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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Bill Hamilton

An Environmental Education

Last Christmas, his father gave Bill Hamilton, associate professor of biology, a framed essay that Bill wrote in the second or third grade. It implored readers to keep water clean and prevent forest fires. Matted in green (what else?), the essay now hangs in Hamilton’s office. It represents both a life committed to environmental awareness and the motivation behind Hamilton’s efforts to help the University’s sustainability initiatives.

Hamilton joined the faculty in 2001 and was quickly recruited to serve on W&L’s Environmental Planning and Management Committee (EPMC), which coordinated, planned and managed environmental concerns. In that capacity, Hamilton and other committee members brought environmental efforts into the classroom and the administration. With the assistance of W&L’s Auxiliary Services Department, he’s implemented a composting program and community garden that not only serve as an outdoor biology lab but also provide an outreach to the community.

More than 15 tons of food scraps and trimmings from Dining Services are composted each year, not to mention the containers, cups and plates that are used in Café 77 in Elrod Commons. Made in part from corn, potato, cane and sugar beet starch, these products are compostable and biodegradable. The compost is used in the community garden, which provides tomatoes, herbs, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and popping corn for use on campus and in the Campus Kitchens Project, where student volunteers package unused food from campus dining facilities and deliver it to local food banks and community members in need.

“Implementing these programs and making our campus sustainable is the right thing to do,” said Hamilton. “We should be role models for our students and our community. Sustainability issues touch every area we teach here, and I can’t think of another subject that does; therefore, not only do we benefit as an institution by educating our students about sustainability issues, but we also reap a potential benefit from financial efficiencies.”

Hamilton was recently tapped to chair the new University Sustainability Committee, which succeeds the EPMC. It supports W&L’s commitment to a sustainable campus environment and advises President Ruscio. Hamilton hopes that funneling environmental issues through a committee of this stature will serve to strengthen the University’s success in this area.

“The greatest challenge we face is educating our campus community on the need to support these initiatives, and the University Sustainability Committee now has the teeth to do that,” said Hamilton. “In the future I want to see students coming to Washington and Lee because we are a sustainable campus, and once we change the student culture, the overall program will work and grow.” u