Green Is the New Black at Rollins College

By Audrey St. Clair, Rollins College

From renewable energy to alternative transportation to campus-wide recycling programs, a focus on sustainability is woven into the culture at Sullivan Foundation partner school Rollins College. Initiatives like the Sustainability Program, a campus-wide effort focused on infrastructure, and EcoRollins, a student-focused, event-based organization, form the backbone of Rollins’ commitment to preserving the campus community and beyond.

“Thousands of plastic bottles, straws and containers have been prevented from entering landfills because of our combined efforts here on campus,” says Ellie Rushing, a double major in environmental studies and communication studies and co-leader of the Sustainability Program with environmental studies major Gabbie Buendia. “Students are more conscious about what they eat and throw into garbage and recycling bins, and they will take that information and those habits with them when they leave Rollins and teach others.”

The Princeton Review selected Rollins for its annual Green Guide based on academic offerings, campus policies, initiatives, activities, and career preparation for students. Here’s a closer look at why the experts agree that Rollins continues to serve as a model for environmental stewardship.

  1. Rollins has its own EcoHouse on campus. This spot on the back side of Elizabeth Hall—complete with five single rooms, one double, a common room, and bathroom—overlooks Lake Virginia and houses Sustainability Program coordinators and members of EcoRollins who care for the space. They participate in gardening, road and lake cleanups, planned events such as Earth Day and America Recycles Day, and environmental and sustainable education on campus.
  2. You can ditch four wheels for two. Rollins’ bike-share program is in its ninth year of providing bicycles for rent to students, faculty and staff. Currently, there are 44 bikes in the fleet with a mix of cruiser and road bikes, many of which were abandoned and then restored by members of the Sustainability Program. Bikes can be checked out at the Olin Library for three-day rentals.
  3. The recycling program goes beyond bottles and cans. Students in the Sustainability Program—which is overseen by program coordinator Ann Francis—continually collaborate with Rollins’ Facilities department to monitor recycling bins and signage in residence halls, administration buildings and classrooms. In 2017, Rollins removed all plastic bags as a result of a student-driven no-plastic campaign and has subsequently eradicated Styrofoam from campus. The Habitat for Humanity Book Drive promotes reusing and recycling by collecting old books from students during exam week.
  4. Rollins’ environmental studies department was one of the first in the country. Environmental studies professor Barry Allen founded Rollins’ environmental studies department in 1982. For 20-plus years, he has been leading students like Angelo Villagomez, a senior officer with PEW Charitable Trusts, and Tyler Kartzinel, a conservation biology professor at Brown, on field studies to Costa Rica, giving them an up-close, hands-on look at one of the world leaders in conservation and national parks.
  5. No more straws means solving big problems.Turns out those little tubes of convenience aren’t biodegradable, so Rollins has taken steps to eliminate all plastic straws. Environmentally friendly options like pasta straws and paper straws are now available at the different dining locations around campus.

    Photo by Curtis Shaffer

  6. Rollins is a Fair Trade campus.In fact, Rollins became Florida’s first designated Fair Trade campus in 2013. From the Rice Family Bookstore and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum to Dining Services and even Athletics (think Fair Trade balls at soccer practice), Rollins is committed to purchasing environmentally sustainable products that don’t come from sweatshops or child labor and actively educates students about the sustainability issues involved in global commerce.
  7. Farm-to-table has never been so close.Rollins’ on-campus student-run organic farm started as an independent study project aimed at educating students about health and larger issues of how food is produced, transported, sold, and cooked. Andrew Lesmes—along with the help of academic advisors and volunteers—turned a 968-square-foot patch of earth behind Elizabeth Hall into a self-sustaining microfarm that provides homegrown grub to Sodexo, operators of the College’s dining hall.
  8. You can minor in sustainable development. Connecting environmental studies to business, this unique program examines how development and conservation can be intrinsically linked to ensure the protection of Earth’s vital natural systems. Pair the minor with a major in international business or economics or social entrepreneurship for a powerhouse combo.
  9. The Bush Science Center is both high-tech and energy-efficient. This state-of-the-art facility features multiple heat-recovery wheels that allow the school to save up to 70 percent of the energy associated with heating, cooling and dehumidification.
  10. Reusable dining containers make it easy to do your part.The Sustainability Program partnered with Dining Services to implement the OZZI system, which is designed to reduce disposable waste through the use of sustainable, reusable containers at dining locations across campus. Dining Services also gives a reusable cup discount and extends its sustainability commitment to using Green Seal-certified cleaning products, cage-free eggs and certified sustainable seafood.
  11. Hydration stations can be found at every turn. These conveniently placed water stations have saved almost 2,500,000 plastic water bottles since 2012. Dining Services’ latest initiative is to remove all plastic water bottles from campus by the end of 2019.

    Photo by Scott Cook

  12. Going green takes many forms. Students like Morgan Laner can start their own program like EcoReps. This campus initiative, currently managed by Lauren Oxendine and Gabbie Buendia, is devoted to training and recruiting student leaders focused on sustainability. Students can also join the Committee on Environmental and Sustainable Issues (CESI), which advises college leadership on concerns related to sustainable development, environmental impact, biodiversity and environmental justice. Or they can take a community engagement course like Strategies for Changemakers and discover how to improve the environment right in their backyard.
  13. Year-round events and activities keep environmental engagement turned up to an 11. From lake cleanups and e-waste drives to clothing swaps and food-waste audits, there’s always an opportunity to take a small step toward big change. Since fall 2017, for example, Rollins has stopped 4,881 pounds of electronic waste from entering landfills and polluting the environment.
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