From the Classroom to the Campus, Wellesley Increases Sustainability Efforts

LED light lamp post
February 23, 2018

Last fall, Wellesley announced that 2017–2018 would be Sustainability Year, a time dedicated to bringing awareness of sustainable practices and promoting meaningful, long-lasting behavioral change in the community. Simultaneously, the College launched the Wendy Judge Paulson ’69 Ecology of Place Initiative.

Since then, Wellesley has made great strides in a number of sustainability areas.

First, Rob Lamppa was recently appointed Wellesley’s chief sustainability officer. Lamppa spent 15 years designing waste reduction programs in the food industry prior to working in higher education. Before coming to Wellesley, he helped develop sustainability programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Oberlin College, and Carleton College.

Over the last few years, the College has been making smart, sustainable choices, such as reducing the lighting demand in residence halls by 60 percent by installing hundreds of LED bulbs and fixtures, and replacing 80 percent of the walkway lamps with sustainable LED bulbs, according to Lamppa. In addition, the Board of Trustees has adopted LEED Gold Standards for all new buildings and renovations on campus, thereby ensuring sustainable construction.

This spring, Wellesley will host several on-campus lectures focusing on a wide array of issues related to sustainability and the environment. The lecturers represent academic institutions such as Princeton, MIT, and Brown, and they will discuss topics such as sustainability cities, resource wars in the Global South, and the impact of climate change on the spread of infectious disease. The series will conclude with the annual Wilson Lecture on April 25, when former Vice President Al Gore will speak to the community about sustainability and global warming education.

Sustainability Year has also been incorporated into both fall and spring semester classes. The students in Assistant Professor of Chemistry Rachel Stanley’s class Communicating and Teaching Chemistry researched the intersection of chemistry and sustainability by examining the science behind green technology. In his Spatial Investigations class, Andy Mowbray, lecturer in art, and his students developed a project to introduce the concepts of sustainability, upcycling, and reuse in architecture and design by using downed trees from campus to build ephemeral benches.

Professor Sergio Parussa teaches a seminar on human rights in Italy

Margery Lucas, professor of psychology and cognitive and linguistic sciences, challenged students in her seminar How We Choose to analyze how individuals might be motivated to change their behavior to reflect sustainability goals. Katherine Ruffin, Book Studies and Book Arts program director, uses an invasive plant found in the Science Center meadows to make paper for her Introductory Print Methods course, providing a cross-disciplinary study on sustainable land management and natural resources. Sergio Parussa, professor of Italian studies, taught a seminar on human rights in Italy where his class discussed texts and themes related to social and political justice, important aspects of sustainability.

The Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability, along with the Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative, conducted a campus survey in October to gather the community’s thoughts on sustainability and use the findings to develop a set of goals and principles to guide future work. More than 1,000 students, faculty, and staff contributed. Both the sustainability and Paulson results are now available. Pamela Taylor, assistant provost for institutional planning and assessment, and research assistant Tina Zhang ’19 analyzed the data and compiled the reports.

To receive updated information on the Wendy Judge Paulson ’69 Ecology of Place Initiative and the Sustainability Year, sign up for the sustainability newsletter or email with questions.

Christine Roberts ’19 contributed to this story.

Photo: To increase sustainable practices, the College has replaced 80 percent of the campus’ iconic walkway lamps with LED lights. 

Photo: Professor Sergio Parussa teaches a seminar on human rights in Italy.