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Center for Environmental Literacy Launched


If fisher professor of Environmental Studies Aaron Ellison has his way, the "Three Rs" will become the "Three Rs and an E," making environmental literacy a fundamental part of every student's education. As director of the College's new Center for Environmental Literacy (CEL), Ellison plans to mainstream environmental courses throughout the curriculum. It's one part of CEL's broader goal of involving everyone at Mount Holyoke in creating an enviromentally sustainable college community.

The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2003 calls for the CEL to be built on a foun- dation of existing College resources and strengths: excellence in women's education, internationalism, and public service; high student interest in the environment; faculty with environment-related research/teaching interests; a botanical garden; and a sylvan 800-acre campus.

Attention to the environment is already signiŪcant at MHC, which established a major and minor in environmental studies in 1992-93 and offers courses ranging from environmental economics and global environmental politics to European environmental history. MHC has also been one of the top recyclers in the Pioneer Valley since 1993. Through the CEL, more courses with environmental content will be developed and on-campus energy conservation and waste-management efforts will expand.

Ellison says that the center will enable students to "become more sensitive to environmental issues, creating more effective leaders, whatever their Ūeld. Making environmental literacy a part of every student's education is part of the broader goal of engaging all members of the College in the creation and maintenance of an environmentally sustainable College community." Robin Claremont '00, an environmental studies major who chairs the Campus Conservation Coalition, also supports the CEL's mission. "I think it's great that the College is trying to have environmental concerns become a larger part of the community," she says.

The CEL will focus on Ūve key initiatives during its Ūrst Ūve years. Facilitating environmental dialogues within the MHC community and raising funds for campus environmental activities were goals of the center's Ūrst major effort. In November 1998, the CEL hosted "Protecting Our Communities: A Western Massachusetts Environmental Organizing Conference." Environmentalists, labor activists, community health professionals, MHC students, and others interested in environmental issues gathered for this event, sponsored by the Toxics Action Center and Clean Water Action.

Also under way is the development of a campus "Green Plan," which will include everything from campus energy use to facilities use and development. (The College's new science facility will be a "national model for energy efŪciency," according to Ellison, who heads the Building Committee.)

Associate Professor of Geography and Geology Thomas Millette, an environmental and natural resource planning specialist who has worked with the U.S. Forest Service, the World Bank, NASA, and the United Nations, has been developing a "requirements document," a blueprint for a comprehensive Green Plan. As part of his 1997 and 1998 senior seminar in environmental studies, Millette asked students what they would like included in the plan and then had them conduct research to see whether their ideas were viable. "I have been impressed with how innovative the students are, and will incorporate some of their ideas into the document," Millette says.

Katie Blake '01, working on an independent study with Millette, researched whether it would be possible to determine if the College's investments were environmentally friendly. After securing an investment proŪle from the treasurer, she concluded that investment tracking would be workable. Upon the Green Plan's completion (the blueprint should be done soon), Millette hopes that it will become a national model. Maureen Dunn '99 came up with the idea of vegan housing. "I would like to see a dorm for people who consume a vegan diet (eating no meat or animal byproducts)," she says. "Excessive environmental pollution and resource consumption are the result of a meat-based diet, and there are ethical and health issues [to diet]." Dunn proposes that one of MHC's smaller residence halls be used, that cooking be communal, and that anyone could sample meals there.

Another CEL objective is making the campus a centerpiece for environmental education. Collaborating with Botanic Garden Director Ellen Shukis, faculty, and students, the CEL will create a plan for expanding the botanic garden's role as a teaching and learning facility. Proposals include labeling campus trees and developing nature trails.

In addition to Ellison, the CEL is staffed by Program Coordinator Peter Houlihan and student assistant Sarah Monheim '01. A steering committee made up of Shukis and faculty from a variety of departments will help set policies. For more information on the CEL and environmental resources and opportunities, check out the CEL Web site at

Above: Students in Thomas Millette's senior seminar in environmental studies discuss potential uses for Mount Holyoke's Long Farm as part of the campus "Green Plan" they are helping to create.

Photo by Jim Gipe

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Copyright © 1999 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Gravity Switch and maintained by Dan Wilga. Last modified on March 18, 1999.