Over the past year, the College of Charleston drafted, submitted and introduced a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) centered around sustainability literacy. The QEP’s purpose is to solidify the College’s stance as an accredited institution. Now, in the latter stages of approval but before the program officially starts, the slow introduction into everyday life begins. The signs and pamphlets advertising the initiative dot the campus from the library to the dining halls in a move to make students aware of the upcoming changes.

The College of Charleston’s Quality Enhancement Policy has focused on the subject of teachings on sustainable energy to students – however some students feel the College should practice what it preaches. (Photo courtesy of Adam via the Flickr Creative Commons)

The QEP champions sustainability literacy – starting in the fall, every part of life at the College is to be infused with discussions of sustainability. Classes, speakers, research grants and extracurricular activities will be pushed to gravitate toward teaching the basics of sustainability. The College plans to provide students a well-rounded look into how this topic affects their community both nationally and locally.

But can the College’s actions undermine the sustainability principles they intended to fuse into every student’s education?

The Office of Sustainability has undergone several energy saving initiatives including vending machine misers, green roofs, and upgrades to LED lights in the past several years. All of these projects allowed the school to cut excess energy and cost.

However, Josh Petrol, a student at the College, thinks the initiatives could go farther to back up the new emphasis on sustainability. “Rather than just educate the students, I think it should do its own movement on how it runs,” says Petrol.

The College currently uses the Central Energy Plant next to the library to provide energy campus-wide. This plant relies on boiler-based power generation that combusts fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas for heat. This system, even with the necessary regulations and safety features, consumes nonrenewable energy sources in large quantities.

Students like Petrol are concerned that the QEP’s attempts to educate students on the benefits of renewable energy sources will be undercut by the College’s inaction when it comes to implementing green energy. “If the College teaches theory then that’s what students remember. They remember the theory, but they don’t see it happening in front of them,” Petrol emphasizes.

Implementing solar energy on campus could even generate small profits for the College by generating excess energy. (Photo courtesy of Organ Department of Transportation on Flickr Creative Commons)

Instead, Petrol suggests the College gradually expand into cleaner energy sources as the ten year QEP takes its journey. In a climate as sunny as Charleston, solar panels on the roofs of a few buildings could provide a substantial new source of energy and credibility to the College. Selling excess power generated through solar panels to power plants could even provide a small profit upfront. Beginning with a prototype on one building could introduce students to their lessons in action – small initiatives could encourage them to maintain their mantle of sustainability after their time at the College of Charleston.

Of course, greener changes cost money – s

Solar power is a long term investment that only becomes profitable over time. Some faculty and students like Petrol intended to spread awareness of missed opportunities to reinforce practical sustainability throughout campus. “The College is going to listen to students. As we are dealing with the QEP, we just need to raise awareness of this whole concept.”

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