Babson Student Group Promotes Green Living And Business

By Heather O'Neill
December 22, 2009

Mother Earth is a damsel in distress these days so there is no better time for her to have a knight in shining armor come to her rescue. She has found one in Christopher Knight and the other members of Babson College's Green Tower group.

Knight, who graduates this month, and Ben Cox, are co-presidents of the group, whose mission is to increase awareness of environmental issues on campus.

"Our mission on campus is to promote green living and green business to faculty and students, really to the entire Babson community," Knight said.

Green Tower has two main working groups: green business and green living.

"On the green business side we have a group working on research and education. Their goals are to educate students about the green industries and careers that are available to us after we graduate," Knight said. "We also have the Sustainable Idea Lab, which is an incubator program for green businesses that use Babson College as sort of a pilot program to develop scalable models that can be implemented on a larger scale."

On the green living side, the group has both a conservation group and a recycling group.

"The conservation group focuses on educating students on the resources they are using every day, like natural gas, electricity and water," Knight said. "We had a 'dark hall' competition in the dorms where the residence halls compete to see who can reduce their consumption the most."

Green Tower was founded two years ago, with the realization that many students on Babson's campus were not up to speed on the dire consequences that the environment faces on account of waste. Knight believes that the college's curriculum may be partially to blame for the lack of consciousness. A highly ranked business school, Babson's curriculum focuses on entrepreneurialism and does not require the broad spectrum of classes -- including natural sciences -- which a liberal arts college requires its students to take.

"There was a lack of consciousness and among the students especially there still is," Knight said. "I think we are a bit of an exception among educational institutions in that our change is really coming from the top down, rather than at the insistence of the students. In our case, our president Len Schlesinger has signed the President's Climate Change Commitment and is pushing for Babson to be not only number one in entrepreneurship but number one in social entrepreneurship and to get that consciousness into the classroom."

But Green Tower has had an impact. Since the advent of the "dark dorm" competition, overall energy consumption has decreased every year. Between March of 2008 and March of 2009, one dorm reduced its energy consumption by 50 percent.

Additionally, the group's November Green Rocket Pitch, a competition that gives students the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, resulted in some interesting green business ideas. Cash prizes and consultation from successful entrepreneurs were awarded.

"We were very happy with what went on there," Knight said. "Since Babson is very focused on entrepreneurship and [a green business competition] is one way we are trying to get to the students and make them aware [of environmentalism]. We want to let them know that you can make a living in this industry. We wanted to get kids to think about starting a green business."

The competition generated eight pitches, with the winner pitching an idea for a vermin composting system.

The group has also started a Bike Share Program, a bicycle cooperation offered to all members of the Babson community. The program is free of charge and is managed entirely online. A student applies by filling out online forms, and checks out a bike at the Reynolds front help desk by requesting a key. The bike can be used until midnight of the following day, and all bike usage is tracked online. We are planning on slowly scaling the operation by increasing the number of bikes in operation. The program currently has over 100 registered members, up from 45 last semester.

Though Knight is graduating, the group will go on with Cox at the helm. Knight believes that there is still much work to be done.

"I think changes are coming but as it stands right now we do have a lot of students who are unaware of what is going on [with the environment]."

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