Greening Olin - The Students Behind the Effort

Earlier in the summer we heard from Andy DeMelia and Facilities about sustainability at Olin. Now that summer is coming to an end, we had a chance to check in with Anne Marie Buchenan ('14) and Steph Northway ('15) who have spent the summer working for Facilities in order to improve Olin's efficiency and lessen the impact the college has on the  environment.


Hi everyone! Steph and Annie here!


We are working with the Facilities department this summer on sustainability and stewardship initiatives at Olin. What exactly does that mean? Essentially, we want everyone to take better care of all of Olin's resources: monetary, environmental, academic, etc. We are working to lower the activation energy of getting involved in order to help everyone make a difference.


From the start of our job the primary goal we were given was to find out the students' perspectives on sustainability and stewardship. While the students are the ones living here and making the most impact, there is very little quality communication between them and the Facilities Department. With this in mind, the first thing we did was send out a survey to help us understand the current sustainability and stewardship habits of the student body. We then conducted many in-person interviews, where students helped us identify problem points on campus and come up with potential solutions. Within the first week we had an enormous list of nearly 80 different ideas, ranging from putting dish towels in the East Hall kitchen to redesigning the watering schedule for all of the landscaping on campus.

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Our first attempt at organizing ideas.


 A graph we made to help determine what to prioritize. The size of the circle indicates the anticipated amount of effort on our part.

After narrowing down these ideas, based on their feasibility and anticipated impact, we began to implement them. We introduced dish towels, a drying board, a sponge holder, and a compost bin to the East Hall kitchen to help students make it a cleaner, neater space. We installed a picnic table and umbrella by the solar panels to encourage people to plug in to renewable energy. We made recommendations for more efficient lighting, fan motors, and hand dryers in campus buildings. After these and several other small accomplishments, we moved on to bigger projects. To name a few: we have put together and installed data loggers on the solar panels, researched native and bee-friendly plants for a new landscaping project, obtained approval to implement a reusable mug and take-out box program in the dining hall, designed a new co-curricular called Sustainable Facilities, and much more. The hope is that these and the myriad of other projects will add up to make a big impact on how campus resources are maintained. For more information on specific projects, visit our website at and let us know what you think!


Our latest addition to the East Hall kitchen.


Some of the first data from the loggers we installed on the solar panels.

Posted in: Awesome Internships, Making a Difference