If We Build It, They Will Come

K alumna and bee expert Rebecca Tonietto ’05
Becky Tonietto ’05, Ph.D., on a bee search. (Photo by Robin Carlson)

K alumna and bee expert Rebecca Tonietto ’05 is interviewed in the Huffington Post on the ways humans can help address colony collapse among bee populations. Tonietto is a postdoctoral David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow exploring urban bee communities, pollination and conservation through the Society for Conservation Biology at Saint Louis University.

The interview is fascinating. Did you know there are over 20,000 species of bees, more than all species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians combined. That may be a very good thing given the pressure on honeybee populations from herbicides and the loss of plant diversity to agricultural expansion. Enter wild pollinators and, yes, urban environments. Turns out the patchy habitat of urban settings–with a little help from human friends–can, from a bee’s perspective, look at lot like the norm in meadows and prairies. As cities shrink, more green space is added. Humans help with flower boxes, landscaping, by leaving a limb or log about and holding back on some of the mulch, and allowing those dandelions and clover to keep on dotting the lawns.

Cities are a respite from agricultural pesticides and plant monoculture, and natural pollinators need and love that. And bees benefit city dwellers in many ways beyond pollination of food and flowers. Bee habitat is beautiful, says Tonietto, making urban areas more aesthetically pleasing. “And there is a measurable psychological benefit from urban biodiversity,” she adds. “Just the bees being there is a benefit in and of itself.” Yes! Tonietto earned her B.A. at K in biology.

Long Table; Close Community

Chef James Chantanasombut (far right) assembles soybean and cabbage cake
Chef James Chantanasombut (far right) assembles soybean and cabbage cakes topped by a canopy of salad

A five-course dinner helped strengthen the connective fiber of a community when Fair Food Matters hosted a fundraiser at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market one Thursday evening in late June. General manager of Kalamazoo College Dining Services James Chantanasombut and Chelsea Wallace ’14 were some of the featured chefs, and other K folk attended the event.

Fair Food Matters is a nonprofit organization as interested in healthy communities as it is in healthy food. FFM empowers and connects people in Kalamazoo through projects and programs, and a few of these include: the Woodward School Garden, the Douglass Farmers’ Market that serves residents of the city’s Northside neighborhood, and the region’s only licensed “incubator kitchen” called Can-Do Kitchen—a shared space where local entrepreneurs can use FFM resources to start a business.

At the recent fundraiser people young and old filled each seat of a 150-foot table while local chefs prepared dishes ranging from bean salads to roasted chicken from a local farm. The meal was fit for kings and queens—or for a very extended family.

And the evening felt like a family gathering, even when people didn’t know each other. Sharing food brought people together. They mingled as they sampled appetizers like the chicken liver pâté, or grabbed beers, courtesy of Arcadia Brewing Co. As local band Graham Parsons and the Go Rounds played twangy rock songs, the patrons sat at the long table, made new friends, and shared artisan bread or kale salad.

Graham Parsonsof the local rock band The Go Rounds
Graham Parsons, lead singer and songwriter of the local rock band The Go Rounds

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market can function as a gateway into the local community for students and staff. K art professor and media producer Dhera Strauss said, “The Farmers Market is my life off of campus.” Student Michelle Bustamente ’15 is interning with the Farmers Market this summer, and she said the Market gives her a greater sense of community.

Wallace and Chantanasombut prepared an appetizer and one course of the dinner: curry dusted rice chips with black walnut and sesame leaf pesto, and an Asian-inspired soy bean and cabbage cake, respectively.

They made the cake from produce at Bonomego Farms, and the ingredients included onions, green onions, Korean Bok Choy flakes and paste. Because they were given the challenge to make a gluten-free dish, they used flax seed mill, a healthier and tasty substitute for egg. Topping the cake were ingredients from Understory Farm (Bangor, Michigan), burdock root, fiddlehead fern relish, pickled ginger, baby kale, pickled bok choy, and garlic scapes. The entire gastric ensemble was dressed with citrus miso vinaigrette.

The chefs only used local ingredients. Wallace said, “Where you get your food from, how it is grown, and the science behind it determines taste.” The Jamaican born biology major would know. She was a member of the student organization Farms to K, and she started baking scones for the College’s dining services operation during winter term of her senior year. That experience has influenced her career aspirations.

“I want to cook professionally,” she said, “and I want to learn the ropes.” This summer she has shadowed or will shadow the kitchen staff at two popular local restaurants: Bravo! and Food Dance.

Strauss and Bustamente, Chantanasombut and Wallace experience food as a way to connect K with the local community. Chantanasombut said, “It’s great to be part of the community and to know local farmers, chefs, and organizations like Fair Food Matters.”

Everyone at the Fair Food Matters fundraiser seemed to feel the same way: strangers no longer. Eating local food together makes strong communities.

Dylan Polycn '15 helped serve the kale salad at the Fair Food Matters fundraiser
Dylan Polycn ’15 attended the Fair Food Matters fundraiser and helped serve the kale salad.

Kalamazoo College Recognized as Green Generation Customer of the Year by Consumers Energy

Seven K representatives accept Green Generation Customer of the Year award
Consumers Energy (CE) named Kalamazoo College as its 2013 Green Generation Customer of the Year. From left are Binney Girdler, K associate professor of biology; Emma Dolce ′14, sustainability intern; Katie Ray ′14, sustainability intern; Paul Manstrom, K associate vice president for facilities management; Lisa Gustafson, CE business customer care director; Thomas Shirilla, CE business account manager; and Kevin Linders, CE senior corporate account manager.

[Sept. 27, 2013] Consumers Energy has named Kalamazoo College its “Green Generation Customer of the Year” in recognition of the College’s overall sustainability effort and its voluntary participation in this renewable energy program.

The 1,450-student liberal arts and sciences college located midway between Detroit and Chicago purchases 720,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of renewable energy annually from Consumers Energy, enough to supply 8 percent of the College’s total electrical usage.

“Sustainability is a strong focus at Kalamazoo College. Receiving this award lets us know that others recognize our commitment to the environment and that gives us reason to be proud,” said Paul Manstrom, K’s associate vice president for facilities management. “We began purchasing electricity through the Green Generation program as part of a project to renovate the Hicks Student Center on campus to standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, earning the first LEED Silver certification in southwest Michigan in the process. We’ve found that participating in Green Generation has been a great fit for us.”

Kalamazoo College has been a Green Generation participant since January 2009. It’s one of the Top 10 participants in the Green Generation program, having purchased more than 2.5 million KWh of renewable energy since enrolling. The recently-completed Athletics Field House and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (currently under construction) will be the two “greenest” buildings on campus, furthering the college’s sustainability credentials.

“It’s with great enthusiasm we single out the achievements of Kalamazoo College in supporting renewable energy efforts in Michigan,” said Thomas Shirilla, Consumers Energy’s program manager for Green Generation. “K’s leadership in this voluntary program is commendable. It demonstrates commitment to and optimism for Michigan’s future.”

Past Green Generation customer of the year recipients are Irwin Seating, Grand Rapids Community College, University of Michigan – Flint, Dow Corning, City of Grand Rapids, and Wolverine Worldwide.

Consumers Energy’s Green Generation program has nearly 17,000 customer-participants and was the first voluntary renewable energy program in Michigan. It was launched in 2005 following authorization by the Michigan Public Service Commission. More than 100 organizations are enrolled in the Green Generation program.

Green Generation has led to the development of several renewable energy projects in the state, including the Michigan Wind 1 park in the Thumb region. Other Green Generation projects include biomass facilities located near Birch Run, Lennon, and Marshall. Consumers Energy also purchases electricity for the program generated by wind turbines near Mackinaw City. All of the projects are located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and all sources are Green-e certified as renewable.

The Green Generation program offers Consumers Energy’s electric customers an opportunity to support renewable energy by enrolling in the voluntary program and paying a small premium. Program information is available at https://new.consumersenergy.com/residential/programs-and-services/green-generation.

Kalamazoo College (www.kzoo.edu) was founded in 1833 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It is the oldest college in Michigan and among the 100 oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States. K is a nationally recognized liberal arts and sciences college with nearly 1,450 students and the creator of the K-Plan that emphasizes rigorous scholarship, experiential learning, leadership development, and international and intercultural engagement. Kalamazoo College does more in four years so students can do more in a lifetime.

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

View and download the above photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/consumersenergy/9953170725/

For more information regarding Consumers Energy, visit us at: www.consumersenergy.com or join us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/consumersenergymichigan 

Consumers Energy Media Contacts: Roger Morgenstern, 517/530-4364 or Terry DeDoes, 517/374-2159

Commute and Climate

Midway through this summer, biology graduate Trace Redmond ’13 wanted to know how K faculty and staff got to and from work. He was being paid for his curiosity, all part of his work as the summer 2013 energy intern on behalf of the College’s sustainability efforts. His work included completion of a “greenhouse gas inventory,” just one small piece of the College’s Climate Action Plan, which K developed when it signed in June 2007 the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. The plan calls for regular progress reports by the College on its effort to reduce climate-affecting emissions to an eventual goal of carbon neutrality.

Redmond has been busy setting up data collection infrastructure that would allow the College to establish baselines and measure progress in areas like greenhouse gases, waste tracking, water use, and storm water management. It’s a complex array of information that needs to be tracked over time in order to guide the College to those efforts that will make the most difference in achieving cost-effective operations that also have no ill effect on the climate.

Redmond makes three classifications of emissions–direct, indirect, and upstream. “Direct” are emissions the College releases–for example, exhaust from fleet vehicles. “Indirect” emissions released by vendors to provide products we purchase–electricity, for example. “Upstream” refer to those emissions that are even a bit more indirect, including air travel for study abroad and faculty and staff commuting, the subject of Redmond’s summer survey.

Response rate was excellent–176 people, more than 50 percent of employees. He kept the survey simple to encourage participation and ensure consistent measurement of change in future years. The survey showed that 83 percent of faculty and staff drive to campus one or more days a week. Average commutes by car per week, and average commute distance were 4.4 commutes and 15.8 miles, respectively. From those figures Redmond calculated that faculty and staff drive almost 913,000 commuter miles per year, requiring nearly 38,000 gallons of gas and releasing 336 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Said Redmond, “To offset our commuting emissions from one year, 8,608 tree seedlings would need to grow for 10 years.”

Redmond’s tenure as energy intern ends this month. He career pursuits include consulting on greenhouse gas emissions or quality assurance work in the brewing industry.

Top 25!

Rob Townsend stands with two students
“Recycle Rob” Townsend (center) with two student “RecycleManiacs.”

Kalamazoo College placed 24th overall in 2013 RecycleMania, a friendly (and eco-friendly) sustainability competition among colleges and universities that focuses on waste minimization and recycling. More than 600 schools in the United States and Canada participated this year. 2013 was an off-year for K compared to its performances of previous years; nevertheless, it finished in the top 25 in six of the competition′s eight measurement categories.

RecycleMania began in 2001 as a competition between two schools. More schools were invited in the following years. Kalamazoo College joined the fun in 2005 and quickly became a two-time first-place winner in the recycled bottles and cans category. The College won grand champion in 2008 and enjoyed three consecutive top-five overall finishes before 2013.

The K recycling program was started in 1992, with Rob Townsend–a.k.a. “Recycle Rob”–as its beloved leader. Sustainability is one of the pillars of the Kalamazoo College honor code. In 2007, President Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.

Like K, Recyclemania is a small entity that makes a big difference. Calculations for the 2011 Recyclemania  results show the combined efforts of participants that year prevented the release of 127,553 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent to the release of greenhouse gas emissions from 25,000 passenger cars. That′s big!

At K, students can help the earth year round. They can use “The Bat Cave” in the basement of Dewaters Residence Hall. The Bat Cave houses the Resource Exchange Program where students have donated numerous items for reuse.

Bat Cave also is home to HUB (Helping Understand Bikes). HUB students fix and rent bikes. And don′t forget to bring your e-waste (computers, printers, cartridges, cell phones, calculators, etc.) to the Bat Cave. The recycling program is always looking for student workers. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

K Recycling Program Puts Others to Shame

The website thebestcolleges.org has ranked Kalamazoo College #6 on its list of “11 College Recycling Programs That Put All Others To Shame.”

The website cites K for being “a perennial top finisher in Recyclemania,” the national competition for college and university recycling programs, and for a recycling department that “oversees the export of about a ton of food waste a week to a local pig farm, as well as the recycling of calculators, batteries, electric motors, and all other e-waste.”

K’s student run “Bat Cave” also gets a shoutout, as the place where student volunteers answer questions and run the REP Room, or Resource Exchange Program, where they recycle textbooks, mirrors, Christmas lights, pens, lamps, and much more.

K Sustainability Intern Converts Motion to Miser

Caleb Kline ’13 has been posting green gains on the College’s Sustainability Web site. It’s worth a look-see. One of his latest articles describes the installation of VendingMisers. The devices allow vending machines to power down when no one’s around. Their installation in the campus’s 11 beverage vending machines will reduce the College’s carbon footprint by an estimated 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Keep current with Caleb by checking out Sustainability regularly.

Students Create Cardboard Chapel

Cardboard Stetson Chapel
Students stand with their cardboard recreation of Stetson Chapel

Stetson Chapel received another life recently when K students erected a new and recyclable cardboard version of the building on the Quad, breaking a collegiate environmental record along the way.

Sustainability intern Scott Beal ’12 asked EnvOrg (Environmental Organization) to help him break the world’s record for the largest cardboard castle. The group considered several ideas for using boxes bound for recycling and decided to build a cardboard version of Stetson Chapel.

Construction day was April 27. With the assistance of Recycling Coordinator Rob Townsend, students built the Chapel replica on the quad using 760 boxes, which eclipsed Brigham Young University’s then-record 734-box castle.

Harvard University set the original record with a 566-box structure on their campus.

Student and Mentor Receive Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for Environmental Education’s Nature in Words Fellowship

Kate Belew ’15 and Di Seuss, English, have received the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for Environmental Education’s Nature in Words Fellowship for the summer of 2012.

Following Fellowship guidelines, students apply with a mentor from one of the consortium institutions.  Kate proposed that she will write a collection of poems inspired by Professor Emeritus of English Conrad Hilberry’s object poems in his chapbook The Fingernail of Luck. (Hilberry was a formative influence on the poetic career of Seuss, whom he first encountered as a high schooler in Niles, Michigan, and who graduated from “K” in 1978.)  In Kate’s poems, she will observe objects in the natural world, do research on their origins and characteristics, and then write in their voices, finding the intersection between the natural world and her own emotional and spiritual evolution.

She will be provided with housing at the Institute and will be given a stipend to support her work.  Di will meet with Kate throughout the summer to mentor her through the experience, and Di also have the opportunity to work on my own writing project at Pierce Cedar Creek. Said Di, “Many students from the region apply for this fellowship.  It is a significant achievement that Kate has been selected.”

Alum Aubrey Parker Covers “Run Across Palestine”

Aubrey Parker ’08 with a 200-year-old olive tree that was named in her honor
Aubrey Parker ’08 with a 200-year-old olive tree named in her honor

Alum Aubrey Parker Covers “Run Across Palestine” as Journalist series chronicling the event, and she plans to write an article on water issues related to olive farming for Circle of Blue. Parker is also pitching the story to other various media organizations.