College Goes Green for Earth Day

A unicyclist demonstrates one carbon-neutral way to get to campus during the April 23 Pedal for the Planet event.Saint Mary's College marked Earth Day with a wide array of activities, from a green "Build-a-thon" with Habitat for Humanity East Bay, a bike-to-school effort and a spirited contest over which residence hall could conserve the most energy.
The Flick the Switch competition, sponsored by Project Green, involved all 22 dorms on campus, with Thille Hall coming out on top by cutting energy use by 28 percent. Seven dorms cut use by more than 15 percent. The winning dorm won free tickets to Gaelstock, a major concert on Sat., May 3.

"I thought it was a really good start," said Steve Woolpert, dean of liberal arts. "We're going to sit down and review what we can do differently and talk about how to go forward next fall to see what we can do along similar lines. We'd like to cont encouraging this kind of thing. It caught their attention so it sows seeds for their future when they're paying their bills."

Even before the Flick the Switch competition results were announced on April 23, some SMC students were helping to build green houses in Oakland in Habitat for Humanity's Earth Day project. Mercedes Matthews and Stephanie Tews, co-presidents of Saint Mary's Habitat club, said that about 10 SMC students turned out to start at the ground floor of building two homes, framing walls, nailing siding and raising the walls. The houses are part of a 26-home development near the MacAfee Coliseum are being built with all-green techniques, including using a solar-powered truck to charge power tools.

Tews, a senior who has been in the Habitat club throughout her time at SMC, said she was excited to be working with the woman who will eventually move into the home.
SMC's Habitat for Humanity chapter helped with a build in Oakland on April 19.
"I was working with her nailing in siding and talking with her about her family and how excited she was about the house," Tews said.

Another major Earth Day activity was Pedal for the Planet. Along with about 50 SMC students and staff, Moraga Mayor Lynda Deschambault and Town Manager Phil Vincent rode bikes to the campus.

Bill Sullivan, who bikes from Concord to the campus regularly, said he was expecting more people but unseasonably chilly weather may have discouraged some cyclists. Still, he said, more people may end up choosing their bikes over their cars in coming months.

"With gas prices at $4 per gallon, I think people will say maybe it's good for me to do it once a week or twice a week," he said.

-- Erin Hallissy
Office of College Communications