Environmental Justice


Take a moment to think about your environment, where you grew up, and where you currently live? Did you have a yard? Did you walk around and see trees along your street? Was the Flint Water Crisis the first time that you considered that some places in this country have unsafe drinking water?

The environment is central to all human activity, and the treatment of the environment is inherently linked to the treatment of the people who live there. The EPA has defined environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Historically, protection of environmental quality, like other resources such as money and time, has been unequally enforced across the country. Communities with more social capital and societal influences, therefore, have greater access to a healthy, safe, and livable environment with access to safe drinking water, clean air, and healthy, affordable food.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan found tremendous health impacts from entirely preventable leaching of lead in the predominately Black community’s drinking water. This is a classic example of environmental racism and brought the issue of environmental justice to the national spotlight. In the city, low-income areas and neighborhoods have disproportionally high levels of lead in their water. Globally, we see environmental injustices when discussing the future effects of climate change. According to The World Bank, the countries that will see the greatest negative impacts from our warming climate are disproportionately low-income nations.

Environmental injustices typically stem from lacking access to political capital and voice in government and industry decision-making. Wealthier communities have more disposable income and time to spend to have their voices and concerns heard. While historically the environment reinforces existing inequalities across communities, increasing awareness and advocacy for the environment through the lens of justice and health can achieve more equitable outcomes.

When advocating for the environment or any social justice issue, we all must recognize how our backgrounds or privileges have shaped us. White activists must recognize white privilege (https://www.pachamama.org/news/race-and-class-privilege-in-the-environmental-movement), and how historically white privilege has come at the cost of quality of life for communities of color and low-income globally. We can use their privileged position in society to advocate for historically disadvantaged communities and uplift their voices to be heard and protected.

Want to learn more about environmental justice and the inequalities between the global north and south? Read the Yale Environment 360’s article on how increased per capita consumption is a greater global threat than increased population.

What does 2018 mean for the environment?

Last year, 2017, was a year of extremes for our environment. According to NASA, 2017 is likely to be the second hottest year in recorded history. Here in the United States, we saw the extraordinary power of three devastating hurricanes: Irma, Harvey, and Maria. Residents are still recovering from the destruction of these hurricanes. Widespread wildfires in California destroyed thousands of acres of land, homes, and lives. The year ended with a cold snap that has spread throughout the Northeast, leading to record low temperatures across the country. There is mounting evidence from climatologist that these extreme weather events will become more frequent with the increase of the greenhouse gases we emit into our atmosphere that contribute to climate change.
On June 1st of 2017, President Trump announced the withdrawal of American participation from the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement was the first of its kind, facilitated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)that bound all countries to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions, in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celcius of pre-industrial temperatures. The agreement allows each nation to set their own emissions goals in accordance with the goals of the agreement. Find more information about the Paris Agreement from the UNFCC.

However, not all environmental news in 2017 was negative. There was a new wave of environmental activism and commitment to combat climate change in reaction to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The “We are still in” movement was launched immediately; thousands of companies, cities, states, and institutions, including Tufts, affirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement despite the lack of federal support for the agreement. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, created the Make our Planet Great Again initiative to provide funding and support for all who wish to conduct environmental research.

While 2017 was a year of climate and environmental political extremes, it was also a year of great environmental activism and commitment to combat climate change. What does this mean for 2018? We need to continue our commitment to environmental activism this year. One important way to do so is by advocating for the environment through our votes in the 2018 midterm elections and volunteering in our local communities. Another great way is to work to lower your personal environmental impact by reducing your carbon and waste footprint.

Reduce your waste and carbon footprint:

  • Eat less meat- try to eat less or even eliminate factory farmed meat for your diet.
  • Buy used– look for previously used or owned items before buying new.
  • Eat local- Sign up for a CSA share or check out your local farmer’s market.
  •  Say yes to reusable items- Opt for reusable products over single-use items.
  • Consume less- Don’t buy unnecessary items that will just wind up in the landfill
  •  Bike, walk, use public transportation, and carpool – Not only will it lower your carbon footprint, but it will also improve your personal health.
  • Use less plastic- Find package free items to reduce your plastic consumption.
  •  Share and connect- Share your passion for environmental causes with others.

The uncertainty of our collective environmental future can be frightening at times, so let us do all that we can to reduce our individual impact on the environment and hold our representatives accountable to protect their constituents by protecting the environment. In 2018, let’s get more civically engaged, environmentally aware, and passionate than ever before.

Learn from Bae Johnson how to reduce your waste this year:


December 2017 Eco-Ambassador Session #2 – Medford

Session Summary:

We started off our second session by hearing from a current Eco-Ambassador, Rachel Brown, on the office sustainability projects that she has worked on over the years. Then we discussed water, including where Tufts’ water comes from, water conservation projects at the university, and ways you can conserve water in your offices. Carlos Robles from MassRIDES joined us to talk about transportation options and resources available to Tufts employees on the Boston and Medford campuses. We reviewed ways to “green” meetings and events and looked at green event resources on the OOS website. We went over energy use and infrastructure at Tufts, as well as upcoming energy projects and ways to conserve energy in our offices. To end the day, we sorted “Eco-labels” and talked about which are reliable and unreliable and reviewed some purchasing tips and resources.

Assignments for next week:

  • Introduce yourself as an Eco-Ambassador to your officemates
  • Meet with your supervisor/Eco-Ambassador team
  • Create a draft community-based social marketing plan using this worksheet. Email to Shoshana by Friday, January 12.

Next Steps:

  • Now that you have more familiarity with these topics, it could be a great time to finish the green office certification checklist that you started before, to get your office green office certified.

 Additional Resources



  • Tufts’ Commuter Benefits: Visit the Tufts Human Resources websitefor information about how you can get transit passes with pre-tax funds.
  • Transportation Incentives & Regional Programs: folks on all campuses can sign up for NuRide to find carpool partners and earn rewards for your “green” trips.  Employees on the Medford and Grafton campuses, can sign up for MassRIDES’ Emergency Ride HomeABC TMA provides incentives to employees on the Boston Campus, including the Guaranteed Ride Home Program.
  • Public Transportation: Visit the MBTA websitefor information on the rail, bus, subway, and commuter boat systems and access to helpful resources such as schedules & mapsreloading your CharlieCard online, and MBTA apps.
  • Tufts Shuttles: Find information about Tufts’ shuttles, including schedules and the live tracker, here.
  • BikingMassBikeoffers a wide range of bicycle safety and maintenance courses as well as extensive online resources about bike laws, local bike clubs, guides for new bikers, and much more. Learn more about bike safety from the Tufts University Police Department. View the City of Somerville Bicycle Routes map here.
  • General Transportation Info: Visit the EPA’s websitefor information about transportation and climate change, regulations related to greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and how to calculate your greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For guests traveling to campus: Provide information about how to travel to your campus via public transportation.  This page(and its subpages) have some good resources and language.
  • Transportation Brochures and Maps: Visit the Office of Sustainability’s Publications Libraryfor electronic versions of our various transportation-related handouts.

Meetings & Events:



Additional Topics of Interest:

  • The Environmental Studies program organizes weekly Lunch & Learns about environmental and sustainability topics that are open to all members of the Tufts community (free food is provided!) – learn more and see a schedule of upcoming speakers here.
  • There are CSA farm shares that deliver directly to the Medford and Boston campuses.  This is a great way to get fresh produce delivered conveniently to Tufts.  Click here for more information.
  • Meet other Eco-Ambassadors at Tufts – click here for a list(you will be added shortly!).


Shoshana Blank

Education & Outreach Program Administrator



Rachel Brown




Carlos Robles





November 2017 Eco-Ambassador Session #1 – Medford

Session Summary:

During our first meeting, we discussed the history of the Eco-Ambassador program and the role of Eco-Ambassadors, as well as the definition and meaning of “sustainability.” We also went through an overview of sustainability at Tufts and the goals for water, waste, and energy and emissions set forth in the Campus Sustainability Council Report. We then discussed waste and recycling at Tufts.  To round out the day, we talked about behavior change and the steps to creating a Community-Based Social Marketing plan, followed by an overview of climate change, its impacts, and how it will specifically impact the Boston area.

Assignments for next week:

  • Do your personal behavior change challenge! We will report back to each other about how it went.
  • Introduce yourself as an Eco-Ambassador to your officemates, your department, etc. This can be informal in person, or maybe you want to do a cute email?
  • Check that you have the proper Landfill and Mixed Recycling labels on your waste bins and that you have a blue lid on the recycling lid. Also, assess if you want a wall sign sticker to go above your waste bins. Please bring a list of what you need to next week’s session.
  • Start brainstorming behavior change ideas for your office (some of you have some ideas already!)

Additional Resources

Sustainability at Tufts:

Behavior Change:

Climate Change:

Waste & Recycling:


Shoshana Blank

Education & Outreach Program Administrator



Gretchen Carey

Recycling and Organics Coordinator




Recycle (General)




Sustainable Resolutions

Happy 2018! Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Maybe you’re trying to eat healthier, more organic or local food. Signing up for a local CSA is a great way to help you achieve that resolution, by signing up each week you’ll receive fresh and local fruits and veggies! Tufts partners with World PEAS to deliver farm shares right on campus, find out more information here! Or maybe for your resolution you want to get into better shape? Instead of driving where you need to go, try walking, running, or biking wherever possible! Not only will you be exercising more, but you will also be saving CO2 from entering the atmosphere and saving money that you would have spent on gas. Taking public transportation  and carpooling to get to your destination are other great ways to go further distances and cut down on your carbon emissions.

Another great resolution you may have is to use less disposable plastic this year. There are some easy ways to reduce your plastic consumption. One of the most convenient is to bring reusable bags with you everywhere you go. Another great way to cut down on your waste is to shop in bulk and bring your own containers. And a cool, newer option for online shopping is to opt for hassle free packaging when you check out.

Perhaps you have already incorporated these tips into your daily life. You avoid driving and single-use plastic,  and support local and sustainable farming through your eating habits. So how can you use your New Year’s Resolution to create more of an impact?

You’re in luck! This year, 2018,  is an election year, you can use your vote to elect representatives that align with your views on the environment. Organizations like the Environmental Voter Project help to inform the public about environmental issues and organize to “Get Out the Vote” before elections.Voters in every state can look up their registration status, elected officials, and polling place. Locate your MA polling place on the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts site. If you’re registered to vote outside of Massachusetts organizations like Headcount can help you find out how and where to vote. Our democracy is strengthened when more people turn out to vote, especially during mid-term elections. America has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed nations. This new year, you can strengthen our democracy and make your voice heard by voting!

Do you want to give back to your local community this year? Volunteering with organizations that share your values is a great way to increase your civic engagement. Find a list of national environmental organizations with local chapters all across the country here. Read more tips from the EPA about how to get more involved with local environmental organizations.

The Office of Sustainability wishes you a happy 2018! We can’t wait to collaborate more with you all to make 2018 a more sustainable year full of civic-engagement and community building!




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