University receives high rank for environmental awareness

by Charlotte Brockway

According to the Princeton Review, Drew has ranked among the top 361 environmentally friendly schools once again, making this the sixth straight year. “We strongly recommend Drew University and the other fine colleges in this guide to the many environmentally-minded students who seek to study and live at green colleges,” said Robert Franek, Senior Vice President and publisher of The Princeton Review. Surveying from a broader pool of 640 colleges, The Princeton Review asked about sustainability-related policies, practices and programs. Drew was given a green rating of 86 on a scale of 60 to 99. Among the school’s greenest features are dedicating a chunk of the food budget to local and organic foods, providing transportation alternatives like bike and car-sharing programs, and having a sustainability committee and officer.

“It’s difficult to judge the significance of these rankings because I’m unfamiliar with the system,” said Alexa Zbieranowski (’17) after hearing about Drew’s appearance on the list, “Even with little knowledge of our competitors it seems like an important accomplishment, we have to protect the Forest! I think it’s clear that Drew attempts to be environmentally friendly, I love that they’ve installed fill stations everywhere. It’s also neat that they have automatic lights in some of the dorms, like McLendon, it shows that being green is a design consideration for the newer buildings. I take advantage of the fill stations as much as possible. I have a glass water bottle that I use instead of buying disposable ones. I try not to waste food in the commons, and only take what I know I will eat because food waste is a big problem. Finally, I also try to take short showers and use cold water for laundry as much as possible.”
Efforts are made every day by Drew Sustainability Policies to ensure a more sustainable university from building designs to dining services for students. The university is also dedicated to forest restoration efforts on campus. It has done tremendous work to develop a Climate Action Plan to reach climate neutrality by 2035, pursuant to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Students have coordinated Fern Fest for 16 years, a time when the campus comes together to replace a large patch of lawn from the center of campus with native ferns and wildflowers.

I do not ordinarily follow The Princeton Review,” said Jonathan Van Dongen (’17), “however, I am well-aware that Drew is perennially recognized as a leading institution for its environmental awareness and eco-friendly policies. Drew is considerably conscientious for an institution of its size with its resources.”

Sustainability is often overlooked in policy considerations, so it is important for Drew students to see and experience the university take green actions seriously. Environmental awareness is an important topic to Drewids, as seen through Student Government’s promotion of green policies. Together, Student Government and Drew officials have coordinated steps to ensure that smoking is not negatively affecting students’ experiences, as well as developing long-term smoking policy goals to transition Drew into a more  environmentally friendly atmosphere. The Sustainability Office has generally been very active in all aspects of Drew’s environmental impact in the broader community.

As the recipient of the NJ Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award, Drew is devoted to creating a sustainable campus and committed to providing top sustainability education through the Environmental Studies & Sustainability (ESS) Program, offering students the opportunity to major or minor in a degree program studying environmental issues.

Drew it in the Dark seemed to be the most recognized programs hosted by the university. Emma Agostini (’17) said, “I know that Drew runs Drew it in the Dark which is a big way in which the school promotes sustainability as well as encouraging proper recycling techniques particularly in the Ehinger Center. I personally participate in Drew it in the Dark and I make a conscious effort to properly recycle.”
Another student mentioned her willingness to participate in Drew it in the Dark. “I feel like the significance in the rating lies within the fact that we embrace a lifestyle that a lot of other schools don’t recognize,” said Megan Goodson (’17). “I’m not exactly in touch with all the things that Drew does to support environmental sustainability, but I know about Drew in the Dark, it is a unique way to get students engaged in making a difference, even if it means just remembering to turn off a light. The competitive aspect of the event provides a sense of community, as we work together to work towards the greater goal of saving energy. I commute but when I did live on campus I participated in the event. If we are talking about sustainability in the sense of recycling and composting, I do both of those things like second nature. I think a lot of students have taken advantage of the designated bins in the EC, and I really admire Drew for initiating that.”

Other students recognized Drew’s different efforts to become more environmentally friendly as well as their own roles in this process. “I love that we have very active organizations,” said Dominique Butler (’17), “such as the eco-reps and the environmental league who promote sustainable living and positively encourage students to be more sustainable. I’m also proud of being a part of the Class of 2017 and applaud my peers who are a part of the Senior Class Gift, whose goal is to raise enough money to get solar powered charging station on campus”.

“I, personally, would like to see greater initiative,” said Van Dongen, “from students in their everyday experience to be more conscientious about throwing away trash in proper disposal bins, not throwing cigarette butts on campus grounds—which has been largely problematic in the past few years—and taking care to be more efficient with their usage of electricity in their residence halls. I would hope that people compost and recycle when possible (which I think happens more often here than at other institutions) but there is certainly room for improvement. I would also hope that the waste is discarded properly, as I have heard discrepancies between our expressed and actual behavior on waste disposal.”

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