From the ground up-Albion receives dual environmental awards

Albion’s school colors are purple and gold, but on Thursday, Oct. 29, the college celebrated a new color: green.

 In a 1:00 p.m. ceremony,  state officials recognized Albion as the first college in the state of Michigan to be certified in the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship program (MTESP) as well as have the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center recognized by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).

According to Debbie Swartz, MTESP coordinator, Albion College is the first property of any type to be recognized by both programs.

“By achieving certification and verification, the college demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and sets an example for students and other colleges to follow,” Swartz said.

Upon establishment in 1998, the MTESP was originally designed for the turf industry and golf course superintendents. Since then the program has expanded to other industries and properties such as parks and lawn care companies, with Albion being the first educational institution in the state to become certified.

According to the MTESP’s Web site, the program principles are based on controlling sources of pollution. Some of the initiatives Albion took towards fulfilling these principles included a volunteer-initiated water quality monitoring system as well as looking into “goat mowers” for poison ivy removal to avoid using chemicals.

“This (certification) is not the end of our environmental stewardship goals but a beginning,” said Mark Frever, grounds supervisor, upon accepting the certificate. “It’s a challenge to go to another level of environmental stewardship.”

Additionally, the MAEAP is a three phase program consisting of education, risk assessment related to the farmstead, livestock and cropping and finally verification after all three phases have been completed.

According to Mike Rubley, a groundwater technician with the Calhoun and Jackson Conservation District who worked with the college towards achieving verification, improvements Albion made included placing a berm in front of the manure container at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center to prevent runoff and creating a secondary fuel containment tank.

“The certification process is tricky because you have to know what the risks are and what solutions are okay,” said Josh Appleby, MAEAP verifier with the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Amy Butler, director of the Bureau of Energy Systems with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, hopes the dual certification will inspire students.

“The opportunities and skills students learn at the college level are transferable to the professional life,” Butler said. “No matter what you’re going into in life, understanding how energy and sustainability go together is critical.”

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