A Semester of Service: Energy & Sustainability

Professor Honea poses questions to student presenters.

Jon Honea‘s Energy and Sustainability classes not only studied energy sources, usage, and sustainability in the classroom, but also engaged in service learning assignments to integrate these concepts into their broader education experience. The students engaged in a semester-long assignment to develop a project that addresses an energy or sustainability issue on campus and formulate a way to solve it. The projects aim to help students understand sustainability issues and develop realistic solutions to these challenges.

This is the second year Honea has taught the class, but the first time the assignment has had an Emerson focus. Before, students focused on broader concepts and larger organizations in hypothetical energy and sustainability plans. By emphasizing local problems, Honea said the students could have a real impact, making the assignment more than just a throwaway project. Because of this, Honea said students learn how to research, work in groups, deal with different stakeholders on issues, and coordinate all of these elements together. These skills, according to Honea, are important in any field students will enter.

Through this assignment, students identified key sustainability issues in the Emerson community, possible options for addressing the problems, important stakeholders, and how to implement the changes necessary to remedy the problem. These projects, as Honea said, establish a framework for the students and others to address sustainability problems and lay the groundwork for improvement.

Composting at Emerson

Composting at Emerson wanted to expand composting from the Emerson Dining Hall to the residential buildings and other dining facilities. The group has partnered with Earth Emerson and will implement a pilot program on the Living Green learning community floor in the fall.

Emerson Garden Group

Emerson College Garden Logo

This group sought to create a community garden on the Emerson campus. Given the limited space available on Emerson’s urban campus, finding a suitable location has been the largest challenge for the group. Their primary focus has been publicizing their initiative through email, social media, tabeling, and articles in The Berkeley Beacon (“Community garden would ensure rosy sustainability” & “Students plan for Community Garden“). The students also conducted a survey to gauge student interest in the creation of a community garden.

Free Food at Emerson College

These students worked to address food waste at Emerson and decided to create a Twitter account that would publicize the location of leftover food from administrative and student organization meetings. The group created posters and will gain further publicity through a documentary about freeganism which is in production.

Food Rescue

Food Rescue at Emerson researched ways to safely donate and recycle unused food from the College’s dining facilities. They planned to work with the school city, and community food agencies that do similar work. After researching, the group discovered that Emerson’s food waste was not large enough to allow for donation. The students are now looking at other food rescue organizations they could serve.

Green Product Initiative

The Green Product Initiative group worked to implement greener purchasing practices within individual Emerson departments, such as Visual and Media Arts and the Iwasaki Library. Students spoke with representatives from the departments to discover where and how green products are already used, and wrote an action letter and green product report from their findings. The next step of this initiative is to create purchasing proposals for new green products or practices to be implemented and, with feedback from the departments, to present these findings to the Vice President of Administration and Finance.

Green Dorm Challenge

The Green Dorm Challenge encouraged students to reduce their energy use and become aware of their energy consumption through friendly competition. For two weeks in April, the group distributed calendars created specifically for the competition and asked students to track their normal energy usage for two days. Participants then had the following two weeks to reduce their energy consumption and submit their information for a chance to win a prize. The group aims to continue the competition next year.

Green Dorm Challenge Calendar

Green Dorm Challenge Calendar


Increased Recycling

This group, similar to the recycling literacy group, sough to increase recycling around campus. The group mapped out the placement of current recycling bins and where new ones would be most beneficial for the Walker and Ansin Buildings, and Emerson’s residential buildings. They are now focusing on publicizing their work through Facebook and Twitter.

Meatless Mondays

Students chose to target the sustainability issue by trying to implement a Meatless Mondays program in the Emerson Dining Hall, which would eliminate meat–except fish–from the menu on Mondays. The group has received the support of Dining Services and the administration, according to a recent Berkeley Beacon article about the project. The students plan to implement a pilot program in the fall, but continue to collect student input on the project.

Recycling Literacy

Recycling Literacy tackled the issue of recycling knowledge by promoting participation and awareness. The group investigated where recycling bins are located in several buildings on-campus and whether they are clearly labeled. They made signs to inform students not only what items go in to each bin, but also important facts about recycling. These signs can be found on bins in the Walker Building, Little Building, and Piano Row. The group’s next step is to increase participation and collaboration with Earth Emerson and the Office of Housing and Residential Life.
 Recycle Poster. The average American uses seven trees a year. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year! Help the environment and our community by recycling.Recycle Poster. Recycling a single can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours.

Solar Power

The Solar Power group explored the possibilities of introducing sustainable energy–specifically solar–to campus. The group conducted a survey of Emerson students to gauge their opinion of the idea and contacted local solar power companies to explore how this project might be possible. After finding ways Emerson could install solar panels or buy solar energy from another source, the group plans to present this information to the administration and continue to get student support for the idea.

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