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Office of Sustainability’s twice-weekly tours spotlight University initiatives

Tours offer insight into University green infrastructure, energy initiatives, sustainable food practices

Students walking through 85 Waterman might be surprised to learn that the building uses recycled rainwater on a daily basis. That’s just one example of an environmental initiative of the University that the Office of Sustainability hopes to highlight through its weekly tours.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, the office aims to show the Brown community, Providence residents and prospective students “sustainability efforts at Brown as well as to communicate ways in which they can make a difference and get involved,” Sustainability Programs Manager Erin Royal wrote in an email to The Herald.

The tour helps inform attendees about the University’s recent initiatives since many sustainability efforts on campus are not visible, said tour guide Devyn Collado ’20. “Being able to learn about all the green infrastructure that goes on around campus and all the efficiency programs and what Brown is really doing to reach their net zero goals” is important, Collado said.

The tours are led by paid undergraduate interns at the Office of Sustainability, and the tour program itself is led by Agnes Cheng ’20 and Nina Wolff Landau ’20. Though the tours officially began fall 2017, a professor from the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society had been informally leading tours of a similar nature for many years along with a few students, Royal wrote. “We decided that it would be a good idea to create a formal tour that was publicized and regularly updated,” she added.

Prospective students make up the majority of attendees, however “everyone is welcome,” Royal wrote.

Staff and faculty “want to know about the campus that they work for, and even current students outside of the environmental studies want to learn how to get involved in environmental causes or what goes on with compost and sustainable food practices,” said tour guide Karena Nguyen ’19.

The tour begins at 85 Waterman Street, which houses IBES as well as many of the environmental science classes offered at the University, and makes stops at the Urban Environmental Lab, West House, Andrews Commons and the Granoff Center.

The Herald attended one such sustainability tour earlier this week. On the tour, Collado and Nguyen pointed out the multiple University buildings that are gold or silver certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The University currently requires all new buildings to be at least LEED silver certified.

The basic format of the tour has remained largely the same since its conception, but tour guides are “constantly making changes to the tour to be able to provide the most information,” Collado said. The content is heavily influenced by the input of both the student interns and feedback from attendees, Nguyen said.

The content of tours also changes as the University provides updates on its environmental sustainability, Collado said. For example, tour guides used to reference a 24 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions since 2007, but they recently learned that the statistic has improved to a 28 percent reduction, Collado said.

While three people attend each tour on average, there are “ongoing efforts” to increase advertisement for the tour, Royal wrote. The tour is currently only advertised through the Admission Office and Today@Brown, Nguyen said.

President Christina Paxson P’19 made a recent appearance at one of the tours, Collado said. “We are kind of bombarded with this green ethic here at Brown consistently, so being able to see what Brown is actually doing, and the fact that we had Christina Paxson last week, really shows that.”

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