Hannah can’t be old enough attend to college next fall, and, of course, I’m not old enough to have a daughter that far grown. But somehow, despite my shock and protests, it is happening. So today I took her and a friend college shopping to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, home since 1783 to Dickinson College. We’ve been traipsing around various campuses since last spring, and I’d seen this one’s idyllic greensward and limestone walls on an earlier drive by, so I didn’t anticipate many surprises. Happily, I was wrong.
First, our information session included an overview of sustainable-living initiatives on campus. Ubiquitous recycling bins, energy-efficient dorm clothes driers, and a solar-paneled, LEED-certified green science building under construction were presented to students and parents as strong selling points for the school. We got to see the school community walking the administrator’s talk in the dining hall, when the line for a turn to compost leftovers snaked longer than the one at the register.
Greener still was the bookstore. I’m sorry to report plenty of unsustainable campus staples such as disposable pens and plastic water bottles. But the shelves also displayed plenty of works that speak to the folly of such consumer choices. Prominent on the best-seller stacks were Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, while required intro course reading featured Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Michael Grosvenor’s Sustainable Living for Dummies along with the usual suspects of ecology, oceanography, and geology texts. While I didn’t spot any copies of A Sand County Almanac, they wouldn’t have felt out of place.
Just this morning, too, I learned that the National Wildlife Federation keeps track of sustainability innovations at colleges and universities around the country. While I can’t help feeling bereft about the imminent departure of my dear daughter, it’s uplifting to know that she and so many of her peers will be living as we all should, in communities that recognize the value in making changes now toward a greener, more hopeful future.