Going Green | Teachers College Columbia University

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Going Green

TC Students campaign to make TC more eco-friendly
Every week, Teachers College generates four tons of garbage, about one-quarter of which is recycled. The College has a recycling program, but recycling bins aren’t always handy and clearly marked, and staff, students and maintenance personnel don’t always separate trash properly.
A group of students led by Jaymie Stein (M.A. candidate, Art and Art Education) and Natalie Hadad (M.A. candidate, Developmental Psychology), believe that the College could do better. This fall, they joined and energized an ad hoc committee of the Student Senate that had come together the previous spring to launch a Go Green campaign. The Go Green committee, whose membership is open to the entire TC community, is making recycling a key platform in its overall agenda to make TC more eco-friendly.
Stein and Hadad believe they are preaching to a receptive audience, and that most people in the TC community, if given the right tools, will do the right thing. But, they say, it’s not just a matter of educating the maintenance staff about not mixing paper with plastic. “TC needs a culture change,” Hadad said. “We are building the momentum and educating the community about the environment. With the right information, everyone can go green.”
The students have the full support of the administration, from President Susan H. Fuhrman and Vice President for Finance and Administration Harvey Spector to Facilities Manager Tom Daly. “The College is way behind the times when it comes to recycling,” Spector said. “The College has to lead this—not the maintenance department.”
This month, the Go Green committee is launching a pilot project to increase recycling at the College. The group plans to place color-coded, clearly marked bins in the hallways of Horace Mann Hall, with special clear bags (instead of the usual opaque ones), to make recycling easier for students and staff. They also anticipate launching a similar pilot project in Teachers College offices and suites. Eventually, Spector and Go Green want to add recycling bins to all classrooms, offices, and the Gottesman Libraries.
The committee is also surveying the campus to determine how many rooms and departments are without the equipment needed to recycle properly. They hope that despite the current economic pressures, the College will make recycling bins and instruction available, but Spector said that TC will have to “add resources to the maintenance program” in order for it to work. Go Green has received $5,000 from the College to organize an Earth Day festival on April 18, which will take place in Russell Courtyard and will feature performances, including one by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, and information tables on energy use and recycling, as well as eco-friendly vendors.
Other plans include campaigns to reduce energy use, such as programming lights and computers across the campus to automatically turn off when they’re not in use; using recycled paper wherever possible; recycling used batteries; and selling Go Green T-shirts, reusable tote bags and water bottles. Recently, printers in the computing centers were set to automatically print on both sides of each paper. Taken together, Stein and Hadad believe, these steps could do a lot to make TC greener.
Hadad said that when she first came to look at Columbia, she saw the recycling center at Lerner Hall and thought, “This is the right school for me.” When she saw Teachers College for the first time, she thought, “This is the right school for me, but it’s waiting to be changed.”
The committee has 60 to 70 members, including a core group of about 10. They see Go Green as their personal legacy at TC, “a campaign,” as Stein put it, “with no end” that will, Hadad quickly added, “continue after we leave.”

Published Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2009