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Changing Landscape at Mills

Efforts in sustainability: Zipcars in Richards Parking Lot

Beginning Jan. 31 of this year, Mills College students, faculty, staff and alums are able to use Zipcar at a discounted rate and access two Zipcar vehicles located on-campus in the Richards parking lot near the security gate.

Zipcar estimates that each member reduces their carbon footprint, on-campus and on the roads, by up to 1,600 pounds per year.

“I think we have a responsibility, an ethical responsibility, to care for our earth and our resources just as much as you care for yourself,” Joanne Wong, Mills’ sustainability coordinator, said in an earlier interview this semester.

Zipcar, and car shares in general, help to lessen carbon emissions through the reduction of car purchases. They are also helpful for students who are not able to afford or bring a car to campus, and also to those who want a change in their method of commuting.

The partnership with Mills is currently a one-year pilot program. More details on joining and eligibility are available at the Mills College page on the Zipcar website.

The completion of Lisser Hall

Last semester, the newly remodeled Lisser Hall was opened to the public. It had been undergoing construction since June 2017. This construction brought the building up to date on seismic regulations and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Lisser is considered a Significant Historic Structure within the City of Oakland’s Cultural Heritage Survey, and Mills is considered a Historic District. This meant trying to maintain as much of the historic fabric as possible, according to Karen Fiene, the director of construction, compliance and sustainability and the project director for Lisser.

Events and performances are now regularly scheduled in the more accessible building, with new and upgraded technology.

“We envision that these performance resources will not only provide a platform for performances by the Mills community but will also be a significant resource for community organizations in Oakland and the greater Bay Area,” Performing Arts Facilities Director Alexander Zendian said in an interview with the Campanil in October.

Mills’ food pantry

The food pantry is now open for Mills students, who can use it once per week, and was a part of the senior class project this year. Located in CPM 103, the pantry can be accessed by current Mills students with an ID. Additionally, students are not required to demonstrate a need to access the pantry.

“I think it’s really important to note that a food pantry can fill some holes, but if you have someone that’s dealing with major food insecurity a food pantry is not sufficient,” Manager of Wellness and Community Outreach Judith Pierce said in an earlier interview last semester. “So we’re trying to deal with the major stuff first, and this is filling in some of those gaps.”

The necessity of dialogue on-campus

Earlier this semester, the Mills College Indigenous Women’s Alliance (IWA) presented the REDress Project, a continuation of Winnipeg based artist Jaime Black’s project, which comprised of installations of red dresses around campus. The intent was to raise awareness about the abnormally high rates of Indigenous women, girls and 2Spirit people who are murdered or go missing in the U.S., therefore creating further dialogue and education in the process.

“I hope that the Mills community will come to an understanding of the very real issues facing Indigenous women and people today, but also witness the organizing that the Indigenous community is doing to raise awareness,” IWA president Viola LeBeau said in an email earlier this semester. “Just knowing and/or saying that Mills is on Ohlone land is not enough, if you don’t know what is happening to the people whose land you’re on, you need to get educated about it.”

Environmental changes

Mills is thefirst in a national program to use mobile solar generators on its campus, with 12 so far and plans to deploy 18 more units.

Mills is also working with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to install measurement devices on buildings to see how the campus uses electricity in the hopes of decreasing our load of vampire power, or the amount of power a building uses when idle.

Sustainability measures at Founders & Tea Shop

The campus dining facilities have taken multiple steps to become more environmentally friendly this year, including measures by Bon Appétit in partnership with Mills.

Tea Shop: The Tea Shop now has 100% compostable disposable ware, except for the microwavable containers. Bon Appétit announced on their website that they were transitioning from plastic to paper straws by the end of September 2019. They have transitioned early; however, plastic straws are still available by request for people with disabilities.

“The straw ban we announced last year is a first step for us to address the broader problems of single-use disposables in food service,” Bon Appétit Fellow Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura said in an email. “Our national waste-programs team is researching the subject to identify additional actions we can take.”

Founders: Bon Appétit is in the process of completing a national plate waste study run in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The report will be published this summer and will be available for the public. “The purpose of this study is to figure out how much food gets left on people’s plates and why, and we hope to use what we learn to drive future food-waste fighting practices and policies,” Scanlon-Kimura said.

Space optimization efforts at Mills

The space optimization efforts at Mills have been underway since last summer. They are a long-term set of possible changes which aim to “integrate the uses of the campus to promote Mills sustainability and vitality,” President Beth Hillman said.

According to Hillman, the optimization efforts are a set of long-term redevelopment efforts which would integrate all parts of the campus in a way that enhances equity among Mills students, workers and the community around us, as well as improving the environmental sustainability of the campus towards carbon neutrality.

In the past there were plans to build a grocery store on-campus but the developer pulled out. Despite this, the goal of renovations is still intertwined with the community around us.