Wellesley Kicks off “Earth Month” with Campus-wide Forum on Sustainability, and Insights on Environmental Practices from Faculty Author

Two hands hold soil and a single sprouting plant.
April 2, 2018

Although Earth Day isn’t until April 22, Wellesley is celebrating green initiatives—in large and small ways—throughout the month of April. As the campus joins in dialogue at community events, and through celebration of new faculty research related to sustainability, follow continued coverage all month long.

Community Forum on Sustainability

The College’s Sustainability Year aims to develop guiding principles unique to Wellesley that will inform the College’s sustainability efforts and priorities. The Sustainability Committee has drafted a set of these principles based on the sustainability community survey results from last fall, as well as the College’s mission, and similar initiatives from other institutions.

On Tuesday, April 3 at 4:30 pm, the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability, the Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative, and the Albright Institute will host a Community Forum on Sustainability Guiding Principles.

Members of the Wellesley community who wish to contribute their insights toward these foundational guidelines should RSVP to the campus-wide community forum, which will be held in the Clapp Library lecture room. This important community event will help to create a shared vision of what sustainability should look like for the College now and in the future.

Faculty Author’s New Book on Changing Environmental Behavior

In her new book, Elizabeth DeSombre, the Camilla Chandler Frost Professor of Environmental Studies, argues current approaches to changing people’s behavior in the age of global climate change are missing the mark. Why Good People Do Bad Environmental Things addresses the underlying problem behind enforcing long-lasting environmental change, and offers DeSombre’s new approach to this critical issue.

While activists often focus on raising awareness and concern about environmental problems, DeSombre argues that this is not an effective way to change environmental behavior. “Lack of information is rarely the underlying cause of behavior that harms the environment,” she says. “In some cases, such knowledge may even backfire, as people come to see themselves as powerless to address huge global problems and respond by pushing these issues out of their minds.”

For many people, environmentally harmful behavior often happens when it is the easier and less expensive choice. Effective change comes from changing current institutional incentives and social norms to encourage more environmentally responsible habits, without high cost and access barriers. One example of a program that is trying to do this on our campus is the Bike Share Program, started by the Sustainability Committee, which provides 25 bicycles at two different campus locations for free 24-hour rentals.

“Environmental problems are urgent enough that we don’t have the time to address them by persuading individual people to do the right thing because it’s the right thing,” says DeSombre. “Instead, we can change a lot of behavior quickly by changing the context in which people make their choices, making it easier for good—and not so good—people to do good environmental things.”

Stay updated with the latest news on sustainability at Wellesley by signing up for the sustainability newsletter, or visit the committee’s website for more information and a full list of events slated for April.

With reporting from Lucy Norton ’21