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New Garfield House Residence Hall

Williams College Hosts Tour of New Residence Hall

Garfield House One of Two Passive Houses in State

The construction of the new Garfield House, replacing the old one, is complete. This was the rationale for replacing the old Garfield House:

The original Garfield House was built in 1850 and purchased by the college in 1924. In 2016, a nine-person committee convened by the college determined it would be too costly and inefficient to renovate that structure for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the college’s sustainability goals.

This is the nine-person committee’s full report (an interesting read):

The report describes the old Garfield House as being “the least desirable residence hall on campus”.

When it opens, the new Garfield House “will be one of only two residence halls in Massachusetts to meet the energy-efficiency standards of the Passive House Institute US”. Additionally, the new Garfield House “is built to LEED Gold standards and reflects Williams’ commitment to sustainability and reducing greenhouse emissions”.



Prieto Battery and Alternative Energy Ephs

Check out this great article on Amy Prieto ’96’s research into creating a more powerful, cheaper, and longer lasting battery.  Prieto is an assistant chemistry prof at Colorado State, in addition to heading Prieto Battery.  Between Prieto and the equally revolutionary work being performed by Joshua Smith ’91, we could someday be thanking a small handful of Ephs for helping usher in a new generation of alternative energy sources.  [Rumor has it that Amherst alums have taken a slightly different energy approach].

Other Ephs working in the alternative energy arena (and I’m sure there are others) include Wayne Davis ’78, Vice President at Harvest Power, Samuel Arons ’04, a member of Google’s Green Business Strategy Team who has written about hybrid vehicles, Christopher Elkinton ’98, who works as a wind turbine engineer, Kristina Weyer ’03 (who like Prieto was affiliated with Colorado State), who works on algae-to-biodiesel energy at Solix Biofuels, and Alex Mokover ’10, who is immersed in alternative energy policy.  And of course, Senator Mark Udall ’72 is one of the leading advocates for alternative energy production in Congress.

Considering (a) the huge opportunities in this field, (b) Williams’ continued excellence in Geology, Chemistry, and Physics, and (c) the efforts of the Zilkha Center on promoting sustainability initiatives on campus, I imagine that Williams will continue to produce the next wave of alternative energy researchers, policy-makers and entrepeneurs.


Eliot Coleman ’61, Jeffersonian Farmer

Photo copyright Four Season Farm

The Atlantic this week ran a fascinating feature on Eliot Coleman ’61, “Maine’s Organic Gardening Guru” and the author of The New Organic Grower, Four Season Harvest and the Winter Harvest Handbook. Coleman is a true liberal-arts success story:

[He] started out at Williams College as a geology major, ending up with a master’s in Spanish literature, with absolutely no background in agriculture. Apart from having a sense of adventure, and paying attention to the systems already present in nature (a skill that he learned while hiking and mountain-climbing), Coleman got started in agriculture by reading old gardening books from the 1800s, to learn how people grew crops before pesticides and fertilizer. “I’m a Jeffersonian farmer,” Coleman said, “I read things.”

With his wife, Barbara Damrosch (weekly gardening columnist for the Washington Post), Coleman operates Four Season Farm, a year-round paradise for sustainable agriculture advocates and locavores in Harborside, Maine, on the east side of Penobscot Bay. A favorite of Martha Stewart and Michael Pollan, Coleman is a true believer in small-scale, organic agriculture, challenging conventional wisdom with the claim that “[o]f course organic farming can feed the world.”

The Atlantic writer, Yalie Chloe Rossetti, would leave the reader with the impression that by “Jeffersonian,” Coleman means merely “well-read,” or maybe “student of Monticello agriculture.” But a Williams alum might recognize that “Jeffersonian” is a word usually followed by “democracy.”  And Coleman indeed appears to be a Jeffersonian democrat. Earlier this year, he penned an article in the online environmental journal Grist, in which he extolls the benefits of small farming not just for the quality of the food it produces, but the freedom to which it contributes:

[T]he small organic farm is one of the most relentlessly subversive forces on the planet.  Over centuries both the communist and the capitalist systems have tried to destroy small farms because small farmers are a threat to the consolidation of absolute power.  Thomas Jefferson said he didn’t think we could have democracy unless at least 20% of the population was self-supporting on small farms so they were independent enough to be able to tell an oppressive government to stuff it.

Coleman expresses the same sentiment to Ben Hewitt in Hewitt’s book The Town that Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food, observing that “When we feed ourselves, we become unconquerable.” And Rossetti does note his concern about the power of government, particularly married to the interests of large corporations:

One of the final questions centered around Senate bill 510, which recently became law and, according to some, makes it illegal to grow, share, trade, or sell homegrown food. Coleman said the bill does not distinguish between large processors and small farms, and stressed that once something like this becomes law, it becomes easy to tweak and tweak it to put smaller growers out of business.

I’d love to know whether Coleman is putting any of Jefferson’s lessons to use on his farm the way he does in his philosophy. Probably worth taking a gander at his books to find out more.


Pownal Biomass Update

(By request, expanding on my SpeakUp! post)

A "similar" Livermore Falls, ME biomass plant

Here’s more on the controversy raging over the proposed Pownal biomass facility about which David previously posted.

Developer Beaverwood Energy describes their proposal (and a similar facility in Fair Haven, VT) here (complete with renderings and Google satellite views — worth looking at the Bing bird’s eye view as well:

The plants will be 29 megawatt, baseload plants. Unlike wind and solar, which provide intermittent power, these facilities run all the time, significantly improving the stability of the power system and reducing the cost for transmission by utilizing the existing power lines rather than creating the need for new transmission lines.

Beaver Wood’s projects will create approximately 50 renewable energy jobs at each facility and produce 100,000 tons of the highest quality pellets for commercial and home use.

The plants will also provide an estimated 1,000 indirect jobs including construction and many for loggers and forestland owners. The projects will use carefully harvested waste wood, helping Vermont nurture it’s forest economy.

Opposition is being led by a group called the Bennington Berkshire Citizens Coalition. From their website:

We are banding together to demand that we are given the respect we deserve as citizens and taxpayers to have a time to complete a full review of the proposal as serious concerns have arisen related to air pollution, water use, public health and safety, traffic, aesthetics, natural environment, and historic preservation as well as the direct impact on abutting residential homes and neighbors, real estate values, and the local agriculture/farming community.

Among their concerns:

  • Burning wood to generate electricity emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ash, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.
  • The facility will need up to 400 gallons of water/minute from the Hoosic River or from an underground aquifer supplying water to the Pownal Water District.
  • It has been estimated by the developer that the biomass facility would require the arrival of 96 trucks per day, back and forth, down Rt 7, Rt 346 and Rt 2.
  • Biomass facilities are notorious for creating noise, light, and smell pollution during operation. In a 24/7 operation as proposed for Pownal, VT, they can be constant and

Williams hosted a panel discussion on biomass energy back on October 28, featuring Professors Hank Art and David Dethier and two industry panelists. Here’s the writeup from

Area residents packed into Griffin Hall at Williams College on Thursday night in hopes of getting some answers to how a biomass plant proposed for Pownal, Vt., would effect the region.

The answer: No one really knows. At least not this early in the permitting process.

Meanwhile, the Record carried an op-ed from Paul Harsch ’69 arguing against the plant:

Do not allow the promoters, lawyers and executives (none of whom will live in the vicinity of this plant) to sell you on a pipe dream of clean air and lots of jobs without first insisting on hard economic data and objective scientific proof from totally independent sources not on the company payroll. The science is there about the negative health effects and the history is there of prior failed economic prosperity and growth.

I wonder if Selim Zilkha ’46, namesake of the College’s Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, has a different take from his position as co-owner of Zilkha Biomass Energy?

In the most recent development, the Williamstown Selectmen made clear they wish to be heard in the permitting process:

The proposed site in Pownal is approximately one mile from downtown Williamstown, Massachusetts. Whatever occurs in Pownal will be felt in Williamstown, Mass., and vice versa.

Biomass power plants have faced opposition in cities and towns across America, not only in Pownal, including in Florida, TexasOregon, Wisconsin, and Indiana.


The Old Campus Garden, the Forest Garden, 1996 to 2006

If you got the last issue of the Alumni Review (September) you saw on its cover four students who are carrying on in a tradition similar to one I was heavily involved in at Williams: that is organic gardening on campus. They are the Williams Susatainable Growers; I and others were the Forest Garden. What a treat it was for me to see that their project make the front page.

I visited Williamstown a couple of weeks ago and made a point of stopping by the new garden to check it out. In this second post in a series of two I’ll share some photos of the “Forest Garden” of my time with comment from my point of view as a current professional gardener and a leader of Williams’ campus garden in my day. When I returned last June for my five-year reunion I spent an hour at the Center for Environmental Studies picnic lunch and checked in with Sarah Gardner, the only administrator left there from my time who still knows me as the guy who led the Forest Garden along with Vivian ’05. Together, Vivi and I did the most work in our years for the garden of primarily herbs and vegetables on the hill and valley behind the newfangled wing of Stetson and in front of Kellogg House, where CES was.

Here are a few photos of the old Forest Garden.

April 1996, the first Forest Gardeners break ground (date recorded in the garden's journal)

The area we called the "sunny hill," because it was the only part of the garden to get any sun.

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The New Campus Garden

If you got the last issue of the Alumni Review (September) you saw on its cover four students who are carrying on in a tradition similar to one I was heavily involved in at Williams: that is organic gardening on campus. They are the Williams Sustainable Growers; I and others were the Forest Garden. What a treat it was for me to see that their project make the front page.

I visited Williamstown a couple of weeks ago and made a point of stopping by the garden to check it out. In this first post in a series of two I’ll share some photos of today’s garden with light comment from my point of view as an alum who led Williams’ campus garden in my day, and is today a professional gardener.

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Cricket Creek Farm

The Berkshire Eagle has a nice article on Cricket Creek Farm and Topher Sabot ’99, along with other local artisanal dairymen:

Beneath federally mandated inch-high warnings — “Raw Milk Is Not Pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health.” — they (and Robert and Martha Kilmer’s Twin Rivers Farm in Ashley Falls) have been doing steady business selling milk in its natural state.

Dairy in Berkshire county is, as every census attests, a dying industry. But three local dairymen — Topher Sabot of Cricket Creek Farm, Williamstown; Paul Paisley of Milk House Jersey & Swiss, Alford; and Sean Stanton of Blue Hill Farm, Great Barrington — are bucking the dire trends. Sabot and Stanton are in their early 30s. Paisley is around 40 — a decade younger than the average dairyman. None come from farm families.

Go read the rest at the Eagle — they’re doing a fine job reporting on local businesses.

And here’s the website for Cricket Creek Farm itself. As Larry George pointed out a while back, they have a farm store that sells more than just cheese and dairy products — it has the baked goods formerly available at Spring Street’s Clarksburg Bakery.


Golf Interlude

Looking to take some time away from the World Cup to indulge your backswing? Unable to make it up to the annual alumni golf tournament at Taconic? Two recent features have highlighted the Eph-owned Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, pride of Charlie Kirkwood ’57 and Pete Kirkwood ’93 (also known for their role in the Eph Booze Mafia) as a place to take care of your 19-hole needs.

Sustainable economy e-zine Keystone Edge profiled Shawnee Inn’s efforts to embrace a green identity, through its “Beer From Here, Food From Near” restaurant theme (featuring the products of Pete’s ShawneeCraft Brewery) and other efforts to attract the trendy sustainability crowd:

We resolved about four or five years ago that the destiny of Shawnee is to look upward, to be a more high-end destination and the reason is we weren’t doing justice to the beauty of this place if we’re not maximizing visitors’ appreciation of it,” says [Pete] Kirkwood, who has only been back in the U.S. for five years, having returned from a stretch doing tsunami relief work in Thailand. He recently spent four days in Haiti performing earthquake relief work with the volunteer-based non-profit he co-founded, Hands On Disaster Response.

Kirkwood realized that arts and crafts aesthetic, which already existed in spots under the decades of updates at the Inn, was exactly what the resort needed. “It’s a philosophy that embraces living close to nature, embraces healthy, outdoor activity, and embraces craftsmanship from the interior design to architecture to food to the kind of uniforms the staff wears,” says Kirkwood. “It was a breakthrough for us. We all knew we needed a renaissance.”

“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves as circumstances change,”

Not surprisingly, the Golf Channel’s story focuses more on the golf experience and the possibility of improving it:

Owner Charles Kirkwood has been in discussions with architect Tom Doak about restoring the course using old photographs and drawings. Doak did a similar project at Pasatiempo Golf Club in California, although it didn’t involve eliminating extraneous holes.

All but three of the holes at Shawnee Inn are on an island formed by the Delaware River, making for some dramatic holes alongside and over the river. There’s also a portable bridge that was built decades ago. It was designed by original Shawnee Inn owner and architect C.C. Worthington.

Each year, the bridge is removed after the season, and it’s reassembled in the spring. Part of any future renovation would include a bigger permanent bridge that could allow for heavier traffic. Kirkwood would like to see major tournaments return to Shawnee Inn, which in addition to the PGA has also hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur (1919), Shawnee Open (which Walter Hagan competed in) and the 1967 NCAA men’s championship.

The signature hole at Shawnee is the seventh on the Blue Course, although the second on the Red Course is just as scenic. Both are par 3s that cross the river, however, the Blue hole might have a better view from the green with the Poconos and river in the background.

Shawnee Inn is located just above the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, less than 100 miles from both Philadelphia and New York. The 9-hole, par three course mentioned in the Golf Channel article may be of particular interest: it’s not only designed by Doak, but play is complimentary to guests of the resort. It’s also lighted and can be played after dark.


Okay, now retrofit the cross-country team

This is kinda neat.


Do it in the dark!

From March 5 to March 12, dorms will compete with one another to see who can reduce their energy use the most. Small dorms and large dorms will compete separately, and the winner in each category will receive free snack bar points.

On each day of the competition, all dorms will be rated by how much they have reduced their energy use from a baseline calculated during the previous week. All dorms have electricity metered, and many dorms have heat and hot water metered, so think beyond turning off lights. Total points in the competition are determined by the daily rankings, and the dorm with the most points at the end of the competition wins.

What’s really cool is all the data that is being gathered, for example:

where we can see our current energy usage. After the break are the daily and overall rankings. A current WSO post is currently discussing just how the heck Milham house cut its energy usage by 60.7%!

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Williams Ranks First …

in environmental and social reporting among liberal arts colleges.  Kinda random, but hey, first place sounds good …


Udall ’72 on Environmental Issues

Interesting discussion with Senator Mark Udall, focused largely on environmental issues.  Udall also recently hosted a Clean Energy Summit.


Gallagher ’06 starts successful farm

From the North Adams Transcript:

CLARKSBURG — Just two weeks after county’s newest community supported agriculture (CSA) farm made its debut at the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” farm expo, all 30 of its available vegetable shares have been snapped up.

“We’ve sold all 30, which is great to know,” Michael Gallagher [’06], owner of Square Roots Farm said on Friday, as he gazed at the 3 1/2 acres he’s leasing from Paul and Caroline Marshall. […]

With a CSA farm, community members purchase a share of a farm’s harvest, providing money to the farmer before the beginning of the planting season — providing the farmer with capital to purchase supplies and materials. The share holders then share in the farm’s harvest — benefiting from 20 weeks of fresh, local produce deliveries. Each week, participants will receive enough vegetables for a family of four or two vegetarians.

A 2006 Williams College graduate and Cheshire [MA] native, Gallagher was looking to start his own CSA farm when he learned about Hoosac Harvest.

“I was interested in a piece of land that Hoosac Harvest was also looking at,” he said. “I joined their e-mail list and paid attention. When they changed the type of model they were interested in starting, I applied to be their partner. I was going to do this type of farm anyway.”

Although he majored in Russian and biology at Williams and later taught high school math in the Mississippi delta, Gallagher returned home several years ago with a burgeoning interest in sustainable agriculture.

This is great stuff! And especially relevant since it is so near Williamstown.

I am impressed with the amount of helping others that Michael has done. I first met him when we both went on a Williams spring break trip to clean up from Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, MS in 2006. After graduation, as mentioned above, Michael taught in the Mississippi Teachers Corps, a program similar to Teach for America in high-need regions of the Mississippi Delta. And now he is doing sustainable community agriculture. What an Eph.


Locally-Grown Food at Williams

I want to share with everyone an article I wrote featuring Williams students’ work on local food, published in College News Magazine’s 2009 Winter Break Issue (article is on pages 16-17). It’s really encouraging that college students are taking the lead on transforming our food system.


Williams freshman wins national ‘green’ award

By Meghan Foley, North Adams Transcript
WILLIAMSTOWN — Before coming to Williams College in August, Claudia Corona, of Los Angeles, took it upon herself to educate students at her high school about the importance of co-existing with the environment.

Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed, and during the spring of her senior year at the California Academy for Liberal Studies Early College High School in Los Angeles, she was nominated for an award given by the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors program and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

On Oct. 10, Corona received the second annual Green Youth Leader award at the 2009 NAAEE’s annual Conference in Portland, Ore….

Read the whole article.


Sustainability Report Card

The 2010 College Sustainability Report Card rankings were released last week. Williams received an A- (the highest grade), along with 25 other school. I would like to share my article on the Report Card.


RIP, Lobster Dinner

Banned from WilliamsOne of the most anticipated days of the year at Williams is the annual harvest dinner, where they served, among other things, lobster. This seems to have come to an end. A comment left by an ’09 on Speak Up led me to WSO:

Show Me The Lobster

…tomorrow night, harvest dinner.

Whatever happened to tradition? To honor?! To liberty?!?!?!

A look at the Dining Services website confirms it. Lobster is off the menu:

Locally produced cheddar cheese and crackers
Green River fresh apple cider
Pickled vegetables from Peace Valley Farm
Peace Valley greens with balsamic vinegar
New Englad clam chowder
Peace Valley green bean salad
Mystic haddock fresh baked with lemon garnishing
Hudson Valley chicken
Sea Vegetable Stew made from Peace Valley and local farm crops
Fresh and locally grown corn on the cob
Peace Valley harvested fingerling potatoes
Williams College freshly baked rolls
Williams Bake Shop fresh apple crisp made with Apple Barn apples
Williams College homemade vanilla Gelato

Now, I have never really cared for lobster, considering it an icky bottom dwelling sea bug. But non-lobster eaters such as myself always had the option of a strip steak instead, which left more lobster for our lobster eating brethren. However, the steak has also disappeared from the menu. The only proteins on there seem to be chicken and baked haddock. Baked haddock?! You might as well cancel Harvest Dinner altogether at this point.

This is the most serious casualty of the cost-cutting, by far.

UPDATE: Hey Dining Services – lobster’s a bargain right now. Prices are down by almost 50% from two years ago.

(thanks to hwc for the image. Original here.)


Green Roundup

Lots of  environmental-related news in recent weeks:

  • As previously reported on Ephblog, Mark Udall ’73 will deliver what is certain to be a sustainability-themed Convocation address on Saturday.
  • Amy Marrella ’81 nominated as head of the Connecticut DEP.
  • William Walter ’07 hired by EarthWater Global, which locates, develops and manages large-scale, sustainable groundwater resources internationally.
  • New academic buildings obtain LEED Gold certification.
  • Brainerd Mears ’43 makes major donation to fund earth sciences program at University of Wyoming.
  • Blog post mentioning the Williams Campus Greens group.
  • Article claiming that Newsweek’s citation of Williams as a green campus is the product of “snooty East Coast prejudices.”
  • This Nature article is available only to subscribers, but according to Google News, it quotes Amy Johns, an environmental analyst at Williams.
  • More info on Williams environmental initiatives can be found at the Zilkha Center website.
  • Profile of Mark Tercek ’79, CEO of the Nature Conservancy.

Green is the New Purple

Thanks to ‘nuts’ for bringing the student article, “Global Warming’s Wide Impact”,  to our attention. It’s a collaborative effort by Williams College student, Meredith Annex, and Amherst student, David Emmerman. Considering all the recent discussion on the value of interaction with neighboring campuses, I thought it especially poignant.

And tying right in with the subjects of sustainability and cost cutting, is JG’s link about the efforts of the college to accomplish both of these goals; “The Great Shutdown of ’09”. Just goes to show, saving energy, equals energy $avings.


Meg Lowman ’76 Still Climbs Trees

KERA’s (Dallas)  Krys Boyd recently interviewed tropical field biologist Meg Lowman ’76 on Boyd’s always fascinating “Think” program.


The interview ranges over a variety of topics, from Lowman’s creation of the first tree canopy walks (she was the force behind the one in Hopkins Memorial Forest), being an international field biologist, teaching (she is a professor at New College of Florida, where she teaches undergraduates), life as the single mother of two boys while working in the field, and women in science. More than anything, I was struck by how much her identity as a parent shapes her worldview and values. She and her sons (who are now in their early twenties, and destined for scientific careers of their own) have collaborated in writing about life growing up in a field scientist’s family.


Those of you who are at Williams for reunions can try out a canopy walk for yourselves tomorrow (assuming the rain stops):

Sat., 1:30 – 5 p.m.  Hopkins Forest: Visit the Treetops on the Canopy Walkway

The walkway is a pair of tree platforms set 70 ft. above the ground and originally used for research. Platforms are linked by a cable bridge and accessed via a wooden ladder. Participants are harnessed to safety cables, and aided by guides. Space limited; long waits possible; first come, first served; no children under 12.

(It’s safe, but a challenge if you have height anxieties. Even if you don’t ascend, it’s worth walking over to HMF just to look at the structure. There will be an open house in the forest at the same time, so you could stop in at HMF headquarters and see the museum of farm implements, buy some homemade maple syrup, and view some of the other exhibits. And if you are outdoorsy, don’t miss the bird walk and the hike, both of which are also on the main reunion schedule.)

Listening to the interview or seeing the canopy walk might interest you in reading Meg’s books for the layperson:

Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology by Margaret D. Lowman (2000)


It’s a Jungle Up There: More Tales from the Treetops by Margaret D. Lowman, James Burgess, Edward Burgess, and Ghillean T. Prance (2006) (written with her sons)


Lowman has a website, Officialy, her title is Margaret D. Lowman, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies and Director of Environmental Initiatives, New College of Florida, but, if one just adds “Mom,” the subtitle of her website encapsulates it rather nicely: “Author, Adventurer, Tropical Rain Forest Canopy Biologist.”  She is very much a proud product of  the  Williams Center for Environmental Studies, and the College has celebrated her accomplishments by honoring her with a Bicentennial Medal.


Global Warming Solutions and Herding Cats

FTN logo WilliamsHolding a big event at Williams is like herding cats. In an institution run by independent and motivated professors and administrators, getting collaboration and consensus is very difficult. That is why I’m very proud to announce plans for Focus the Nation, an event which really will capture the attention of the entire school, at least for a day.

A little background on Focus the Nation: conceived of and promoted by Eban Goodstein ’80, this day-long symposium for global warming solutions will take place at over 1500 schools, churches and businesses across the country. Held on Jan. 31st nationally, the eve of super Tuesday, the goal is to engage 5 million citizens in active and intelligent conversations about global warming solutions.

The classic problem in any sort of activism is that when you throw an event, only the people who are interested come. In order to address this age old problem, we’re going to the students. Starting in September, we embarked on a campaign to speak to every single faculty member individually and ask for some or all of class time on February 5th to discuss climate change from the stance of their department. To speak to over 300 faculty is a big project, and I applaud Meredith Annex ’11 and Martin Sawyer ’08 who have coordinated those efforts.

ftn logo nationalIts paying off. Currently over 60 faculty will use between 5 minutes and all of their class time to talk about where their passion for a better world intersects with their discipline and subject matter. And more new commitments are coming in every day. We’ve actually been surprised at how many faculty are genuinely eager to participate in an event that addresses a big issue and uses their particular strengths. Maybe it’s not that surprising after all.

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Some call it “The Big Razor,” a play on its corporate namesake. To others, it’s simply “Foxborough,” as in the Massachusetts town home to it and its dumpy predecessor. A few unbalanced types think of Gillette Stadium, the dwelling of the National Football League’s New England Patriots, as an oppressive Albert Speer knockoff housing the cheatingest gridiron squad on dry land. Most of us are bitter Bills fans.

But more to the point, did you know the stadium was built with an on-site wastewater treatment facility? And even more to the point, were you aware that the Patriots recently agreed to purchase 2,400 megawatt hours of offsets to match their gameday electricity consumption? Well, that’s kind of the point. And, obviously, there are Eph footprints all over this bad boy, starting with Jonathan Kraft ’86.

But today, the Kraft Group will announce that Midwestern wind will fuel the Gillette Stadium lighthouse, the 612 blazing light bulbs shining down on the field, the scoreboards, and more than 40 concession stands that are juiced with enough power during each game to run 2,269 households for a day. …

“Obviously, energy is vital to our game-day operations and we have made substantial efforts to enhance our energy efficiency,” the Patriots’ president, Jonathan Kraft, said in a statement.

“This not only reduces our carbon footprint, but could help build awareness that other organizations have an opportunity to make a similar choice for the environment.”

The renewable energy credits will be purchased from Constellation NewEnergy, a subsidiary of the Mayo Shattuck ’76-helmed Constellation Energy, as part of an extant power agreement between the Pats and their energy supplier.

There are, naturally, a few doubters.

The idea of buying certificates to offset pollution has its critics, who say some companies may “greenwash” without making substantive changes.

“People have made the comparison to Catholic indulgences – we’ll continue to sin, but look, we’ll send this to the Church,” said David Chernushenko, author of the book “Greening our Games.”

Previous EphBlog discussion on this topic here.

The Krafts have obviously been into the green-conscious thing for a while, so as much as I’d like to claim they’re simply looking for a much-needed PR boost here, that doesn’t really hold water. But the good press doesn’t hurt, huh? And, indeed, it’s part of the stated rationale for the transaction.

“We have been incredibly proud to serve the New England Patriots since 2003, and now we are pleased to support their sustainable environmental practices by securing clean, renewable energy sources to match the electricity usage for home games throughout the season,” said Michael Kagan, president, Constellation NewEnergy. “Given the national prominence of the Patriots, this significant action sets a terrific example for other companies and businesses preparing to introduce renewable energy into their portfolio as part of an overall strategy to address climate change.”

Now, I tend to think Kagan has a point here. The Pats’ appeal (and, perhaps, their influence) cuts across all sorts of social and economic lines, and as a a result, their green example might just carry more weight with the average consumer than would such a move from the average business. Depending on how much overlap one believes there is between the pro-wind power crowd and the pro-Randy Moss contingent, the Krafts are quite possibly helping to expand the roster of environmentally conscious citizens.


Williams students attend Power Shift 2007

Williams students lobbying congress in front James Garfield.

13 Williams students traveled to DC this weekend for the first ever national youth climate conference, Power Shift 2007, put on by the Energy Action Coalition. Organized by TNG, this trip was planned simultaneously with the Step it Up events right here in Williamstown. Driving two college Prius (priui?), we learned valuable organizing skills, heard diverse perspectives on how to build a clean and just future, and gained a sense of the movement.

The conference attracted 6000 youth from all 50 states, as well as tv cameras, newspapers, influential leaders and the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. In her speech to the assembled students she linked global warming to the war in Iraq, saying we need to fix both simultaneously. Some of her comments were met with boos from the a crowd clearly disappointed with how she has failed to get our troops out. Her prescriptions for climate change solutions were met with fiery chants and calls for ‘more, more, more’. She seemed very surprised at the intensity, and it was clear she did not fully capture the audience the way more passionate speakers like Ed Markey, chair of The Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Read more


New Center for Environmental Initiatives

Morty just sent out an e-mail to the college detailing a new full-time staff position within the office of the vice president for operations. The staffer will lead the Center for Environmental Initiatives, which will create and maintain a strategic plan for the college’ sustainability goals.

It looks like the Thursday Night Group just got a corresponding official within the college.

Read the whole letter at the link below.

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TNG – what does fighting global warming mean?

92 people attended the first gathering of Thursday Night Group this week. 23 people participated in our overnight leadership retreat to set the agenda and goals for the year. This isn’t the kind of activism we’ve seen at Williams in the recent past (DK, I’m counting on you to prove me wrong here somehow.)

Why is our group so energized this year, and where is all of this going to lead?

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Eph on PBS

Mark Orlowski ’04 might be old news to ephblog readers. His work on sustainable endowments while at Williams and much more so after is worth bringing up again, though, especially when its captured in the soft glow of a PBS camera.

Mark is currently touring the country with Guster. The Campus Consciousnes tour will be stopping in the purple valley this Thursday. Members of the band will be at a town hall forum at 2:30 in Brooks-Rogers before the concert to talk about environmental consciousness and giving out backstage passes for the show.


Step it Up in Williamstown

The story copies below is taken from iBerkshires News article on the rally. For national coverage, see your local paper or visit

I was a bit disapointed to see a few key elements omitted.

1. There is no photo of the ribbon up the steeple (even among the ones I didn’t copy here), arguably the most inventive part of the rally.

2. Hundreds of postcards were signed to congressmen. The entire rally was explicity designed to address the national congress, but that aspect seems to be lost in this article.

By Susan Bush – April 14, 2007

Center for International Environment and Resource Policy At Tufts Director William Moomaw [Photo by Sue Bush]

Williamstown – First, one encountered a couldn’t-miss-it-with- eyes-closed bright orange timeline measuring the fossil-fuel emission levels between the year 1,000 A.D. and 2007.

The fluorescent tape stretched over the First Congregational Church lawn in a nearly straight line, and then curved sharply and steeply upward toward the church steeple. The sudden jump skyward represented the increase in emissions that began during the beginning of the 20th century.

The stunning illustration was part of a Step It Up day event initiated by environmental activist Bill McKibben. Step It Up events were held nation-wide and several Berkshire region communities hosted global warming/climate change events throughout the day.

Long tables served as information booths for numerous local organizations, including the town Carbon Dioxide Lowering [COOL]Committee, the Hoosic River Watershed Association, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and the Center for Ecological Technology.

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TNG Answers?

Were any readers at the Thursday Night Group with Morty last night? Was my question about the carbon impact of Stetson/Sawyer asked? Was it answered? I just left a message on the question for Stephanie Boyd, who seems to be the key college official.

Why do I keep harping on this? Partly it is my natural curmudgeonliness. But accurately measuring the carbon impact of everything that Williams does will highlight, I predict, the hollowness of the moral smirking that seems to drive so much of the discussion. (Consider this discussion of hybrid cars.) Good-hearted students like Morgan Goodwin ’08 deserve all the facts, not just a collection of smiling faces and Earth Day letters from the college bureaucracy.

UPDATE: Morgan’s year of graduation corrected. I had a great phone conversation with Stephanie Boyd about the College’s goals, the difficulties of accurately measuring something like the carbon impact of Stetson/Sawyer and the importance of involving students in the gritty details of policy. Boyd would make a great guest for Nathan Friend ’07 on The Hour.


Morty at TNG

Morty is coming to the Thursday Night Group meeting to talk about sustainability. Good for him and good for TNG. Could a reader please ask Morty what the estimated carbon impact of Stetson/Sawyer will be? Just that. Just the facts. I don’t expect TNG or anyone else to try and stop Stetson/Sawyer. I just want to know what the carbon impact will be. Is that so unreasonable?

No word on whether Morty will be driving his hummer to the meeting.


Week of Climate Action

Morty world 2.jpg

This week is Williams Week of Climate Action. Students have been working hard to raise awareness about sustainability at Williams through lots of events, art and information. This eight foot tall cut out of Morty holding up the globe is now prominently displayed in Goodrich hall. Tomorrow students will unveil a giant CFL lightbulb made entirely from the incandescent bulbs that have been exchanged so far. This sculpture will be placed on Baxter lawn, weather permitting.

Yesterday the “Amherst Blows Greenhouse Gases” T-shirts debuted, for sale at $10 each. They are available in the dining halls.

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