With a disastrous drought and constant debate over food justice, energy use and waste disposal, Occidental is abuzz with efforts toward sustainability. Thankfully, the administration and board of trustees have been making strides in a green direction. In the last year, the school hired a sustainability coordinator, reinstituted the sustainability committee and, most recently, created a $3.5 million “Green Revolving Fund.” The school has been receptive to the student body’s ever-growing demand for a greener campus, but there is always more those in power can, and should, do.
The faculty-led sustainability committee, which monitors the college’s use of resources, has made recent efforts to upgrade the school’s leaky plumbing system and has been experimenting with sustainable landscaping and solar panels. Occidental students might notice the presence of electric hand dryers in most residence halls and the absence of some heavily water-reliant foliage around campus. The new Green Revolving Fund, run by the board of trustees, will soon exist as a permanent part of the school’s endowment to provide loans for sustainability projects on campus capable of generating a profit.
The next step for the board of trustees should be freezing the college’s investments in major fossil fuel companies. By investing the endowment in fossil fuel companies, the college financially supports the destruction of the natural environment and our communities. Divestment is possible, as evinced by Pitzer College and 13 other schools across the nation that have already made the move. By reinvesting in other profitable companies and in renewable energy, Occidental’s endowment would not necessarily have to lose money. Divestment would also be a visible and advertisable move on the college’s part that would garner attention from both press and the newest generation of sustainability-minded prospective students.
The administration and board of trustees have already made great strides towards sustainability. But because Occidental teaches its students to change injustices we see in the world, students will continue to push the school to practice what it preaches and support justice for the climate.