Greening Warren Wilson College


Paul Bartels
Environmental Leadership Center

Paul Bartels Address:
WWC CPO 6032
PO Box 9000
Asheville, NC 28815-9000

Phone: 828.771.3781

Email: pbartels@warren-wilson.ed

Commitments We Have Made

Over the years, the various elements of the Warren Wilson community-- administration, faculty, staff, and students--have publicly expressed their commitment to protecting the Earth and practicing environmentally healthy ways of life. Students in Environmental Policy classes with Dr. Frank Kalinowski and C. Reed Rossell in the Environmental Studies Department put considerable effort into early summaries of the status of Environmental Policy at WWC. Listed below are summaries of the environmental commitments we have made. In the appendix of this paper we have collected the original documents for historical reference.

College Mission

The mission of WWCApp1 adopted in 1990 includes the following statement:
WWC invites to its educational community individuals who are dedicated to personal and social transformation and to stewardship of the natural environment.

Forest Management Plan

Warren Wilson College has approximately 600 acres of forest. The Natural Resources Work Crew, supervised by Dr. Bill Davis, manages the forest. The crew works to reestablish native species by removal of non-native invasive plants, maintains trails and monitors for erosion, grows shiitake mushrooms on hardwood logs, and monitors the status of forest succession.

The first written commitment to environmental stewardship was probably the Forest Management Plan App2 drafted in 1980 by Dr. Alan Haney. The plan prioritizes uses of our forested land in the following order:

  1. protection of the forest resources and enhancement of these resources;
  2. use of forest resources for purposes of education;
  3. maintenance of the aesthetic environment;
  4. optimization of wood yields for lumber, posts, and firewood for the WWC community or for sale.

Land Use Planning

Pattern Language was developed by architect Christopher Alexander as a planning tool dependent on community input. Pattern Language is a set of community-determined guiding principles that serve as a dynamic force for the internal physical integrity of a community. It is the "string that holds the pearls" according to Alexander.

In 1990 Pattern Language was adopted by WWC as the conceptual tool to develop underlying principles for practical decision making concerning facilities development. A representative committee developed a Long Range Facilities PlanApp3 that was presented to the campus in 1992. The fundamental design principle stated in that document was:

"Warren Wilson campus will reflect its rural setting and village concept." Several more specific design principles are articulated in that document including:

In 1994 President Doug Orr created a new Long Range Land Use Committee. Through its work, with extensive community input, a Long Range Land Use PlanApp4 was passed by Staff Forum and Student Caucus in 1996 and subsequently adopted by the Board of Trustees in the fall meeting of 1996. This document identifies ten guiding principles for land use on the entire acreage of the college:

  1. Support of Community Life. "….No decision should be taken regarding use of the land which would negatively affect the physical or philosophical sense of place that exists here."
  2. Common Sense. "All…decisions about land use…should also be tested by discussion and intuitive thought";
  3. Preponderantly Positive Impact. "Changes in land use should be structured so as to yield a strongly net positive effect on the land and the community."
  4. Community Participation. "Proposed major changes in land use should be presented to and discussed by the WWC community for recommendation to the President and Board of Trustees.";
  5. Pastoral Preservation. "Long-term development within the campus lands should not be allowed to erode the pastoral nature of the place. In particular, sprawl should be avoided in any growth of the College."
  6. Building on Hindsight. We should learn from past successes and mistakes.;
  7. Searching for the Reciprocal. "Change is usually driven by individual programs. Potential impact on the larger community must always be considered in evaluating land use issues.";
  8. Renewal. "A mechanism for maintenance must be a part of any ongoing plan . . .";
  9. Endowment. "The riches of the land that the College enjoys must always be seen as an endowment. As such they must be managed for the good of the community."
  10. Productivity. ". . .everything at Warren Wilson must work for the common good. None of the land or its fruits should be neglected."

The Long Range Land Use Plan further identifies a number of patterns derived from the previous principles. These include an appropriate density of campus buildings, recognition that the valleys should be maintained for agricultural purposes, outward views from buildings should be filtered by vegetation, acknowledgment that the Swannanoa River is a tremendous asset and land use practices should enhance access to the river and facilitate its use and enjoyment, and that the sense of place should be maintained.

In November of 1998, farm manager John Pilson wrote a Farm Long Range Land Use PlanApp9 (see #3 below) and this was added to the general Long Range Land Use Plan. It was widely disseminated, but it was not subjected to the college governance process.

In February 2000, a Pattern Language on Native Biodiversity, Wildlife, and FisheriesApp15 (see page 12) written by Dr. Louise Weber was passed by Staff Forum. A Landscape Pattern LanguageApp16 (see page 13) written by college landscapers Tom LaMuraglia and Stephanie Anderson was passed by Staff Forum shortly afterward. In meetings facilitated by the PSGEC in November of 1999, it was decided that pattern language should also be developed for Energy & Transportation, Solid and Hazardous Waste, Water Quality, Air Quality, Purchasing, Personnel, and Construction. At the present time, these areas are under development.

Farm Long Range Land Use Plan

According to the 1998 Farm Long Range Land Use PlanApp9, the goals of the farm are to serve the greater needs of the college by education, practical experience, and a connection to the larger environment; to be highly productive but do as little harm to soil and water quality as possible; and to be economically viable. The Farm Plan also gives overviews of past projects that continue to be a part of the farm management. It describes the constituencies served by the farm, and gives an overview of the land that physically makes up the farm and how that land is used. The changes that have been made since 1996 when John Pilson began his tenure are listed and discussed. This document also includes ideas for the future and suggestions on management of pasture use and farm operations. Some of the commitments stated in this plan include: implementing pasture rotation to minimize impact on soil and water quality; growing the grains we use to feed our livestock; eliminating the use of pesticides; repairing and maintaining fences, gateways and livestock handling areas; eliminating all livestock access to the Swannanoa River and its tributaries; installing new water systems; removing non-native and invasive species of weeds and vines; developing wildlife habitat areas along streams and drainage ditches; improving the wintering site for cattle, and considering the option of future conversion to a dairy farm. Implementation of these projects led to a Cooperator of the Year award (1997) from the Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District and River Friendly Farmer award (1998) from the Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District and the NC Extension Service.

Native Biodiversity, Wildlife, and Fisheries Pattern Language

A wildlife management plan (Close Ties to the Land) was first written in 1997 by the Wildlife Management class and Dr. Louise Weber. The original plan focused on general principles of wildlife and biodiversity conservation needs and was presented to campus land managers and the administration to stimulate discussions and action. Between 1997 and 1999 several activities were undertaken. A pond was built on farmland near the red barn with the intention that this would be used solely for wildlife conservation and education. The concentration in Wildlife Biology within the Environmental Studies major was changed to a Conservation Biology concentration. The name of the centerpiece course was then changed from Wildlife Management to Conservation and Wildlife Biology. Finally, pattern language about the conservation of wildlife, fisheries, and biodiversity was in development during the time the class was meeting in fall 1999. These combined circumstances presented a need for a more detailed plan.

In the fall of 1999, the Conservation and Wildlife class and Dr. Weber revised the planApp13. The plan includes an introduction that serves as a justification for the plan. It is followed by the pattern language for biodiversity, wildlife, and fisheries which serves as a statement of vision and overall goals and priorities. This is followed by the specific management plans containing the ideas to accomplish the objectives. The pattern language was approved by the college Long Range Land Use Committee and then adopted by the Staff Forum on February 2, 2000.In the fall of 1999, the Conservation and Wildlife class and Dr. Weber revised the planApp13. The plan includes an introduction that serves as a justification for the plan. It is followed by the pattern language for biodiversity, wildlife, and fisheries which serves as a statement of vision and overall goals and priorities. This is followed by the specific management plans containing the ideas to accomplish the objectives. The pattern language was approved by the college Long Range Land Use Committee and then adopted by the Staff Forum on February 2, 2000.

The Pattern Language on Native Biodiversity acknowledges our imperative to conserve native biodiversity, and calls for an ongoing wildlife management plan to guide our efforts toward this end. It further specifies a no-net loss of wetlands policy, maintaining or enhancing riparian zones, erosion control to protect all campus waters, a prohibition against permanent building in flood plains, the minimization of access to our streams by domestic animals, and specific forest and farm management practices to conserve biodiversity in those largest segments of our land.

A major significance of the Native Biodiversity Pattern Language is to identify the conservation of biodiversity as a major goal for the campus. This commitment provides great potential to coordinate land uses on all college property.

Landscape Pattern Language

The Landscape Pattern Language identifies 11 principles governing landscape design at WWC. The first indicates that we will: "Design and implement landscapes that are low maintenance, environmentally sound, aesthetically pleasing and where appropriate using native grasses, trees, shrubs and wildflowers to establish and maintain natural areas throughout the core campus." Other principles include enhancing wildlife habitat, protecting forest stands that project into the core campus, requiring construction contractors to submit a plan to minimize damage to surrounding land, and controlling stormwater. The Landscape Pattern Language also states that landscaping should adhere to any other environmental pattern language.

Student Caucus Initiatives

Warren Wilson Student Caucus is designed to be the voice of the student body. Students who are involved with caucus have weekly meetings that are open to the community. There are voting members of caucus who represent the student body. Members of caucus sit on various college committees such as Long Range Land Use, Business Affairs, and the PSGEC. As early as 1996, Caucus urged the development of a campus-wide environmental policy for WWC.

In the Spring of 1997, the trustees and administration instituted a plan to increase the size of the student body at WWC to a total enrollment of 800 by 2003. This growth has required the construction of new dormitories and an expansion of facilities. The student body has expressed concern over the rate of this construction and the environmental implications of growth. One of the caucus documents that addresses this concern includes a resolution for an environmental café (see Projects: Copwpie Café) that would use produce from the Warren Wilson farm and garden, as well as other products grown locally. This café just went into operation in the fall of 2000. Another caucus action resulted in a student parking policyApp6 eliminating cars for first year students and establishing a free van shuttle to Asheville. This policy was passed in the Fall of 1997, and went into effect Fall 1998.

Environmental Goals and Commitment Statements

In May of 1997, with facilitation by the PSGEC the Staff Forum and Student Caucus approved a general Environmental Commitment Statement. It now appears in the Student Handbook, and it reads:

One of the major factors that encourages students, faculty, volunteers, and staff to come to Warren Wilson College is the perception that we are an active, participatory community that shares a deep commitment and a passionate concern for the health of our planet. We seek to display and honor that commitment and concern in the way we learn, the way we work, and the way we live. We are interested in conserving resources, reducing waste, and eliminating pollution, but our feelings extend deeper to a recognition that we are also component parts of an interdependent web of social and ecological relationships. The recognition of our membership in this ecological community leads us to reconsider our ideals, values, and organizing principles. Ours is a working landscape, rooted in a particular bioregion, and part of an interconnected, but limited, global commons. We recognize the need to exercise wise use of the resources of the global commons, and, at the same time, the need for a deep, aesthetic, spiritually-based involvement with the community that extends beyond the human inhabitants of Warren Wilson. An essential goal of Warren Wilson College is to develop good environmental citizens who recognize and perform their duties and responsibilities as members of the larger human and ecological communities in which we live.
We understand that to fulfill this goal we must institute a process of democratic information acquisition and decision making which will lead to the development of an effective environmental policy.

In an attempt to move from the general to more specific, the PSGEC also presented a Statement of Environmental Goals which was passed by the Staff Forum on January 29, 1998. They read:

  1. 1. We will strive within the limits of practical considerations to conserve energy and resources, reduce waste, purchase environmentally friendly products, and minimize our adverse impact on the surrounding environment.
  2. 2. We will recognize and promote efforts to increase a deep, aesthetic, spiritually-based awareness of our connection to the environment among the members of this and the larger community.
  3. 3. We will promote sound environmental citizenship by consciously supporting programs and behaviors that display a willingness to sacrifice personal interests and conveniences for a larger ecological integrity.
  4. 4. We will promote sound institutional practices which balance environmental concerns with the long-term well-being of the college.

Hazardous Materials Program (HAZMAT)

The College HAZMAT programApp6 follows all state and federal regulations regarding purchase, storage use and disposal of hazardous materials. Each department and work crew has a written HAZMAT plan which is updated annually and stored in a central location. All plans are designed for personal and environmental safety. The College has a HAZMAT committee, chaired by Lisa Woodall, which reviews safety and training issues and deals with new developments.

Each new student and staff member receives general training at arrival, and each crew maintains its own list of hazardous materials with materials safety data sheets and safety plans available at the work site and at the central HAZMAT office. Examples include cleaning supplies, art materials, lab chemicals, and solvents used by the College Press, Paint Crew and Auto Shop.

Hazardous waste is collected in an environmentally secure shed near the physical plant. Wastes are kept separate by category (non-chlorinated solvents, heavy metals, heavy oils, etc.). At least once a year, wastes are removed to a secure landfill by a fully licensed disposal agency and complete records are kept in the HAZMAT office.

Environmental Components of WWC Academics

The extensive listing of courses in our current catalog related to environmental issues is another indication of our commitment. The Environmental Studies major is the largest major at WWC and has been since the mid 1980s. It includes six concentrations: forest resource conservation, conservation biology, environmental analysis, environmental policy, sustainable agriculture, and environmental education. Additionally students can design their own concentration within the Environmental Studies Department. A wide array of courses are now available in other departments, as well. These courses are taken by students majoring in Environmental Studies as well as large numbers of students from other majors. In the Spring of 2000, Environmental Studies faculty met with other faculty interested in environmental themes to open a dialogue among the academic programs. Relevant courses outside the Environmental Studies and Biology Departments are listed below.