Wellesley Earns Gold Rating for Sustainability Efforts

June 18, 2019
An aerial view of Wellesley's campus featuring lake waban and green hall.

Wellesley recently earned a gold rating for its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) through its 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.

With over 800 participants in 30 countries, STARS provides higher education institutions the opportunity to assess and publicly report their sustainability progress using transparent criteria and consistent, high standards.

“Wellesley has always been committed to being a force for good in the world,” said Wellesley College president Paula A. Johnson. “There is no more powerful expression of this than building a sustainable future. We are thrilled to receive the STARS Gold Rating and pledge to keep moving forward.” 

Wellesley’s STARS rating went from silver in 2015 to gold in 2018 following the launch of a comprehensive sustainability plan, the Year of Sustainability, and a multipart energy initiative announced last fall that will dramatically reduce Wellesley’s environmental footprint. The College also reduced overall campus waste during that timeframe by 8 percent.

Between 2015 and 2018, the College excelled in academic and co-curricular integration, and campus and public engagement with the creation of innovative programs such as: 

  • the Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative, which supports and promotes student- and faculty-led campus ecosystem conservation and restoration projects; provides faculty grants for sustainability-related courses; and supports the study and use of the campus as a living laboratory;
  • a sustainability literacy assessment given to first-years and seniors to track student awareness of sustainability issues upon arrival and at graduation;
  • a Green Office Certification program facilitated by student liaisons that helps College administrators reduce energy use and waste (172 offices have been certified thus far); and
  • an interdisciplinary faculty workshop with Babson and Olin colleges, hosted at Wellesley, to discuss how to integrate sustainability content into course curriculums. 

Wellesley’s ambitious sustainability plans also include lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2026 and by 44 percent by 2036 from a 2010 baseline—and it is on track to exceed the goal for 2026 in 2021.

Rob Lamppa, director of energy and infrastructure and chief sustainability officer, hopes to see the principles of sustainability become “just the way we work and live at Wellesley,” and the new rating confirms the College is heading in that direction. “The rating shows how important sustainability is for the entire College community,” he said. “We don’t just talk about it, we practice it.”

Lamppa notes a number of new and continuing initiatives that will build on Wellesley’s current achievements as it prepares for the next STARS report, scheduled for 2021, such as:

  • $24 million in utility upgrades and energy conservation measures across campus, including a major upgrade of the central utility plant, lighting upgrades, and fan and pump efficiency improvements;
  • a Food for Free program, created in collaboration with Babson, Olin, and the township of Wellesley, to distribute unused food to local families in need;
  • streamlined data collection processes to help all departments accurately track and assess their sustainability practices;
  • a Green Dorm Certification program that will encourage dorm residents to reduce their energy and water use and provide peer education about sustainable living.

These measures, along with an innovative energy master plan to be developed by the E2040 working group in collaboration with faculty, students, and staff, will continue advancing the College’s long-term goals of drastically lowering energy use and greenhouse gas emissions; moving towards carbon neutrality; and cultivating an ethic of sustainability on campus and beyond.

Updates to Wellesley’s ongoing sustainability efforts can be found on the sustainability website.