Shaping the Future of Sustainability and Elevating Student Voices at Connecticut CollegeFeb 06, 2024
Planted right by the Horizon House Admissions building at Connecticut College is a Smartflower, welcoming all students, staff, and visitors to campus. Installed in November 2023, the Smartflower provides power to the nearby Woodworth House building and is a visual representation of Connecticut College’s dedication to renewable energy and elevating student voices.
The Smartflower project started as a student-led initiative, spearheaded by alum Avatar Simpson back in early 2020 when he was a senior. The college had planned to install rooftop solar arrays that would not be visible to people on campus, and he thought that something with visual impact needed to be added. He found Smartflower through his research and thought it was a perfect fit. Simpson made use of the college’s Sustainable Projects Fund and worked closely with Liam Lofgren, the then-Student Government Chair of Sustainability, to develop a proposal for purchasing the Smartflower. Both students pitched the project to the Student Government, and the project was successfully voted in. The project was then picked up by the Office of Sustainability after Simpson and Lofgren graduated later that year. “It’s great to see the Smartflower installed. I’m very proud and appreciative of Sustainability Director Margaret Bounds, and of the rest of the Connecticut College community for continuing the project after Liam and I started it,” said Simpson.
The installation process on campus went smoothly. A group of students, faculty, and staff were present from the very beginning, watching intently as the Smartflower arrived factory assembled, was lifted from its crate, and placed on the concrete base. Interim President Les Wong was also present for this. “Everyone wanted to see the Smartflower open for the first time,” said Margaret Bounds, Director of Sustainability at Connecticut College, “The word most people have used to describe it is ‘cool’, and some have told us that they drove by to see it in action. Everyone is very excited to see the Smartflower, and Admissions even includes it in campus tours for visitors.”
Two years ago, the previous President of Connecticut College, Katherine Bergeron, announced during an Earth Day celebration that the college aimed to be carbon neutral by 2030. To achieve this ambitious goal, the college has focused on energy efficiency and implementing renewable energy on campus. The Office of Sustainability has implemented LED light and heat pump upgrades to increase energy efficiency, partnered with its utility to run an energy management program focused on energy use reduction, and plans to install a large ground-mounted solar array on campus. Student-run projects also play a part in the campus’s sustainability initiatives. An Environmental Projects class taught by Professor Chad Jones allowed students to design and install a small rooftop array on campus, while students are given the resources to lead projects that help shape sustainability on campus long after they have graduated.
After graduating from Connecticut College, Avatar Simpson went on to earn a Master of Science in Sustainability Management from Columbia University and now works as a Senior Sustainability Consultant at Agendi. He credits the Smartflower project with sparking his interest in the corporate realm of sustainability work and teaching him to be more number-focused. “The Smartflower project sparked my interest in working with emission reduction as I was more focused on urban planning beforehand. This project brought me into the business side of sustainability and helped me refine my ability to quantify my research and pitch investments. Now I primarily work with corporations and organizations to calculate and reduce their carbon emissions.” said Simpson.
The Smartflower at Connecticut College is an amazing example of how students can work together with staff to implement renewable energy, further their leadership skills, and leave an impact on campus for years to come. When asked about what the Smartflower represents for Connecticut College, Bounds had this to say:
“The Smartflower is a visible representation of Connecticut College’s plans for the future, of our commitment to renewable energy, and of our goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. We want it to be the start of an extended conversation where our students get to explore our other sustainability initiatives and get excited about the future of renewable energy on campus.”
Learn more about sustainability at Connecticut College at conncoll.edu/sustainability.
Want to read up on other Smartflower installations? Click here.