Wellesley is honoring Earth Day through a variety of initiatives that will reduce the College’s environmental footprint every day of the year. These sustainable practices will touch nearly all aspects of campus life.
Earlier this month, for example, the dining halls began serving seafood that has earned a “responsibly harvested” label from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. The label certifies that eco-friendly fishing practices were used and that the products can be traced to the Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia.
“Students have been thrilled,” says Cherie Tyger, resident director of Wellesley Fresh Dining Services. “As a dining program we have always been on the forefront of sustainability. It is our responsibility to make sure we are purchasing responsibly and that local fish species are around for future generations.”
Ten species, including lobster, haddock, and scallops, carry the label, which was created in 2011 and is used by regional supermarket chains Shaw’s and Hannaford. An AP story earlier this year highlighted Wellesley’s distinction as one of the first colleges to embrace the program.
Knowing where food comes from is as important as knowing where it goes, says Tyger. AVI Fresh, with support from the Office of Sustainability, began composting waste from food prep in 2012. Last year, the dining program reached a new milestone: It composted a total of 53,998 pounds of pre- and post-consumer waste from all five of its dining halls, earning it an honorable mention from the EPA’s WasteWise program.
Waste reduction is a primary focus of the Office of Sustainability as well. The office installed shower timers in January in the Tower Complex to promote water conservation and make residents more aware of how long their showers are. If the program is successful, timers will be installed in other residence halls during the 2015–2016 academic year.
The office recently launched the Sustainable Living Certification program, which encourages eco-friendly choices in the dorms, and the Sustainable Office program. Both offer certification and incentives such as smart power strips, recycling bins, gift cards, and switch-plate reminders.
The Class of 1957 Green Fund underwrote all three projects in addition to several now-familiar efforts: the bike share, “Wellesley Blue” recycle stations at the athletic fields, and Wells on Wheels, which provides chilled, filtered water for outdoor events as an alternative to disposable plastic water bottles.
The Office of Sustainability’s biggest annual endeavor is the Move-Out Collection, begun in 2010, which finds new homes for all the stuff students discard when they leave for the summer. Items received throughout May are recycled, donated, or stored on campus until the fall Move-In Sale. Last year the office collected 13,192 pounds of clothes, which it donated to Big Brother, Big Sister, and amassed so many sale items that they almost could have filled two 40-foot shipping containers.
“We [are] creating a handprint with a positive impact rather than just a carbon footprint with a negative impact,” says Sharon Bort, sustainability coordinator.
The office works closely with the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability, which is charged with creating a Campus Sustainability Plan that addresses eight sectors: food and dining; landscape and watershed; academic and co-curricular; buildings; water; climate and energy; purchasing and waste management; and transportation.
The advisory committee hosted a Sustainability Ideafest in February to kick off this initiative and received hundreds of suggestions that are informing their work as they draft two-, five-, and 10-year goals, along with strategies to achieve them. The committee aims to have a first draft of the plan available for public review this summer and a final version to present to the trustees at their October meeting.
“Wellesley has made important advances in addressing sustainability issues in recent years, including new sustainability standards for campus buildings projects and a Green Revolving Fund to support infrastructure initiatives,” says Jay Turner, associate professor of environmental studies and advisory committee chair. “It is our hope that the new sustainability plan will highlight all the accomplishments Wellesley has made, while serving to catalyze a whole new set of sustainability initiatives for the future.”
For more information, follow the Office of Sustainability on Facebook.