Helping Olin be Sustainable

This summer, we worked with Facilities to improve sustainability and stewardship at Olin. Our overarching goal was for Olin’s monetary, environmental, and proprietary resources to be managed and maintained more responsibly. We realized that we could work on many sustainability and stewardship efforts, but they would founder if we did not achieve community-wide involvement. Thus, our true goal was to not only begin sustainable projects, but also to make it easy for everyone to get involved.

While the students are the ones living and making the most impact on campus, there is little quality communication between students and Facilities. Therefore, an important part of this job was to learn students’ perspectives on sustainability and stewardship and to use those perspectives to design solutions to problems in those areas. Through surveys, interviews, and a website, we communicated with students both on and off campus. We compiled a list of over eighty ideas. Since we only had ten weeks, we had to narrow that list down significantly, but we still got through many projects:

The East Hall kitchen now boasts dish towels, a towel rack, a drain board, and a sponge holder. If you’re doing laundry, take a few seconds to grab any dirty dish towels and add them to your load! We’ve also created a new dorm composting program. Look for the marked, lidded 5-gallon bucket in each kitchen.

In the mini wood shop there is now an air filter to help alleviate the health and fire hazards of sawdust. This filter should run without effort from shop users, but if it doesn’t seem to be doing its job, work-order it! We’ve also consolidated the safety signs into a single, classy poster and put small reminders on the machines.

As you may or may not be aware, there are solar panels behind the dorms. We put in a picnic table and umbrella; we encourage you all to go out there to eat, listen to music, or do homework (there’s Wi-Fi!). We also installed data loggers to record the panels’ output and the weather conditions; look for a real-time display of this information soon.

In the Dining Hall, there will be a new coffee cup-shaped bin for your used Aspretto cups. It has three compartments so that the lids can be recycled, the cups composted, and the liquid properly disposed of. We’re also working to implement a reusable mug program to further reduce cup waste. We’ll have lidded plastic mugs available for taking coffee to class or juice home. There will be collection bins around campus for you to drop off used cups whenever it’s convenient.

Over winter break, facilities will install switches in East Hall to allow you to turn your room’s HVAC system off. There are also graphs on the flat-screens in the Dining Hall and Milas Hall showing the daily energy use for both dorms. We’re planning to set up an energy competition between dorms in the spring, so start with good habits now!

There are now separate collection bins in every trash room for aerosol cans, batteries, and electronic waste. The battery bins are for all types of batteries, including lead acid and lithium ion batteries.

There’s a new co-curricular this fall called Sustainable Facilities. Through it, students can learn all about the school’s inner workings and put their minds together to help the campus run more sustainably. This co-curricular is an awesome opportunity to make a real difference at Olin, so check it out!

Although these projects are “sustainable” in the sense that they are positively impacting our resource management, they must actually be sustained in years to come for that impact to be realized—and for that to happen, we need everyone to help. If you have any questions or other feedback, please feel free to email us, talk to us in person, or visit our website at

+ posts