Crafting A Greener Occidental Campus


Author: Eric Kleinsasser

After Professor Dan Snowden-Ifft’s presentation a few weeks ago offering a solar energy proposal to Occidental, I became optimistic that the college will start to take serious steps to promote ecological awareness and sustainability by serving as an example of an environmentally conscious community. Some students, myself included, have expressed concern that the campus has balked at taking hard steps to sustainability in the face of so many other “green” colleges across the nation. I have realized though, that at this stage, the college needs our encouragement and support more than ever. Positive student input has possibly the greatest potential to change the way Oxy operates.

The creation of the Sustainability Fund has moved the college in the right direction. I was skeptical of a few of the projects being funded last semester, and initially I questioned whether the fund was an optimal allocation of contributions from students. I wondered if a “green dance” to raise awareness was actually worth spending the fund on, given that its aim, as I understand it, is to directly confront the issue of sustainability on campus.

It occurred to me, though, that the Sustainability Fund is a fairly new idea at Oxy, and it may take time to determine how it should best be spent. Listening to Professor Snowden-Ifft’s proposal, I realized that for me to criticize the use of a fund I was not personally managing was unfair and degrading to the committee.

As it is, a sustainability fund is the logical first step toward building the environmental character at Oxy. In order to take action and change the campus, we need some way to cover the initial costs. Approving proposals and then dipping haphazardly into any available reserves to pay for it would be economically irrational.

I suggest that we all offer any encouragement we can to the committee, and if students have anything to spare, I hope that they contribute to next year’s fund. Occidental has been touting its reputation as one of the most liberal colleges anywhere in the United States. We do embrace many liberal ideals, and Oxy is an open and diverse campus. Our next goal as a college and community should be to measure up to our reputation by working to establish environmental practices that make the campus more energy efficient and lower its impact on local and global ecology.

As students, we have an incredible influence on how this campus changes. To bring out the best in the sustainability fund, we can start by rooting for it.

Eric Kelinsasser is a first-year Geology major. He can be reached at

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