Understanding Our Sustainability Rankings


Green Living Certifications

In November, alongside the end of our heating & cooling module as we began our water module, the EcoReps rolled out the Green Living Certification for students. The certification consisted of a 5-10 minute quiz we sent to all students, specifically encouraging our own res halls to engage. The quiz, written by Willoughby Carlo, Green Dean, asked about habits like how long your showers are and whether you close your windows at night, and ultimately gave students a score: either bronze, silver, or gold. 

The hope was to encourage students to confront their own habits and answer truthfully; in future semesters when they retake the quiz, they will hopefully do better and see that increased mindfulness about their actions creates ripples in their sustainable efforts on campus. We distributed stickers to all who participated indicating their score, and one of the most exciting parts for me was having friends show me their stickers on water bottles and computer cases. It’s cool to see people proud of their sustainability at Amherst, and it goes to show that when given the opportunity, students want to do good for the environment.

Our Green Living Certification and the rankings we assigned were inspired in part by the reports conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). AASHE has created the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System (STARS) which is a third party system that evaluates college and university campuses for their commitment to sustainable systems and programs. When Amherst was last evaluated in March of 2019, we ranked in at a disappointing 75 out of 94 degree granting institutions, barely earning Silver status. Peer small liberal arts undergraduate institutions like Colby College, Bates College, and Colorado College all ranked within the top ten, earning Gold ratings. 

Since our last STARS assessment in Spring of 2019, much of campus life has changed, including all of the pandemic shifts. We also welcomed a new director of our Office of Environmental Sustainability, Wes Dripps, who previously lifted Furman University to number three on the list and is committed to hoisting Amherst’s place in the STARS rankings. Our Silver ranking expired in February of last year as we work to make Amherst a more sustainable place and gather materials to resubmit for a new evaluation.

Changes to academic departments, administrative processes, and student daily life all go into the STARS ranking, and the EcoReps’ efforts with the Green Living Certification was an attempt to increase mindfulness and promote changes on the ground level here at Amherst. If you are interested in learning more about STARS or seeing Amherst’s 2019 report, you can check it out at the link here: https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/participants-and-reports/

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Body Fuel: Food’s Shifting Role in Making Dance Possible

By Ayo eniola ’24: ECOREP

field of cotton

At home, dance and food usually come together. Nigerians love to party, and my earliest memories of dance are at birthday celebrations, wedding receptions, or holiday gatherings. After stuffing ourselves with heaping portions of jollof rice and asun, the adults would force us out of our seats before we could get more. Then they would declare ‘it is time for a dancing competition’, as it is almost obligatory to embarrass the kids at a Nigerian party. The DJ would play the most popular songs and we would dance for the entertainment of our elders. Well, most people would dance. I would usually just stand there, face twisted into a scowl, eager to get out of the public eye and back to eating. 

After all, who can dance on an empty stomach? The intense and strenuous movement practices we put ourselves through would be impossible without proper nutrition. It is the energy stored in our food that gives us the energy to make those turns or big jumps. Even our breaths would be snuffed out if we spend too long without a meal. Our ancestors knew this and built villages around food. In pre-colonial Nigeria, all farms were run by families or tribes producing enough to sustain themselves and their communities. This agricultural system is shared by many Indigenous cultures around the world and emphasizes providing subsistence by giving back to Earth. Pancha Rodriguez, a member of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women of Chile, defines family farming:

“For us, family farming has a name and a surname; we talk of peasant agriculture; we talk of agriculture that has been developed by indigenous peoples; we refer to an agriculture that feeds the peoples. It is not about agriculture practiced by families that have a registered trademark and that are part of the exports agribusiness that appropriate rights on our seeds, our way of producing or consuming using misleading propaganda… We refer to peasants’ rights to ensure healthy diets, to keep our land alive and with diversity, to conserve our earth, the source of wealth. Above all, we want to protect life. And food is life, as long as it is produced using the forms of traditional agriculture that have been practised for millennia by indigenous peoples. (Via Campesina, 2019).”

As Rodriguez hints, industrialized agriculture has shifted this access to subsistence and indigenous communal foodways. What was once readily available in our backyards has been stuffed into colorful plastic wraps and put on supermarket shelves. Many people are separated from food right in front of them by a price tag, and most of what you find at Walmart or Target has been processed beyond recognition. These mass amounts of production are fueled by cheap labor, disproportionately exploiting poor Black, Indigenous, and other people of color around the world. Modern-day capitalism is preceded by long histories of colonialism in which Black and brown bodies have been devalued, enslaved, and commodified. Racist culture has marked the large curvy bodies of my aunties and ancestors as ugly. How ironic is it that fatness is demonized in an age of overproduction?

“Beauty standards are set by individuals in power and are intrinsically linked to class. For example, eurocentrism in conceptualizations of beauty only makes sense when the wealthy are predominantly Anglo-Saxon. We see this shift over time regarding weight as obesity changes association. It was once a characteristic of wealth; today, it is linked with poverty. Not only is extraneous fat seen as an indication of lower socioeconomic status but also as a moral failure. Foods, even in our most benign discussion of them, are labeled “good” and “bad” and capitalist branding of said foods reinforces this misconception. One cannot go into a grocery store without seeing certain “virtuous” foods being advertised as such, in some cases even baring halos. Thus, the message is clear that one’s eating habits are most linked not with hunger or cravings but with morality. To be fat is the inability to practice self-denial (Davis 2018).”

In a culture that commodifies nature, it is only expected that our own bodies have been commodified and exploited in the name of profit. Capitalism benefits from our isolation. Separating us from our communities strips us of our sovereignty, leaving us easily deceived by branding and more dependent on the machine for our own subsistence. It is this system of isolation that has taken food production out of Indigenous communities and put it in the hands of pesticide and fertilizer companies, that has taken dance out of African parties and put it in studios full of mirrors, that has taken love out of our bodies and put it in a product. From birth, we are bombarded by this programming. On every street corner, every instagram scroll session, every tv ad, we are encouraged to be at war with our bodies and with food.

But this does not have to be the case. While we are living deep within the capitalist system, it is up to us to carve space for ourselves to live unapologetically. The first step is by acknowledging there is a problem in the first place, that these unrealistic standards we have for our bodies are not our own. Then we must radically affirm the parts of ourselves that don’t fit the white capitalist beauty standards, because they are beautiful to other cultures. Then we must remember the importance of food in making movement possible and  honor our ancestors’ traditions of respecting food as life.  


Via Campesina. 2019. “UN Decade of Family Farming; Peasants Voice Their Hopes and Concerns.” Via Campesina English. July 29, 2019. https://viacampesina.org/en/un-decade-of-family-farming-peasants-voice-their-hopes-and-concerns/.

Davis, Raegan. 2018. “Eating Disorders: A Disease of Capitalism - Raegan Davis - Medium.” Medium. Medium. December 10, 2018. https://raegandavis.medium.com/eating-disorders-a-disease-of-capitalism-8ff5646fc15a.‌

Smith-Theodore, Dawn. 2018. “The Eating Disorder Trap: How Dancers’ Perfectionism Can Make Things Dangerously Worse.” Pointe Magazine. September 3, 2018. https://pointemagazine.com/eating-disorders-ballet/.‌

Hannah B. 2018. “How Capitalism Profits from Eating Disorders - Socialist Revolution.” Socialist Revolution. July 31, 2018. https://socialistrevolution.org/how-capitalism-profits-from-eating-disorders/.

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