Columbia: The Secret Garden

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Though incomparable to the crowd at their Roger the talking squirrel video (claymation is cool!) screened at Barnard, the Columbia EcoReps tour brought out 12 starry-eyed freshpeople, from CC, BC, and GS. Anna Etra explains their latest initiatives for saving the planet for the rest of you environmentally sensitive ’14ers.

Two CC seniors led the tour starting at the Sundial on College Walk. After a brief introduction about the Columbia EcoReps, Griff and Zack explained the green initiatives starting in the residence halls. The school is gradually performing sink upgrades, installing low flow showerheads and dual flush toilets.

The greening of Columbia, spearheaded by EcoReps, aims higher than the city of New York’s PlaNYC. The city’s plan is to reduce all five boroughs of New York gas emissions by 30% by 2030. Columbia’s aims to do so by 2016. “This starts in the halls,” Zack said.

The dining halls have been providing greener options, including local food, milk and fruit. The Barnard dining hall separates its waste into food waste and non-food waste to go into their big composter.

Once in a while, the dining halls will have a harvest dinner, which includes an extra high concentration of local foods. Sometimes local farmers come and talk about the food they produce. “It is like bringing the Farmer’s market into the dining hall,” Zack explained.

The tour covered Faculty House, a building tucked away near Morningside Drive, which was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building of its time. It is now considered up to the Gold LEED standard. This certification is achieved based on different factors including proximity to transportation and what activities go on inside the building, i.e. sucking up to professors.

When completed, the inner science building should be at least LEED silver standard and the Diana, on Barnard’s campus, is in the process of getting certified.

The group continued to Morningside Park, a great place off Morningside drive to “quench your green thirst,” said Zack, “and see the biggest ‘Who is Salt?’ advertisement in the city.” Unfortunately, there was no spotting of Hawkmadinijad on the tour.

Appropriately enough, there was an enthusiastic vegan serenading us with the message to take the cruelty out of food, as the EcoReps tour walked through the Grant community projects. After two years of bureaucratic madness, the community started to build gardens with the help of some Columbia students. They are now in the process of expanding the gardens and making them handicap accessible.

The community garden on Columbia’s campus (look out for sunflowers outside Pupin!) is a source to take advantage of even more locally, but has a policy that if you take something out, put some energy back in. The garden operatres on a relatively small scale, and currently the only plants available in the garden that can sustain the entire community are the herbs. The tour could see the green house on top of Milbank Hall from afar, and discussed the differences between Barnard and Columbia’s recycling programs.

The tour concluded at the farmers market with the encouragement to talk to the farmers about why they choose to make their products in the manner that they do.

What do you think of Columbia’s efforts to go green? Let us know in the commments!

Photo via Flickr/jamieleto

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous  

    For those of you who missed them:

    And their recycling video is here:

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