SPEARheading Sustainabilty @ CMC

If your interest in conservation goes slightly further than tossing Thursday night's empties in the blue can, then perhaps you’d like to meet Mark Munro '12, president of the newly reorganized Students Promoting Environmental Action and Responsibility, or SPEAR for short.  The club, which includes members of the now-defunct Environmental Crusaders, has a new name and new leadership under Munro, who has overseen the restructuring of CMC’s only environmental advocacy club for the 2009-2010 school year.

“The ‘Environmental Crusaders’ name wasn’t effectively portraying our mission,” Munro explained.  Indeed, the Crusaders have frequently been at the forefront of some of the more controversial environmental efforts on campus.  For Earth Day in 2008, the Crusaders constructed a pyramid of trash demonstrating the amount of food waste produced at Collins Dining Hall in a single day.  More recently, blogger Charles Johnson generated controversy when the Crusaders took a school-funded trip to Washington, DC for the Powershift 2009 conference.   “I believe that this new name is representative of a new direction we are taking the club, helping to make Claremont McKenna a more sustainable college.”

The last several years have seen Claremont Mckenna College take a number of steps to conserve waste and reduce the environmental footprint of the school.  The opening of Claremont Hall, the school’s first LEED Silver certified building, was hailed as a breakthrough for the college.  Additionally, CMC (as part of a consortium move), eliminated trays from dining halls for the 2009-2010 school year.  Club Vice President Ashley Scott says the change was not directly linked to her group.

“The administration made the call on their own.  I think that some people don’t realize that this is a beneficial move for our campus,” said Scott, a junior who has been involved with the group since her freshmen year.  “Students are being asked to trade a little inconvenience for a policy that saves the school money.  It’s a matter of environmental economics, not something that’s purely ideological.”

SPEAR plans to push several campaigns for environmental activism on campus.  Among these, Munro points to Take Back the Tap, a national effort to reduce bottled-water usage as an important effort for CMC students. Drinking bottled water comes at a high cost both in terms of trash produced and money spent he says and there are opportunities for students to both save money and reduce waste.

Starting this month, SPEAR hopes to involve itself in the school’s long-term conservation goals.  “The Administration is forming an ad-hoc committee that will include students to revisit some of the conservation policy the school is involved in,” said Munro. This includes goals to make CMC a carbon-reduced or even carbon-neutral institution, provided there are opportunities to do so.  Also on the docket is continued support by President Pamela Gann of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, which she signed in 2007.

So far, both Munro and Scott see their club’s re-branding as a success.  Although the group may still serve as a lightning rod for environmental issues on campus, the new incarnation of the club is working towards a more moderate and professional image.  With a larger-than-usual turnout for the club's first official meeting, the group will continue to partake in discourse at CMC and on the 5C campus, lest we forget global warming has the potential to affect even the very beer we drink.