Green Cars, Green Initiatives

Green CarsCONWAY, Ark. (Nov. 25, 2008) – Hendrix College placed its first electric cars into service on campus Monday – vehicles that are an environmentally-friendly alternative to gas powered vehicles utilized throughout the campus.

Two Global Electric Motorcars were delivered on Monday and immediately put into use on campus by the college’s Physical Plant. The vehicles replaced two older gas-powered vehicles in the college’s fleet.

These vehicles, and other Green Initiatives at Hendrix College -- including The Village at Hendrix -- were featured by KTHV (CBS) reporter Ashley Blackstone.

“Not only is this a better vehicle for the environment, it will create a significant savings of gas and oil costs annually for Hendrix,” said Loyd Ryan, an associate vice president for business and the director of facilities at Hendrix. “These vehicles are silent, do not produce emissions, and represent a new way of operating an on-campus vehicle fleet. Given the current economic situation, we would not be surprised if most colleges don’t eventually take this environmentally-friendly approach.”  

Hendrix has approximately 16 small vehicles used to maneuver around walkways on campus for maintenance and other purposes. At an annual cost of $400 per vehicle for fuel, the college will see immediate savings from the motorcars, Ryan said. More importantly, Ryan said the cars fit with the college’s sustainability goals.

The Conway Police Department also recently purchased a Global Electric Motorcar and utilizes it for patrol in downtown Conway.

Global Electric Motorcars, a Chrysler company, has been in operation for 10 years. The company calls its vehicles “a versatile and efficient way to get the job done, as well as a clean way to do everyday work.” The vehicles are characterized as “zero-emissions personal transportation that is well integrated with traditional alternative transportation choices such as mass transit and carpooling.”

Hendrix College continues to promote “Green” initiatives on campus – inside and outside the classroom – expanding on the number of environment-friendly offerings and procedures at the college. From offering an Environmental Studies major to constructing The Village at Hendrix, a walkable mixed-use community adjacent to campus, Hendrix has enhanced its course and campus programming relating to sustainable issues.  The “Green” initiatives include:

In the classroom

  • Environmental Studies major: This interdisciplinary major combines classes in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. The major requirements prepare students for graduate work in environmental studies or related fields.
  • Environmental classes: Ten departments offer classes with “green” emphases, from POLI 315 Environmental Policy and Management to ENGL 360 Creative Writing: Exploring Nature.  This year’s offerings include:

ANTH 330 – Human Impact on Ancient Environment

BIOL 104 – Environmental Biology

CHEM 101 – Chemistry of the Environment

ECON 340 – Environmental Economics

ENGL 360/ SOCI 306 – Creative Writing: Exploring Nature

ENVT 497 – Environmental Studies: Senior Seminar

HIST 220 – American Environmental History

POLI 315 – Environmental Policy & Management

RELI 270 -- Ecotheology: Religion, Animals & Earth

SOCI 340 – Food, Culture, and Nature

  • Green focus: Many classes without “Environment” in the name still focus on green issues. Students in POLI 260 Political Economy, for example, spend a few weeks discussing the “power down” movement. Several German language and culture classes cover the German attitude about the environment, including the popularity of the Green party and the sophisticated recycling initiatives the Germans have undertaken.  Basic chemistry classes, many of which are taken by non-majors, teach environmental topics and green chemistry practices to instill a life-long “green ethic” in students.
  • Summer Semester in Costa Rica: Learning about the environment doesn’t stop for the summer. The Summer Semester has a distinct focus on sustainability.  BIOL 105 Neotropical Biology focuses on conservation.  SOCI 235 Nature, Culture, and Ecotourism in Costa Rica considers what “ecotourism” means, and how feasible it is. While in Costa Rica, students live in the Ecolodge San Luis, a field station with a heavy emphasis on sustainability. About half the students’ food was grown by farmers near the Ecolodge, or in the lodge’s own gardens and plantain grove.

In the Lab

  • Green chemistry: The Chemistry department focuses on designing chemical reactions to reduce or eliminate hazardous materials and wastes.  Our chemistry curriculum is unique in the level to which it emphasizes pollution control and encourages future scientists to consider the environmental consequences of their science.  Their motto: It is not what you do as a chemist, but how you do it.
  • Furthering green chem: There’s still a lot to discover about green chemistry, and Hendrix students are discovering it.  Students are involved in faculty-sponsored green research, such as investigate organic solvent replacement technologies. Last summer, for example, students investigated the use of super-heated water as an effective, environmentally friendly alternative to non-renewable petrochemical solvents.
  • Environmental research: It’s a double-whammy—using green chemistry to research short-term solutions for global warming. This summer, two students will assist a chemistry professor in researching the possibility of injecting sulfur compounds into the atmosphere to create a cooling, reflective cloud, as happens naturally when volcanoes erupt. The Hendrix group will produce clusters of sulfur-containing molecules to see which ones have the desired reaction when exposed to ultraviolet light.

In the Odyssey Office

  • Green Odysseys: It’s not just the chemistry majors doing green research.  Within the past year, there have been 18 “green” or environmentally-focused Odyssey projects. Here’s a sampling:

A Comparative Look at Agribusiness and Organic Gardening in Ireland and the U.S.

Tangier Island: A Philological and Economic Investigation

Heal the Earth:  Environmental Training and Awareness in New Zealand

Dollars and Doulas: A Multi-Faceted Look at Life in Intentional Living Communities

  • Odyssey Professorships: The new Odyssey Professorship program grants about $25,000 annually for each professorship position, to fund special research opportunities. Two of the five inaugural professorships will research on conservation and sustainability.

At the Library

  • Rent-a-bike: The Back in the Saddle bike collective has hewn together a fleet of bikes for the Hendrix community to rent.  That’s right: free, sustainable transportation. Parked outside the library, the bikes (and light-up, flashing wristbands, if you’re biking at night) are available for free check-out.  The collective, which started in fall of 2006, also teaches students how to build and maintain their own bikes. The larger goals: spreading bike culture, teaching students how to go (or stay) carless, and fostering a more bike-friendly community.
  • Recycled notebooks: For the past two years, the Shoestring Coalition has gathered used paper from the Hendrix community.  With the unused sides facing forward, the paper is hand-bound into notebooks, which are then distributed for free to Hendrix students and staff.  Several hundred have been distributed so far.

In Greene Chapel

  • Save the Bees: When thousands of bees were found living in the roof of the chapel, Hendrix humanely – and painstakingly – saved and relocated the hive. Part of the chapel’s roof had to be dismantled, and from atop a 40-foot platform workers gently removed the honeycomb and scooped the bees – one handful at a time – into a swarm box. The bees were given to a philosophy professor who sponsors the Hendrix Beekeeping Society. A similar approach was taken a few years ago to relocate bats that nested in the attic of Martin Hall.

In the Residence Halls

  • Geothermal heating: The details are complex, but by digging 200-400 foot wells and constructing geothermal heating systems for each of the dorms, the campus’s heating and A/C became a lot more environmentally friendly.
  • The nitty-gritty: Hendrix uses low-temperature geothermal energy for both heating and cooling, which makes use of the stability of the earth’s inner temperature.  In the summer, heat pumps extract the hotter air from the house so that it can be cooled in the earth. In the winter the outside air is colder than the ground temperature, so the heat pump can move the heat from the ground into the house or building.
  • The bottom line: the new system uses less energy, doesn’t waste water, requires no natural gas, reduces the opportunity for a large Freon leak and requires less maintenance.  Plus, it allows students more individual control over the temperature of their rooms.
  • Recycling bins: Conway recycles paper products, aluminum, and some kinds of plastics, so each floor of each residence hall has bins for those items.

 At the EcoHouse

  • Living green: The half-dozen residents of the EcoHouse, located a block away from campus, take sustainable living to a new level. They put their values into action by recycling, composting their food scraps, buying in bulk to reduce packaging waste and using cloth bags at the grocery store, rather than plastic or paper.  In order to live in the house, students must propose a green project to work on throughout the year.
  • ECC dish loan: The Environmental Concerns Committee, a subcommittee of Student Senate, created a dish loan program several years ago.  Rather than buying paper plates and plastic forks for on-campus events, organizations can borrow sets of reusable dishware, which are stored in the EcoHouse and can be borrowed at any time.
  • Organic garden: EcoHouse residents have taken charge of the college’s organic garden, which was started as an Odyssey project in early 2007.  The garden is free of pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers, and the soil is enriched by compost made by the city from Conway’s yard waste.  While the garden is not a main source of food for EcoHouse residents, it gives them – and other student gardeners – a feeling of deeper connection to the earth.

In The Village

  • A walkable community: The Village at Hendrix will be built in the New Urbanism style with mixed-use development the way towns and neighborhoods used to be.  The shops, restaurants and movie theater will be mixed in among residential buildings, all within easy walking distance of the college.  The new development will implicitly encourage walking and biking.
  • Building green: The College and its developer, TNDP, are working to construct "green" buildings to the maximum extent possible. TNDP has previously implemented successful green builder programs that had little impact upon the cost of construction, and is working with builders in The Village to repeat those results.
  • Keeping trees:  The new construction will require the removal of a grove of pine trees, which were planted years ago as a cash crop.  Although many pines will be cut down to make space for the new development, the College is committed to preserving the healthy, viable hardwood trees in the area.  Hendrix also plans to add hardwood trees to the new neighborhood and maintain green spaces, to preserve some of the open feeling of the pine forest.

On the Border

  • The streets at the northwest corner of campus meet in a roundabout, rather than a stoplight-controlled intersection. Instead of forcing dozens of cars to idle behind a red light, the roundabout keeps traffic flowing – shortening driving times and saving gas. Two more roundabouts are in the works, to direct traffic at other busy intersections on the perimeter of the college.

Hendrix, founded in 1876, is a selective, residential, undergraduate liberal arts college emphasizing experiential learning in a demanding yet supportive environment. The college is among 165 colleges featured in the 2008 edition of the Princeton Review America’s Best Value Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.