Aerial view of campus in the fall

Background and Goals for the Sustainability Year

As the global population increases and the effects of climate change worsen, taking concrete actions in sustainability has become critical to the survival and wellbeing of future generation. Back in 1987, the UN Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987:8). As sustainability measures are implemented at the local level, this premise needs to be modified to more effectively guide our efforts. Women leaders are crucial for promoting sustainability, and as one of the premier women colleges in the US, we need to develop our own set of guiding principles for and with the entire campus community. Sustainability is a multifaceted complex concept that touches on various issues ranging from climate change and renewable resources to social justice and policy. The purpose of the Sustainability Year is to engage the campus community in thoughtful discussions about what sustainability means for us today, and to promote positive behavioral changes and intellectual discourse that will endure beyond the themed year.

The specific major goals of Sustainability Year are:

  • to increase awareness of sustainability at Wellesley
  • to nurture a college-wide discussion of sustainability and what it means for Wellesley
  • to engage in thoughtful discourse about sustainability through student competitions and classroom discussions
  • to run a behavioral change campaign to promote sustainable behaviors that reduce waste, increase recycling, and conserve energy in residential halls, dining services and beyond
  • to certify at least 100 more offices through the sustainability certificate program

About Wellesley's Sustainability Plan

Since February 2015, the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability has solicited ideas from the college community (at an IdeaFest held in February), worked closely with key stakeholders across campus, and researched relevant sustainability initiatives and policies at peer institutions. The result of this work is a sustainability plan that is organized into eight sectors: Academic & Co-curricular, Buildings & Water, Climate & Energy, Food & Dining, Landscape & Watershed, Purchasing & Waste and Transportation. Each sector outlines what Wellesley has accomplished in the past and explains strategies and targets for advancing sustainability at Wellesley over the next ten years.

strategic summary complete plan

Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability

The Sustainability Committee consists of administrative, faculty, staff, and student representatives working to implement greener institutional policies at Wellesley. Our main functions include, but are not limited to: advise the President on sustainability-related issues, develop policies regarding how environmental sustainability should be factored into College operations and decisions, and gather opinions from the College community on sustainability issues.





Short Summary

The academic and co-curricular integration section proposes strategies to support the incorporation of sustainability in the curriculum and to promote sustainable practices in both the classroom and in research. These strategies will aid interested faculty in developing and incorporating sustainability-related material into their classes, especially taking advantage of Wellesley’s campus and buildings. As part of the plan, we propose the implementation of a Sustainability Year to engage the entire college community in the discussion of sustainability at Wellesley. On the student learning side, we have proposed strategies that will encourage more student involvement in sustainability-related opportunities on- and off-campus. In addition, we recognize the need for early exposure to sustainable practices, and have developed plans to provide the first-year students with more information about sustainability at Wellesley and how each student can live more sustainably during their four years at the college. Finally, we currently have no information about student awareness of sustainability, so this plan recommends steps that assess the level of awareness and engagement in sustainability among both incoming and graduating students as well as alums.

What We've Done

Academic Integration
20+ sustainability-related courses offered by 18 depts; Environmental Studies; The Sustainability Certificate Program

Co-curricular Integration
Sustainability-related internships; Edible Ecosystem Teaching Garden; Sustainable Office Certification and Sustainable Living Certification Programs

First-Year Experience
Sustainability-related events during first-year orientation

Sustainability website, newsletter, facebook & twitter

Future Goals

Academic Integration
Goal: Provide support for faculty in integrating sustainability across the curriculum

Co-curricular Integration
Goal: Increase hands-on learning and research opportunities in sustainability

First-Year Experience
Goal: Expose incoming students to Sustainability at Wellesley

Goal: Assess and increase sustainability awareness among the Wellesley community


Short Summary

Many of the college’s recent and current building projects have met high standards for environmental sustainability, including Alumnae Hall (LEED Gold) and Whitin Observatory (LEED Silver). The Pendleton West renovation is on track to earn LEED Gold. The college adopted Green Building Standards in 2014 which recommend LEED Gold (minimum) for future building projects. Improving the sustainability of buildings not included in the current Campus Renewal plan will be challenging. These buildings share two critical issues: a lack of individual building metering and a large backlog of deferred maintenance. Without metering it is difficult to track energy and water consumption. Without strongly addressing the deferred maintenance backlog, the college struggles to catch up on maintenance at the same time as it attempts to keep buildings functioning. The result is a costly waste of energy, time, and personnel power. The crucial challenge is to balance catching up on the maintenance of its buildings and their infrastructure with keeping up with predictable repairs to building systems.

What We've Done

2025 Campus Renewal
The 2025 Plan, based on a comprehensive overview of the college’s anticipated needs for future academic and residential programs, is a major, multiyear project of renovation of Wellesley’s iconic campus structures.

Green Building Standards
Wellesley adopted Green Building Standards in 2014. The Trustees committed to meeting LEED Gold standards for future building projects.

Increased Energy Efficiency
The college-funded Green Revolving Fund provides $500,000 in capital for ongoing projects that enhance energy efficiency such as improved lights and insulation.

Future Goals

Planned Maintenance
Goal: By addressing the deferred maintenance backlog of buildings and their supporting infrastructure, the college can move from the constant need to catch up on repairs to predictable and proactive future repairs.

Building Expectations
Goal: For each campus building, establish protocols of how the building can best be managed through proper maintenance and scheduling of its use for maximum energy efficiency.

Education & Awareness
Goal: Each building’s occupants should be educated in how they can contribute to its conservation of energy and water. The goal is to have good building behavior become habit in the college culture.

Short Summary

One of the most pressing global challenges that Wellesley students will face in the twenty-first century is global climate change. Wellesley College has and will contribute to efforts to address climate change through its activities as an educational institution: the courses and programs we offer, our faculty’s research, and the work of our students and alumnae will be our most important contributions to addressing climate change. The college also aims to align its institutional practices with these efforts. Building on Wellesley College’s long-standing commitment to global leadership, energy efficiency, environmental responsibility, and financial stewardship, this plan proposes that the college adopt goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2026 and 44% by 2036 from a 2010 baseline. These targets should be re-assessed at least every five years, and long-term planning for achieving carbon neutrality should be pursued.

What We've Done

Central Energy Plant
In 1994, Wellesley built a $7.5 million on-campus co-generation facility that operates at 85+% efficiency by capturing waste energy for heating and cooling.

Emissions Reductions and Cost Savings
The co-generation facility has reduced Wellesley’s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 25% and saved $37 million in utility costs since its commissioning.

Energy Conservation
Between 2003 and 2014, the college reduced electricity consumption by 19%.

Green Energy
Since 2012, the college has purchased 5% of its electricity from renewable sources through the municipal light district.

Future Goals

Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Goal: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2026 and 44% by 2036 from a 2010 baseline.

Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Goal: Update Wellesley’s comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory during the 2015-16 academic year.

Renewable Energy
Goal: Install solar arrays on campus that can supply 5% of the college’s electricity demand over the course of a year.

Goal: Meter 80% of building space on campus for electricity and other utilities and make that information available for management, decision-making, and research.


Short Summary

Our vision for sustainable dining is to maximize the percentage of food purchases from sustainable sources, so that we are able to serve nutritious and tasty meals with low energy and water footprints; and to produce little to no food and non-food waste. Toward that vision, we have set four general goals: 1) create a system for data collection; 2) increase the sustainability of food and utensil purchases, 3) decrease overall purchases and waste generation, and 4) create a Food Committee to implement strategies and monitor progress. We have established criteria and gathered data to evaluate how sustainable our current practices are (e.g., a majority of seafood purchased is sustainably harvested), and we are setting goals for the future (e.g. using environmentally friendly detergents for all food services). Sustainable food is often more expensive, but decreases in waste production and eating patterns may somewhat offset increased purchasing costs.

What We've Done

Current Policies & Practices
We have identified information necessary to understand current food and dining policies and practices.

Data Collection
We have gathered raw data in collaboration with Wellesley Fresh and begun analyzing purchase and waste disposal costs within specific categories.

Sustainability Analysis
We created a definition for types of food that can be considered sustainable, based on transportation costs, farming practices and Fair Labor considerations.

Wellesley composts pre- and post-consumer food waste, biodegradable and greenware products.

Future Goals

Sustainable Dining
Goal: Create a multi-stakeholder Dining Services Committee to implement the aims of the Sustainability Plan

Data Collection
Goal: Create a better system for collecting more food related data and information

Sustainable Purchasing
Goal: Increase sustainable food and utensil purchases

Waste Reduction
Goal: Decrease food and utensil purchases and food waste


Short Summary

Wellesley College’s beautiful landscape at the edge of Lake Waban is a resource as precious as any financial asset we own. To achieve landscape and watershed sustainability, we must intensify past efforts to make the campus a more sustainable landscape, promote sustainable and educational human interaction with the landscape, and improve our management of water resources. The College should aim to establish an ecologically sustainable campus landscape through both design and maintenance, building on the 1998 Campus Master Plan and updates. The outdoor campus environment can and should become a living laboratory by incorporating the upcoming Global Flora project; increasing academic research carried out on the soils, water, flora, and fauna the landscape contains; and improving signage in keeping with campus aesthetics to showcase the treasures it offers. Watershed management can be enhanced through improved monitoring; finding an alternative to potable water for the Silver Thread and Paramecium Pond; modifying management of snow, ice, and stormwater; and updating irrigation systems.

What We've Done

Pavement removal
5.7 acres of pavement and parking restored to landscape

8 acres of wetlands restored at Paint Shop Pond and Alumnae Valley

60 acres of campus intensively renovated or restored

Over 7,000 trees, 25,000 shrubs and hundreds of thousands of herbaceous perennials planted in renovated areas

Future Goals

Regenerative Landscape
Goal: Make the campus a fully rengenerative landscape

People & Campus
Goal: Promote sustainable and educational human interaction with the landscape

Water Management
Goal: Improve sustainability of water management, including stormwater runoff

Goal: Increase metering, measurement and environmental testing where applicable


Wellesley has a lower recycling rate than that of its peers and the town

Short Summary

Our vision for improving the sustainability of purchasing at Wellesley focuses on reducing high-volume purchases, such as paper products toner, and other office products, encourage re-use where possible, and establishing goals for the purchase of environmentally preferable products. For instance, in ten years we aim for 90% of office paper at the college to have at least 30% recycled content. A new Sustainable Office certification program rewards such activities. Such strategies may result in increased costs, but by reducing consumption will make those increases manageable. Waste disposal represents both a significant expense and opportunity for sustainability at the college. The first step toward this goal is carefully monitoring the college’s waste stream. In addition to smaller steps, like phasing out plastic bags and certifying zero-waste events, a comprehensive review of waste management practices will lead to long-term goals for waste diversion and recycling (which currently lag peer institutions).

What We've Done

Waste Diversion
The Sustainable Move-Out Collection and Sustainable Move-In Sale diverted more than 8 tons of goods back to students and local non-profits in 2014.

The college recycles all organic landscaping materials (clippings, leaves, and woody debris) to produce ~ $75,000 worth of mulch annually.

The college has refurbished more than 100 retired computers for use by local and overseas non-profits.

All dining halls on campus compost pre- and post-consumer waste.

Future Goals

Goal: 90% of the office paper purchased by the college will have at least 30% post consumer-recycled content.

Waste Management
To undertake a systematic review of waste management on campus and report monthly statistics on volumes of waste and recycling.

Plastic Bags
Goal: Phase-out plastic bags at campus retail operations.

Sustainable Office
Goal: Increase the number of administrative offices participating in the Sustainable Office challenge.


The bulk of Wellesley's transportation emissions come from student air travel and faculty/staff travel

Short Summary

Transportation accounts for one third of all of Wellesley's carbon emissions. The largest contributing factor, by far, is student travel to and from campus. As the College values our culturally and geographically diverse student body, student travel will remain a dominant emissions factor. The other significant emissions factors are college-funded academic travel, the college-owned fleet of ~100 vehicles, and faculty/staff commuting. We envision a three-pronged approach to reduce emissions: increasing campus awareness of transportation emissions, maximizing the efficiency of campus vehicles, and introducing systematic tracking of college-funded travel. Widespread emissions awareness facilitates alternative transportation options (e.g. carpooling to work or travel by rail to a conference). Tracking college-funded travel allows us to measure our progress over time. These strategies will align the campus community on a long-term path toward continually reducing transportation's role in Wellesley's carbon emissions.

What We've Done

Commuting Survey
We surveyed 500+ faculty & staff commuters to better understand how people get to work.

Bike Share Program
Twenty-five bicycles are available at two different campus locations for free 24-hour rentals.

Charging Stations
There are currently two charging stations for electric cars on campus, free for the Wellesley college community.

Motor Pool
Fleet size has decreased by 20% and 16% of the vehicles use biodiesel fuel.

Future Goals

Student Travel
Goal: Increase awareness among students of air travel emissions.

Daily Commute
Goal: Reduce single-occupant personal vehicle use for commuting from 80% to 60% of trips by 2020.

Faculty/Staff Travel
Goal: Introduce systematic tracking of college-funded travel type (air, rail, auto).

Motor Pool
Goal: Increase the efficiency of the Wellesley Motor Pool fleet with new purchases and replacements.


Short Summary

The college’s wells, the source of our potable water, are located within the Charles River Basin, a highly stressed environment. The trend is for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to reduce the college’s withdrawal volume. Since 1999, the college has achieved a 39% reduction of potable water consumption. Several measures will further reduce water consumption: Installing a recirculating feed system for Paramecium Pond will constitute an additional 8% reduction in potable water reduction from the 1999 baseline. Metering all campus buildings for water will aid the implementation of water conservation measures; currently 44 out of 65 buildings are not metered. Implementing conservation measures in the campus infrastructure, such as the proper maintenance of steam traps in the heating system and low-phosphate additives in the water supply system, will also reduce consumption. A concomitant water issue is the phase-out of bottled water purchases on campus as more hydration stations that filter water and facilitate the use of refillable water bottles appear across campus. Water conservation is also an important educational issue — many students call home places where water is more scarce.

What We've Done

Irrigation Systems
Our campus landscape is watered almost completely by non-potable water from Lake Waban and the Nehoiden Golf Course well, water that is then reabsorbed through the ground and back into the aquifer.

Water Savings
Between 1999 and 2014, the college achieved a 39% reduction in the consumption of potable water.

Hydration Stations
Ten hydrations tations have replaced water fountains since 2013, reducing bottled water use on campus. These stations are now the college standard for future installations.

Future Goals

More Water Savings
Goal: Reduce potable water consumption to 50% below the 1999 baseline by 2026.

Water Data
Goal: Implement campus-wide metering of potable water consumption to provide data for strategies to reduce even further the waste of potable water.

Water Taste
Goal: Pursue improvements to the campus’ already high quality water supply, including the upgrade of the college’s existing water supply infrastructure, the source of taste complaints about campus water.

Bottled Water
Goal: Phase out the purchase of bottled water across campus.


Major Sustainability Year Events

Sustainability Day, September 11, 2017

This is a day focused on environmental sustainability. The Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability is teaming up with the Wendy Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative to have a larger day of celebration for both the inauguration of the Paulson Initiative and the start of the Year of Sustainability. We plan to have events that will engage the community in the landscape and ecology of the campus.

Douglas Lecture, March 1, 2018 at 5PM

Rob Nixon will be coming to give a talk on March 1 at 5PM. This event is being organized in collaboration with the Newhouse Center.

Science Center Faculty Lecture Series

Once a month, faculty will deliver a sustainability-themed lecture in the Science Center

Speaker schedule for Fall 2017:

  • October 4: Beth DeSombre (ES)
  • October 25: Rachel Stanley (Chemistry)
  • November 8: Monica Higgins (ES)
  • November 29 Kristina Jones (BISC)
Invited Speakers

Lauren Singer (Date TBA)

Singer is a zero waste living advocate and young woman business entrepreneur who limits her trash footprint to little more than a 12 oz jar of trash.

Carlo Ratti (Date TBA)

Ratti is an architect who is an expert in modern cities and sustainable architecture. He is a founding partner of the international design office Carlo Ratti Associati and director of MIT's Senseable City Lab. Ratti has co-authored over 500 publications and holds several patents.

Andrew Yang (Date TBA)

Dr. Yang works at the intersection of biology and art and has been tackling the anthropocene – the era of modern humans. His recent works deal with issues of urbanization and how humans as part of nature impact other organisms.

Behavioral Change Campaign

In student dorms, behavioral change campaign will be run by eco-reps who will encourage recycling and reduction of waste.

The Sustainability Office is also actively engaged in the Sustainable office certification. This certification provides office occupants with tools and strategies to become more sustainable (e.g. teach faculty and staff how to print on both sides of papers, provide smart strips to energy consumption etc). The goal for the Sustainability year is to increase the number of certified offices.

Finally, there will be monthly community dinners with students to discuss issues related to sustainability.

Curricular Integration

We are providing faculty with tools for integrating sustainability into their curriculum. We also plan to create ways of facilitating interdepartmental exchanges of ideas between disciplines.

Student Competition for Sustainability-Related Projects

We will host a competition to encourage students engagement in sustainability-related projects. Students will be invited to submit proposals to design and implement a sustainability-related project on campus.

Food and Dining Services

An essential component of our lives is eating. Food touches on many sustainability issues, including climate change, waste management and social justice. Through waste reduction and socially responsible purchasing, we can live a much more sustainable lifestyle.

Wellesley Fresh provides food on campus. As part of Sustainability year, Wellesley Fresh will host several events and campaigns throughout the year:

  • Red’s Best Catch of the Day Fridays
  • Earth Day Event
  • Farmers Market Event
  • Project Zero Waste: campaign to raise food waste awareness. The amount of money saved through reducing food waste will be used to purchase food that will be donated to Community Serving
  • Save Dishware Campaign: each year, Dining services loses about $50000 worth of dishware. Dining services will buy STRAWBERRIES using any funds leftover from the $50000 dishware replacement budget. Return your dishware if you want to see more strawberries in the dining hall!

For updates on upcoming events and sustainability tidbits of the week, check out Wellesley Fresh on Facebook.

Events Organized by Other Departments

Book presentation: “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese,” October 16, 2017)

Bronwen Percival '01 will be coming to Wellesley to present her new book Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese. In her book, Bronwen discusses how traditional farming and animal husbandry practices increase sustainability (and microbial diversity, food safety, and produces higher quality foods) compared to large industrial farming and cheesemaking.

Goldman Lecture, October 23, 2017

Dr. Greg Mankiw will discuss market based solutions to climate change. He recently wrote a NY Times op-ed, A Conservative Case for Climate Action.

Philosophy Colloquium, March, 9, 2018

Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples, as well as the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and climate science organizations

Featured Alums who have Contributed to Sustainability

  • Betsy Barlow Rogers ’57 revitalization of Central Park, NY
  • Sue Bridge ’60 founder of Wildside (off-grid homestead) and current resident steward.
  • Eva Coifman Sommaripa ’63 pioneer in the organic and localvore movement, owner of "Eva's Garden," which grows more than 200 varieties of culinary herbs, specialty greens, and edible flowers; Alumnae Achievement Award winner (proud to be the first farmer to win the award)
  • Former Wellesley president Diana Chapman Walsh ’66 actively involved in raising awareness around global warming.
  • Wendy Paulson ’69 Ecology of Place Initiative
  • Claire Parkinson ’70 climatologist at NASA
  • Judith Moore ’71 Sr. Environmental Specialist, World Bank
  • Deborah Cramer ’73 environmental writer
  • Robin Chase ’80 a transportation entrepreneur. Co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, Buzzcar, a peer to peer car-sharing service in France (now merged with Drivy), GoLoco, an online ridesharing community, and Veniam, a vehicle communications company building the networking fabric for the Internet of Moving Things
  • Dorrie Pizzella ’80 urban agriculture, MA state government (in Patrick administration)
  • Maria Sevely ’84 an architect in New York. Maria’s work is included in the book Vertical City: Design for Sustainable Living
  • Rita Moran-Greiman ’85 Sustainability Hub at National Grid in Worcester, Mass., a learning space established in collaboration with Clark University and WPI to promote sustainable practices, energy efficiency, and smart energy solutions.
  • Anne Cody ’85 sustainable urban agriculture
  • Susan Murcott DS ’90 professor at MIT, focusing on water resources
  • Alethia Mariotta ’94 Corporate litigator turned organic herb farmer
  • Katherine Collins '90 author, founder of Honeybee Capital
  • Rachel Greenberger ’00 Director of FoodSol (food solutions) at Babson
  • Becky Owens ’03 graduated with an M.B.A. in sustainability from Antioch University New England. Becky relocated to Montana over the summer, where she is now working for Yellowstone National Park as the sustainability program manager for Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
  • Marisol Trowbridge ’05 sustainable fashion
  • Emily Rosenberg ’07 Environmental Scientist, Green MBA candidate
  • Noelle Fogg ’09 New Entry Sustainable Farming Project/Hutchins Farm - Concord MA
  • Catlin Powers ’09 Invented a cookstove as an undergrad, now is head of an environmental company.
  • Hoi-Fei Mok ’10 Recently received her PhD in environmental science from University of Melbourne’s School of Land and Environment. Her research focused on the feasibility of wastewater reuse for agricultural irrigation. Before graduate school, she spent time doing field work in the highlands of Tibet. She was a research intern at Food First, an institution for food and development policy.
  • Carrie Scanlon ’10 works at the Rainforest Alliance on sustainable agriculture.
  • Laura Stevens ’11 a grad student in geophysics at MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, studying glaciers.
  • Genea Foster ’12 on Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) board
  • Carly Gayle ’13 sustainable livelihoods in Indonesia
  • Yuting Guo ’13 organic food in China
  • Eliana Blaine ’13 Save That Stuff

Sustainability Committee Members

  • Ann Conrin Administrative Council Representative
  • Ben Hammond VP for Finance & Administration
  • Cathy Ye Student Representative
  • Dave Chakraborty Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management and Planning
  • Don Leach Dean of Students or designee
  • Dorothea Von Herder Sustainability Coordinator
  • Grant Perodeau Union Representative
  • Katrin Moneka Faculty (Group C)
  • Marilyn Sides Faculty (Group A)
  • Nadya Hajj Faculty (Group B)
  • Patrick Willoughby Director of Sustainability
  • Paul Mullins Union Representatives
  • Phil Jennings Faculty (Group B)
  • Jay Turner (Chair) Environmental Studies Program
  • Piper Orton Chief of Staff in the President's Office
  • Sarah Barbrow Designee for the Chief Information Officer (after November)
  • Sarah Joskins Designee for the Chief Information Officer (before November)
  • Sarah Koenig Student Representative
  • Sergio Parussa Faculty (Group A)
  • Yui Suzuki Faculty (Group C)

Previous committee members who contributed to the plan

  • Ashley Funk Class of 2016
  • Jihelah Greenwald Class of 2016
  • Julie Norem Psychology Department
  • Katie McLean Facilities and Planning
  • Kris Neindorf Student Life
  • Marilyn Sides English Department
  • Paul Mullins Facilities
  • Sandy Kendall Office of Resources and Public Affairs
  • Seth Neumuller Economics Department
  • Sharon Bort Sustainability Coordinator
  • Sohie Lee Computer Science Department
  • Roth von Schmidgall Groundskeeper Specialist
  • Thomas Hodge Russian Department
  • Yurij Pawluk President's Office

Contact: Sustainability Committee |