"This is exciting news for every member of our extended community," said Jay Turner, associate professor of environmental studies and chair of the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability, which began developing the plan in 2014. "We have embraced a set of ambitious, but achievable, goals for advancing sustainability at Wellesley."
Those goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions 37 percent by 2026 and 44 percent by 2036 (from a 2010 baseline) and further reducing potable water consumption by 20 percent between 2016 and 2026.
"We have also reaffirmed our commitment to integrating sustainability into our campus renewal program, which means we are going to build and renovate differently than we did a generation ago," Turner said. Every building project must achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating of gold or better.
The plan also calls for installing electricity, steam, and water meters in 80 percent of campus buildings over the next five years. That will make the College's use of those resources visible, and will make it easier to analyze usage for purposes of both academic research and college planning.
Additional goals include phasing out plastic bags at campus retail operations, making sure that 95 percent of the office paper purchased by the College will have at least 30 percent post-consumer-recycled content, and providing support for faculty who want to integrate the topic of sustainability into their courses.
"This plan will shape our campus and how we operate for decades to come," said Ben Hammond, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, who has served on the sustainability committee since coming to Wellesley three years ago. "The collaborative process that led to this plan—involving faculty, administrative staff and union staff, the administration, and students—reflects our community's values and signals how we will implement the plan: together as a community."
That perspective will delight alumnae who know that the College’s longstanding commitment to sustainability has resulted in significant changes in the past few decades. The co-generation plant, which Wellesley built in 1994 to supply the campus with electricity, heating, and cooling, has allowed the College to emit 25 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than it would have using electricity purchased from a public utility. Potable water consumption has been reduced by 39 percent since 1999. Significant landscape projects have been implemented, and the College has introduced several green initiatives—including an annual move-out, move-in sale—that have been funded by the Class of 1957 Green Fund.
Individuals have also made important contributions to sustainability on campus. Wendy Judge Paulson '69, chairman emerita of the worldwide conservation organization Rare, recently gave the College a gift that will establish a five-year intensive effort to transform and reshape Wellesley's relationship with the campus landscape. The initiative aims to make the campus a "living laboratory" and to empower students to take their ecological foundations into the world when they leave Wellesley.
Catherine Piner '16, an English and economics major, made news on campus this spring when she spearheaded a textbook collection effort with Caitlin Bailey '16 and Clarissa Suparman '17. The three students partnered with special project interns in the Office of Sustainability, and with the students who run the composting program in the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center, El Table, and elsewhere. Together, they collected dozens of textbooks that would otherwise have been discarded and used them to start a new textbook lending library, which will benefit both the environment and fellow Wellesley students.
The sustainability plan will encourage other student efforts via a proposed sustainability-themed year—currently slated for 2017-2018—that will foster dialogue on campus through lectures and events.
"What I love most about the sustainability plan is that it relies on the active participation of the Wellesley community, providing opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to think critically about their environmental impact," said Amanda Hernandez '18, an environmental studies major who has served on the sustainability committee for the past year. "By creating a sustainable campus, we will reduce our ecological footprint and create citizens who will graduate and continue to live a sustainable lifestyle outside of Wellesley."