What We Do at Wellesley

What We Do at Wellesley

There are a number of sustainable initiatives happening all over campus, whether it's in Operations, Dining, or our Design and Constuction projects. See below to learn more about what has been happening recently. 

If you are interested in becoming more sustainable as a student, a department or any member of the community, please see our Getting Involved sections for our student, faculty, and staff programs that you can take part in today. 

Green Building Standards

In 2014, the Board of Trustees approved the Green Buildings Standards proposed by the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability. Since its founding, Wellesley College has celebrated the design of its buildings and their place in the campus landscape. This document builds on that tradition by adopting a process and establishing building standards that reflect both Wellesley’s history and demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. These building standards respond to the College’s commitment to integrating environmental sustainability considerations into major institutional decisions. 


As a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Wellesley College tracks our sustainability efforts through AASHE's Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, or STARS. The program uses self-reported information to measure how well colleges and universities perform in five areas of sustainability: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.

In 2019, Wellesley earned a gold rating, improving upon our 2015 silver rating. This was a cross-campus effort, made possible through the launch of a comprehensive sustainability plan, the Year of Sustainability, and a multipart energy initiative as well as numerous academic and campus engagement programs, such as the Paulson Ecology of Place Initative and the Green Office Certification. You can read more about our most recent gold rating here.

Water Conservation Efforts

Wells on Wheels 

In order to reduce the amount of bottled water that is purchased for events, the Office of Sustainability built 3 water stations known as Wells on Wheels that connect directly to our own municipal water supply. The stations are reservable on 25Live for outdoor events. This not only reduces waste from plastic bottles, but it also reduces excess water consumption and allows people to get just the right amount that they need. Furthermore, it reduces the transportation emissions that would otherwise be due to bottled water distributors.


Water Bottle Filling Stations

Since 2011, Facilities has been installing water bottle filling stations across campus. These stations not only make it easier to fill resuable water bottles, they also keep track of how many plastic water bottles have been saved from the landfill. So far we have saved over 40,000 bottles from being consumered and thrown away. Please see below for a list of locations across campus. 

  • Keohane Sports Center
  • Green Hall
  • Trades Building
  • Pomeroy Residence Hall

For information on Wellesley's drinking water, please see our consumer confidence reports.

Food For Free

Surplus food from Wellesley College cafeterias is used to provide nutritious meals for individuals and families who struggle to buy food for themselves. In 2018, Wellesley joined with other colleges and organizations, including Babson and Olin, that donate food to the nonprofit Food For Free, based in Cambridge, Mass. This is the first time Wellesley has participated in the program.

Food For Free trucks pick up prepared foods and fresh fruits and vegetables from Wellesley’s dining halls (which are run by vendor AVI Foodsystems) and deliver them to its operations center in Cambridge, where they are repackaged into single-serve meals. In 2017, Food For Free distributed 2 million pounds of food; the food they collect helps feed 30,000 people in the Greater Boston area.

Alison Cross, who works for Food Rescue Initiatives in the town of Wellesley, which coordinates local food collection for Food For Free, said that food recovery addresses two important issues. The first is food waste. Forty percent of food produced in the United States is thrown away even though it is perfectly edible. As refuse, it ends up in compost or dumped in a landfill, where it takes up space, decomposes, and generates toxic gases like methane, said Cross.

Second, the meals serve people who are “food insecure”—that is, they don’t have access to nutritious food on a regular basis, said Cross. They might live in homeless shelters, temporary housing such as motels, or homes without adequate kitchens, or they might be elderly people who rely on Meals on Wheels.

For more on Food For Free, please visit their website

Sustainability Move-In Sale

Wellesley College's annual Sustainable Move-Out started in the spring of 2010. Now, every year in May, the Office of Sustainability provides large orange bins to each residence hall for students to donate their good-quality dorm items that they are unable to bring home with them. Instead of throwing these belongings in the trash, they are resold at the Sustainablity Sale during Orientation at a fraction of their retail cost. Items that are sold include containers, furniture, mini-fridges, rugs, lamps, and more. All proceeds of this event go towards sustainability projects on campus. Items that are not resold are donated to charities in the area. Clothing is sent to the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation in Boston, and school/dorm supplies are given to Grad Bag. We hope that by getting students involved in reducing unnecessary waste and consumption, they will become more environmentally conscious and promote a more sustainable community.

Greener Transportation

Wellesley's Public Transportation, Shuttles & Zipcars

Wellesley students, faculty, and staff have access to numerous shuttles, public transportation options, and Zipcars that can help them lower the carbon footprint getting to and from campus. Visit the Getting Around and Public Transportation pages for updates. 

Our Zipcar program has 6 cars available during the semester, and all of them are SmartWay Certified Vehicles. Zipcar, which was co-founded by a Wellesley alumna, is a great option for destinations not located near public transportation. Wellesley College students, faculty and staff can join Zipcar and have access to cars parked conveniently to campus to drive wherever you want, whenever you want. 
  • Open to 18+ students (international drivers welcome)
  • Discounted university rates by the hour or day
  • Gas, insurance, maintenance and up to 180 miles/day included
  • Great for grocery shopping, a quick errand or weekend getaway
Join here to receive a discounted membership and waived the application fee. Make the most of the school year with Zipcar!

Other Options & Offsets

Lowering GHG of Wellesley's Fleet
All over campus, Wellesley College is taking action to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, such as incorporating electric options into Wellesley's fleet. Our most recent addition was a completely electric 2016 Nissan Leaf for Facilities staff to use for getting around campus. In addition to the Leaf, we have added fifteen pieces of battery-powered equipment for our landscaping team to use over the past couple of years.
Across campus you can spot landscaping teams using electric chainsaws to cut dead wood from trees or utilizing their electric leaf blowers to clear debris from pathways. The electric chainsaws they use  save 1 metric ton of CO2 for every 75 hours of use. As Wellesley continues to add electric options in its fleet, each piece of equipment will incrementally lower our emissions.
In addition to reducing emissions, these battery-powered machines are half the weight of their gas-powered counterparts, and do not produce fumes. The lack of pull cord and rechargeable battery make them easy to use repeatedly, and as an added bonus, they tend to be quieter to run. As you walk around campus, see if you can spot some of the of electric equipment we have!