DOC explores new strategies to reduce carbon footprint

by Claudia Bernstein | 9/11/18 9:00am

Enshrined in the mission statement of the Dartmouth Outing Club, in addition to its commitment to fostering student community and leadership in the outdoors, is the principle of environmental stewardship. The DOC, one of the largest clubs on campus, acts as an umbrella organization under which many sub-clubs such as Cabin and Trail, Ledyard Canoe Club and the Organic Farm operate. Recently, many members of the DOC’s directorate have expressed interest in making greater sustainability efforts.

The College’s location in the Upper Valley, an area rich with nature and opportunities to explore it, makes the DOC an especially important presence on campus. The DOC and access to outdoor opportunities at the College is among the reasons why some students choose to attend Dartmouth, according to former DOC president Mallory Byrd ’19 and incoming president John Brady ’19. As a group dedicated to the outdoors, the DOC should make sustainability a renewed priority, according to Byrd.

When she came into the club’s presidency in the spring of 2017, Byrd became especially conscious of the carbon emissions that result from the club’s operations, especially the international trips it sponsors during breaks between terms, she said.

“The DOC is wonderful because it allows students to go on these huge grand adventures all over the world, but it is also supposedly a club that has in its mission statement a focus on environmental stewardship,” Byrd said. “So there is a little bit of discrepancy between that and spending thousands of dollars on plane and car trips to go to places, which causes carbon emissions and negatively impacts the environment.”

Almost immediately after she became president, Byrd oversaw the formation of the Environmental Stewardship Committee, whose objective would be to quantify the carbon emissions caused by the DOC and attempt to offset those emissions, Byrd said. With the help of the Stewardship committee, Byrd calculated that the carbon emissions caused by DOC activities amounted to roughly 15 households’ worth of yearly energy usage.

Instead of preventing these trips and expeditions from happening, the DOC began offsetting efforts with a group called COVER Home Repair, Byrd said. Once a term, students go into the local Upper Valley communities and work on houses owned by those who do not have enough income to repair or maintain them themselves. This allows students to make houses more fuel efficient so that the DOC is able to collect those fuel efficiency savings and count them toward offsetting the emissions that it produces, Byrd said.

According to 18X DOC president Ben Saccone ’20, there have also been several other initiatives put in place to achieve this goal of offsetting, such as providing canvas bags to DOC sub-clubs to use when grocery shopping for their feeds, using climbing ropes comprised of eco-friendly materials on expeditions, establishing water bottle fill stations across campus and hosting a reused gear sale event — an effort spearheaded by the spring 2018 DOC president, Laura Hutchinson ’19.

Hutchinson designed and executed the fall reused gear sale with DOC directorate members beginning in the fall of 2017, she said.

“There are a lot of emissions associated with producing brand new equipment, and coming into First-Year Trips students buy a lot of brand new, shiny gear but don’t end up using it during the four years at Dartmouth,” said Hutchinson. “So in that way, we can contribute to offsetting our carbon impact.”

Hutchinson added that reselling the gear at low prices helps lower the financial barriers for students trying to obtain outdoor gear.

While many of the DOC’s sustainability efforts have been spearheaded in recent years, the Environmental Studies Division has been in existence since 1969. Hutchinson identified the DOC Environmental Studies Division as the club’s oldest sustainability effort, which provides a grant of $1,000 every term to a student or a group of students who are pursuing a sustainability-related project on campus. According to Hutchinson, past recipients of this award include Divest Dartmouth and the Farm Club.

Past recipients of the DOC ESD grant include individuals such as Madison Sabol ’18. Sabol successfully created and implemented the ongoing Green2Go program with Dartmouth Dining Services, which provides access to reusable food takeout containers at mealtimes.

According to Byrd, while new ideas about achieving increased sustainability are continuously discussed within the DOC, there are always challenges associated with the feasibility of implementing these ideas. For example, Byrd had proposed an idea to retrofit DOC van fuel with Foco cooking oil, but quickly realized that this idea was not realistic due to the fact that cooking oil would freeze in the low temperatures of Hanover winters, as well as the inefficiency of cooking oil as a fuel source. While the Big Green Bus DOC initiative of 2005 was overall successful, similar challenges of feasibility like cooking oil fuel inefficiency caused many bus breakdowns, Byrd added.

Hutchinson said that she is currently in conversation with a nonprofit called Protect Our Winters, an environmental advocacy group that “leverages” people who enjoy going outdoors to act on climate change and “become more involved in politics.” She said that the advocacy group seems interested in coming to Dartmouth to talk about the intersection between outdoor recreations and climate advocacy and sustainability.

Brady said that he plans to support sustainability efforts that have recently been put in place like those of Byrd and Hutchinson.

“You don’t really need an official position to make change within the club or get something really cool done,” Brady said. “People who are in various positions, whether it’s a sub-club head or directorate member, are really willing and excited about others being passionate about their sustainability projects.”