purchased a long term contract for hydropower (electricity fueled by moving water). Considered a renewable fuel source, hydropower produces zero carbon emissions.

Commuting & Travel
Not only does Holy Cross account for carbon emissions produced on campus, but the College includes emissions produced by Holy Cross community members engaged in college-related activities (think: faculty attending conferences, staff driving to work, or student-athletes heading to games). Thus, the College includes commuting and air travel in its annual carbon footprint. Unfortunately, commuting and travel emissions have increased by almost 25% since 2007.

Offsetting
#Composting is trending! Kimball Main Dining Hall & Kimball Food Court recycle or compost 100% of all waste. This helps Holy Cross reduce its trash stream, and also offsets some of the College’s carbon footprint. The composting process takes carbon out of the air, which subtracts tonnage off the overall footprint. Meaning? The more Holy Cross composts, the better for the College’s carbon footprint! In 2017, Holy Cross offset 36 tons of carbon through composting, the equivalent of 145,991 burritos.