Environmental Science and Policy
The Smith housing system — small houses with students from all class years — is one of the school's greatest assets and sources of pride. But from the point of view of sustainability, it’s inefficient. In this study, I examined the two types of housing available at Smith — co-operative and traditional — to determine which is potentially more sustainable, or “greener.” In the co-ops, students are responsible for cooking; in the traditional houses, students participate in the college meal plan. I hypothesized that the co-ops would be more sustainable than the traditional houses on the bases of water and electricity usage and of recycling output. I was able to use data from daily water and electrical meters installed in seven houses: two co-ops: Hopkins and Tenney; and five traditional houses: Park House, Park Annex, Chapin, Lawrence, and Morris. For the recycling data, I compared the results of the 2010 Recycling Olympics, The results of this study showed that although the co-ops are more sustainable when it comes to water usage and recycling, they consume more electricity per capita than the five traditional houses. The size of the house and the kitchen appliances in the co-ops are, however, mitigating factors that may account for these findings. I recommend that Smith convert some of the medium-sized houses that already have kitchens into co-ops and perhaps opening up co-op memberships to students who live in other houses as board-only members.
©2010 Maggie McCaffrey
McCaffrey, Maggie, "How Green is My House? Co-operative vs. Traditional Housing at Smith College" (2010). Capstone, Smith College, Northampton, MA.