Widgets Magazine

Roble Hall institutes new sustainability initiative

The ROLLSS logo depicts an oak tree outside Roble Hall, whose name itself designates an oak. (Courtesy of Sean McKibbon)

The ROLLSS logo depicts an oak tree outside Roble Hall, whose name itself designates an oak. (Courtesy of Sean McKibbon)

Beginning in the fall of 2016, Roble Hall will pioneer a new sustainability initiative, the Roble Living Laboratory for Sustainability at Stanford (ROLLSS) under the leadership of resident fellow (RF) Jeffrey Ball.

Ball is a Stanford Law School lecturer as well as a scholar-in-residence at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, which is dedicated to researching economically sensible ways to advance clean energy. In his second year as an RF in Roble Hall, Ball realized that issues relating to sustainability and the environment intrigued many students at Stanford. Ball set out to establish ROLLSS, pairing this realization with his background in energy research.

ROLLSS is the product of efforts started in Roble last year by the Roble Sustainability Initiative, comprised of residents and staff led by Ball. Charlie Jiang ’16, a Roble staff member and former president of Students for a Sustainable Stanford, worked closely with Ball on the initiative throughout the 2015-16 academic year.

“[ROLLSS] really demonstrates extra leadership by Stanford faculty in sustainability and environmental efforts in every capacity that they have, not only as professors but as RFs,” Jiang said.

According to Ball, the goal of ROLLSS is to “create a place where students can explore all of the messiness around sustainability on a daily basis … [and] to retrofit Roble … into a model of natural-resource efficiency” in an economically sensible way. As the residence hall nears its 100th anniversary in 2018, Ball hopes to catapult Roble into its second century with a new focus on sustainability.

To reach these objectives, the ROLLSS program features an onsite organic garden, public service projects for sustainability, educational activities on producing less waste, seminar courses and a speaker series.

An organic garden has been set up on the east side of Roble with funding from Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE), and some of the vegetables grown will be served in meals at Lakeside Dining. A Roble Growing Club will be established to maintain the garden. The garden opens for a planting party this Friday at 3:30 PM.

Roble has set up a number of sustainability-oriented activities for students. A contest among residents will test who can live most sustainably, and the residence staff have created a “Live-It List” featuring weekly advice on ways to live with a smaller environmental impact. This week’s recommendation is to think seriously before buying a dorm fridge, highlighting how widespread improper fridge disposal has become both an environmental and economical problem.

This fall, three seminar-style sustainability courses will be held in Roble, taking advantage of the dorm’s newly renovated seminar room.

The first, “Stanford Sustainable Living Lab” or CEE 126A, is taught by Michael Lepech, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering. Fall quarter students will “measure Roble’s environmental footprint” by conducting a lifecycle assessment of the dorm, and winter quarter students will “analyze and try to implement cost-effective ways to reduce that footprint.”

The second seminar, “Grow It. Cook It. Eat it” or EARTHSYS 148, is co-taught by Matthew Rothe, founder of the FEED Collaborative at Stanford, and Dara Silverstein, manager of R&DE Stanford Dining’s sustainable food program. Students will work in the Roble Garden, at the Stanford farm and in Stanford’s teaching kitchen.

The third course takes advantage of the “Hard Earth” speaker series in Roble Theater every other Thursday night, starting last night. At each event, Stanford graduate students speak about their work researching environmental sustainability problems. CEE 126X will meet on Thursdays following each talk for a discussion- and reflection-based seminar.

To date, Ball says he has received positive feedback and praise regarding ROLLSS.

“Whenever I mention the garden, there are just big smiles on students’ faces,” Ball said, noting the excitement that has built surrounding the graduate student speaker series.

“Sustainability is not just a cosmic term,” Ball said. “It is the sum of myriad small decisions that each of us makes every day, and each of those decisions potentially involves a tradeoff. Understanding that is precisely the reason there needs to be ROLLSS.”


Contact Caroline Kimmel at ckimmel ‘at’ stanford.edu.