Sustainability

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

Major Sustainability Year Events and Initiatives

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Spring 2018 Sustainability Year Events

Science Center Faculty Seminars Series (February 14, 12:30PM)
Kristina Jones
Sponsored by Science Center

Trump and the Environment Panel (February 14)
Sponsored by EnAct

Dr. Carlo Ratti: "Senseable Cities" (February 20, 5:30PM, Colins Cinema)
The increasing deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics in recent years is allowing a new approach to the study of the built environment. The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed - alongside the tools we use to design them and impact on their physical structure. The contribution from Prof. Carlo Ratti will address these issues from a critical point of view through projects by the Senseable City Laboratory, a research initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the design practice Carlo Ratti Associati.
Sponsored by CLCE, Science Center, President’s Office, Art, Biological Sciences, Environmental Studies program, Botanical gardens

Screening of Bluespace (February 23, 7:00PM, Science Center 278) 
The movie Bluespace will be screened in SCI278. Following the film, there will be a faculty talkback with Kim McLeod,Wes Watters, Erich Hatala Matthes, and Katrin Monecke.
Sponsored by Astronomy, Environmental Studies Program, Geosciences

Science Center Faculty Seminar Series (February 28, 12:30PM)
Heather Mattila
Sponsored by Science Center

Douglas Lecture (March 1, 5:00PM, Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities)
Dr. Rob Nixon: Environmental Martyrdom and the Fate of the Forests
Martyrdom is direct action in extremis. Martyrs put their bodies on the line, risking, for the sake of principle, not just a weekend in jail, but burial in the dead of night in a shallow grave. Some environmental martyrs remain anonymous, they're vanishing unnoticed beyond their villages. But others gather posthumous fame and purpose, achieving in their earthly afterlife a rallying power and an enduring force. This talk will address the current surge in environmental martyrdom across the global South against the backdrop of the neoliberal resource wars and the compound threats of climate change.
Rob Nixon holds the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Family Professorship in Humanities and the Environment at Princeton University. He is the author of four books, most recently Dreambirds: the Natural History of a Fantasy and Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, which won numerous awards, including the 2012 Sprout prize from the International Studies Association for the best book in environmental studies. Nixon writes frequently for the New York Times. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Nation, Chronicle of Higher Education, London Review of Books, and Critical Inquiry.
This event is organized in collaboration with the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities.

Philosophy Colloquium (March 9)
Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte
Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte’s 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.
Sponsored by Philosophy Department

Community forum to Develop Sustainability Principles for Wellesley (April 3, 4:30PM, Clapp Library Lecture room)
Sponsored by the Albright Institute, Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative, Office of Sustainability, and Sustainability Committee

Dr. Regina LaRocque: Climate Change and Health (April 4, 6:30PM, SC278)
Dr. LaRocque is a clinician at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases and is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. LaRocque is a laboratory and clinical researcher in the fields of travel medicine and enteric infections and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. This year, she was elected to the Natural Resources Commission of Wellesley. Dr. LaRocque will discuss the impact of climate change on human health and the spread of infectious diseases.
This topic should be of interest to anyone who is interested in public health and medicine. Read more information on the link between sustainability and health.
Sponsored by EnAct and Sustainability Committee

The Calderwood Lecture in Economics (April 10, 4:15PM, PNE Atrium)
Professor Anna Aizer: The Environment and Disparities in Children's Outcomes: The Care of Lead
Dr. Aizer is a labor and health economist with interests in the area of child health and well-being. She is a professor of economics at Brown University. Her research considers the mechanisms behind the intergenerational transmission of poverty with a focus on health insurance and access to medical care,  domestic violence, exposure to environmental toxins, the role of stress, and poor children's greater interaction with the juvenile justice system.
Sponsored by Economics Department

Science Center Faculty Seminar Series (April 11, 12:30PM, Science Center 277)
Dr. Andrew Yang: Aesthetics for a Changing Planet
Dr. Yang’s work explores the intersection of art and biology, with a recent focus on the Anthropocene – the era of modern humans. He will discuss his work on art and science, specifically highlighting the synergies between art and sustainability. Dr. Yang is a professor at the Art Institute Chicago who will bring a unique perspective of a biology Ph.D. who recently obtained an MFA.
Sponsored by CLCE, Science Center, President’s Office, Art, Biological Sciences, Environmental Studies program, Botanical Gardens

Earth Week (April 16—20)
Sponsored by EnAct

Science Center Faculty Seminar Series (April 19, 12:30PM)
Dan Brabander
Sponsored by Science Center, Environmental Studies program, and Sustinabaility Committee

Terry Tempest Williams (April 24, 4:30PM, Hay Amphitheater with Tishman Commons in case of rain)

An author, environmentalist, and naturalist who advocates for freedom of speech and demonstrates how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. She will teach a student writing workshop in the morning and a Reading/Q&A in the evening.
Sponsored by Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative

Wilson Lecture: Former Vice President Al Gore (April 25, 5:30PM Alumnae Hall)
This year's Wilson Lecture will be delivered by Former Vice President Al Gore. Gore is an environmental activist who won the Nobel Peace prize for his work on global warming.  Gore served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee from 1976 until 1985 and as a member of the U.S. Senate from 1985 until 1993 when became the 45th Vice President of the United States. After serving as Vice President for 8 years in the Clinton Administration, Gore has worked tirelessly on issues surrounding global warming.  He continues to educate activists around the world on how they can effectively educate the public about climate change and currently serves as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit that tackles climate change.
Gore has authored several books on the issue of global warming: “Earth in the Balance”, “An Inconvenient Truth”, “The Assault on Reason”, “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” and “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change”. He starred in the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, and his book “An Inconvenient Truth”, which was published in conjunction with the documentary won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. In 2017, he starred in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” and released “Melting Ice”, which is a virtual reality project.
For his contributions to climate change, Gore has won numerous awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Gore along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change". He holds honorary doctoral degrees from several institutions, including Hamilton College (2011), Tilburg University (2010), the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (2010) and Concordia University (2007).

Deane Lecture: Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant (May 1, 5:00PM, Science Center 277)
Dr. Wynn-Grant is a Conservation Biologist at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). She studies the movement patterns and behavior of black bears to uncover the causes of human-bear conflict in developing landscapes and to help create recommendations for human-bear coexistence. She is trained as a large carnivore ecologist, and her research combines biology and social science methods to better understand human-wildlife interactions. Dr. Wynn-Grant also works to develop educational and outreach programs that promote diversity and inclusion in conservation science at AMNH and within the Society for Conservation Biology.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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. The strategic summary was approved by the Board of Trustees in April, 2016.

strategic summary complete plan

Sectors

Sustainability

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

Awareness
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

Awareness
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.

Metering
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.

Composting
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

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

Renovation
60 acres of campus intensively renovated or restored

Planting
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 regenerative landscape

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

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

Measures
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.

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

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

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

Future Goals

Purchasing
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 hydration stations 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.

 

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.

Faculty Interviews

Sustainability - interviews

Suzanne Langridge

Suzanne Langridge is director of the Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative, a new initiative to connect Wellesley students and the campus community to nature, landscape, and place.

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What does sustainability mean to you personally? Try to keep it in three short sentences or buzz words.

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us.” This is what Terry Tempest Williams so eloquently stated at the Sustainability Day Community Reception. I keep this in my heart and mind as I make decisions to guide my life, while I raise my two children, and when I work with students and the community at Wellesley College.

Sustainability to me means living as simply as possible, building diverse, healthy, and regenerative communities, connecting to and caring for nature and place, and reaching out beyond our circles of comfort to make positive change in our daily lives and the lives of others.

I believe, and research shows, that connection to nature and place impacts what we care about and what motivates us to engage in solving sustainability issues. In order to develop a future sustainability where people steward ecosystems, and solve the large challenges facing our planet, I believe we must develop that connection. When we lead from a connection to place and nature we can change the world for the better.

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What do you do at home and at work for keeping yourself accountable to the vision you just mentioned?

I have a place I try to visit everyday outside on the campus and at home, even if only for ten minutes. This time in nature helps me stay grounded and connected to what is most important in my life. By sitting in the same sit spot on the landscape, I also get to know the place, the seasonal rhythms, the birds and the trees, and start to feel a connection to this place, which filters into my daily choices.

I think consciously about my small daily choices at work and at home. I avoid packaging, purchase clothes, furniture, and most everything I can from second-hand stores, reduce printing, and carry my water bottle and travel mug with me everywhere. When we lived in California, our family of four lived in a 680 square foot house and drove one car, using public transportation or our bikes when possible and we hope to find a home that fits our values in our new community in Massachusetts.

I aim to strengthen communities and support organizations and businesses that also promote sustainability, social justice, and community building, both at home and at work. For example, we hired the Certified Sustainable Business Leader Forklift Catering to provide delicious food at the Community Reception during Sustainability Day, which sources food from local, sustainable farms, including from Wellesley alumna Eva Sommaripa ‘63.

My children have grown up in nature, even when living in the city, hiking and learning the names of birds and trees, but also gaining a deeper understanding. They know which plants can reduce the effects of poison oak, they know what a chickadee bird sounds like, and they know how to track a coyote. I have noticed that when they know their landscape so deeply, and the plants and animals that live there, they start caring for the landscape and connect that to the choices they make.

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What are your hopes and expectations for the Sustainability Year?

I hope we begin to revitalize a strong connection to nature and place, a founding principle of Wellesley College, across students, faculty, staff, and alumnae. The launch of the Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative on Sustainability Day is one exciting step toward this goal. My expectation is that the Wellesley community will continue to make connections to each other, to the landscape, and to nature through Paulson Initiative activities, research, speakers, and curriculum.

I also hope the Wellesley College community establishes common values around sustainability and begins to prioritize and move forward on key goals outlined in the Sustainability Plan. There are many activities planned for the year which will continue this conversation around sustainability, incorporate sustainability across disciplines, and raise awareness of Wellesley’s sustainability efforts and goals as outlined in the Plan. My hope is that these activities will set the stage for a culture of sustainability infused across the college far into the future.

Hadya Hajj and familiy

Nadya Hajj’s family background is Palestinian and she teaches political science at Wellesley College. In 2014 when she became a mama, her commitment to living a sustainable life took on a new level of importance.

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What does sustainability mean to you personally? Try to keep it in three short sentences or buzz words.

Sustainability is not just an abstract academic concept to me. In my everyday life, I make personal consumer choices that put the preservation of future generations’ quality of life and the health of our environment above other issues like convenience.

Furthermore, I no longer use contacts because they produce a lot of plastic waste for a single use item. I don’t buy disposable shavers for the same reason, instead, I use an old-fashioned Merkur shaver and replace the steel blades once in while. The only product I buy for my personal care is a bar of Syrian olive soap called “Aleppo Soap.” I usually have family members or friends bring some back to me when they visit family in the Middle East or I buy them from Middle Eastern grocery stores.  In the winter months when I suffer from eczema, I find that the soap provides enough moisture that I don’t have to use prescription steroid creams. I use this soap for shaving, washing my face, and washing my hair. I buy makeup in a glass jar that usually lasts for a whole year.

When it comes to food, I try to buy the least packaged items I can get. It is very hard to avoid pre-packaged fruits and vegetables but I take small cloth drawstring bags and buy the loose fruit and vegetables. I use my own glass jars and fill it up with natural peanut butter or with loose greens from the salad bar. Of course, you have to take the jar at home first and then write the weight on it for the cashier to subtract from the weight of the food purchased. There is an added layer of inconvenience but it certainly helps to reduce my plastic consumption.  In addition, I try to buy food like fresh bread and cheese from the bakery or deli counter where the store employee is usually happy to fill my reusable container.

The reality is, organic is expensive and I cannot afford to purchase only organic items but I do buy organically for the items we eat the most like apples and bananas. We try to buy in season and stay within a limited food budget. For example, in the summer we eat watermelons, peaches, and nectarines because they are cheaper and available from local vendors. I think students imagine they have limited food choices because they live on campus and I’d like them to use a different mindset. There are affordable grocery stores within 1 mile of campus. For example, on Bacon Street, there’s a local, family-owned store, called Tilly's Market. The owner, Rick, is the nicest man. When our daughter was born he gave her a t-shirt with the store name on it. They have seasonal flowers, locally made products, and you can even buy a pumpkin there in the autumn or a holiday wreath in the winter.  There is an actual butcher there too that can answer questions and give you specific cuts of meat. The prices are not higher than Whole Foods.  You could ride a bike share bicycle there in 10 minutes.

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What do you do at home and at work for keeping yourself accountable to the choices you just mentioned?

At home, I would say, I am extremely radical about my consumption choices. Aside from my actual underwear, I buy all my clothes from used clothing stores. Everything I own in my closet is used. In addition to saving things from a landfill, I am not giving money back to a company that may have unethically produced it. At the same time, I am giving money back to charity, often times to the Salvation Army or other charitable organizations. Locally, I love to visit a store called Sister Thrift located in Framingham. It’s my to go place and I would be happy to take a bus of students there and have fun. Thrift Shopping also helps me to stay within my means and prevents entering more stuff into the waste stream. My annual clothing budget runs about $500.

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What to do at work to be sustainable?

At work, I am virtually paperless. You can look around my office, I don’t have a printer. I try to digitize all items and I tell my students to read their materials online. I had my office certified by a student intern from the Office of Sustainability who swung by and brought a LED light bulb and a paper recycling bin. I operate the classroom with the least waste and energy as possible. For example, I ask students to submit digital copies of their paper assignments to me.  When it comes to consumer electronics, I make sure that I keep them for at a minimum of 5 years.

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What are you hopes and expectations for the Sustainability Year?

I think real change does not necessarily come from pouring more money into sustainability programs or academic lectures that preach to students or give apocalyptic narratives of our world’s demise.  Real change comes from everyday people making micro-level decisions that put the environment and the quality of life of future generations above our personal needs for convenience. I don’t want to prescribe what or how that change will look for each individual.  All of us have different backgrounds and needs.  But I do believe we can all make meaningful small changes.  

Women have a lot of power in directing what is being consumed, produced, and advertised to us. We get to decide what we will accept putting on or in our bodies.  So, my hope for the Sustainability Year is that there will be more women on campus who take personal responsibility for their consumer choices and know where their money is flowing. I’d like to see an increase of students and faculty that model lifestyle changes which don’t cost a whole lot of money. I hope we applaud and showcase them as role models.  For example, the entirety of the year it might be worth challenging yourself to use the same bottle or mug for all your beverages and to not purchase a single plastic bottle or coffee cup. In my case, I found a stainless steel water bottle abandoned in the grass at a local park. I washed it and began using as a my water bottle a few years ago.

Another idea is to use all the extra time or money saved from not buying brand new clothes or single-use cups of coffee and put it toward a cause you care about.  In the last year, I have donated a significant amount of money to the refugee camp where my family lives.  My father was born and grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and all of my first cousins still live there.  There have been increasing challenges in finding adequate communal space for traditional customs such as washing the dead before the burial. This year my father said to me: “The camp needs a space. Would you like to help me fund this?”  So I decided to use my savings to help buy a room for the camp that the entire community can use to wash the bodies of people that have died. Three of my uncles and aunts died from old age in the last year. This room that I helped fund is very tangible space that offers dignity to others humans. I am in a position to do this because I made sustainable choices in other parts of my life.  As a student, you might not necessarily have the money, but with the time you are saving by consuming and shopping less, you could volunteer for a cause that you would like to see thriving. Making sustainable choices reaffirms our individual power to make real change in the world.

 

Yui Suzuki

Yui Suzuki teaches biology and serves as chair of the Sustainability Advisory Committee to the President. He has a Japanese family background and also lived in Germany for a while. Both countries have a much more engrained culture of resource conservation, he finds.

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What does sustainability mean to you personally?

Sustainability is a responsible way of living that strives to achieve harmony with other communities and other species on this planet.      

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What do you do at home and at work for translating the vision you just mentioned?

There is a Japanese word called “mottainai”, which basically means that you are upset that you are having to throw things out. I often think of this word when I am faced with the decision of discarding or keeping. I try to minimize throwing things out until they are absolutely useless and try not to purchase new items unless they are needed. I also keep things that I think could be useful in the future.

I have been eating a mostly vegan diet since my college years to reduce my carbon footprint and to reduce my contribution to overfishing and bycatch issues. I also try to reduce the amount of food waste as much as I can. I grew up being told that you should not even waste a grain of rice. I think some of this philosophy stuck with me - I try to avoid wasting food as much as possible. Partly because I don’t have a car, I only shop for one week’s worth of food, and I don’t make large portions. If there are leftovers, I try to find creative ways of reusing the food in a different dish the next day, so I rarely throw away food in my apartment. But I do generate trash, and I try to recycle as much as I can.

To try to reduce my carbon footprint, I also avoid cars as much as I can. I bike to grocery stores and take public transportation when I need to get somewhere. To commute to work, I have been commuting by the commuter rail or by bike. My office was certified last year, and I try to recycle as much as I can and print double-sided.  

I end by adding that I do a lot of things that are not sustainable and that I simply cannot stop doing. I fly often, attending conferences and visiting family members who live abroad. I run a research lab that generates plastic and chemical waste. As such, my carbon footprint is probably much larger than that of the average American. But I hope that my small efforts will be able to reduce the carbon footprint I generate.

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What are your hopes and expectations for the Sustainability Year?

During my formative years, I lived in Munich, Germany. Even in the 90’s, everyone lived a lot more sustainably, recycling everything and composting as much as they could. For the people living there, sustainability was a way of life that required little questioning. In the US, we are still far from achieving such mentality, and we still face a lot of resistance when adopting a sustainable lifestyle. People’ attitudes and mindsets, as well as societal norms, take a long time to change, but it has to begin somewhere. I hope that the Sustainability Year will serve as a first step towards changing attitudes for people who may never have really thought deeply about sustainability. Realistically speaking, I don’t expect that one year is going to do much to change people’s behavior. But if we can make a few changes that stick around beyond the next year, I will be more than happy.

At the institutional level, I am hoping to that the Sustainability Year can be used to develop a set of guiding principles for Wellesley College. The College currently does not have its own definition of sustainability, but I think it’s very important for us to think about this so everyone is on the same page about what matters to the College. Sustainability is a multi-faceted and complex issue. By getting the entire campus community to focus on sustainability, I hope that we will be able to hear various opinions and views about sustainability and come to a consensus view about what we as a community value. So, hopefully, by the end of the year, we can answer question like “What should sustainability at the College look like going forward?” and  “What do we value as an institution?”

Sustainability Lists

Sustainability Committee Members

  • Ann Conrin Administrative Council Representative
  • 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)
  • Lorrie He Student Representative
  • Marilyn Sides Faculty (Group A)
  • Nadya Hajj Faculty (Group B)
  • Paul Mullins Union Representatives
  • Phil Jennings Faculty (Group B)
  • Piper Orton Vice President for Finance and Administration
  • Sarah Barbrow Designee for the Chief Information Officer
  • Sarah McBride Student Representative
  • Sergio Parussa Faculty (Group A)
  • Tara Henrichon Administrative Council Representative
  • Yui Suzuki Faculty (Chair, Group C)
     

 

Previous committee members who contributed to the plan

  • Ashley Funk Class of 2016
  • Ben Hammond VP for Finance & Administration
  • Jay Turner (Former Chair) Environmental Studies Program
  • 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
  • Patrick Willoughby Director of Sustainability
  • Sandy Kendall Office of Resources and Public Affairs
  • Sarah Joskins Designee for the Chief Information Officer
  • Sarah Koenig Student Representative
  • 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

 

Featured Alums who have Contributed to Sustainability

  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas class of 1912 Protector of the Everglades
  • 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

 

Contact: Sustainability Committee | sust@wellesley.edu