2018 Green Office Certification And Eco-Ambassador Ceremony And Reception

Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University

On Thursday, July 12th, the Office of Sustainability held a ceremony and reception for new Eco-Ambassadors and Green Offices. Sustainability-minded employees from all four of Tufts’ campuses convened to be recognized by Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco in the Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall.

Throughout the historic room, attendees could view posters with information about the Green Office and Eco-Ambassador programs as well as information about Tufts’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Offices were also able pledge to reach a higher level of Green Office certification in the future and write down any ideas they had about ways Tufts could be more sustainable. Some submitted ideas included reducing the use of plastic water bottles and the frequency of leaf blowing around campus.

Attendees mingled, exchanged ideas about sustainability, and enjoyed a delicious spread courtesy of Tufts Catering.

Shoshana Blank making her opening remarks (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

Shoshana Blank, the Office of Sustainability’s Education and Outreach Program Administrator,  then gave the opening remarks. Outlining the history and descriptions of the Green Office and Eco-Ambassador programs, she emphasized the important role the employees being recognized at this ceremony play in furthering sustainability efforts and creating a culture of sustainability at Tufts.

President Monaco recognizing sustainable initiatives at Tufts (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

She then introduced President Monaco, who began by highlighting in detail many of the operational and institutional changes being made to make Tufts’ campuses more sustainable, such as the newly LEED Gold certified SEC and the Central Energy Plant that will help reduce Tufts’ emissions.

President Monaco went on to emphasize that the grassroots efforts on the part of the Eco-Ambassadors and Green Offices are equally important in developing a culture of sustainability and engaging sustainable behaviors in students and other employees. The synthesis of efforts from both the administration and grassroots levels helps further sustainability goals at the university.

 

President Monaco awarding a Green Office certificate to the Fletcher Office of Admissions Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University

President Monaco presented all of the offices that were certified or re-certified as Green Offices this year with their respective certificates depending on the level they attained. This year’s new Eco-Ambassadors were also called up to be recognized and for a group photo.

New Eco-Ambassadors group picture! (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

As a part of the ceremony, two Eco-Ambassadors were called up to share their stories about how they have helped make their offices more sustainable. Misha D’Andrea, from the SMFA’s Office of Admissions, explained how she learned about sustainability efforts at Tufts during her new employee orientation. Excited, she immediately started working with her fellow staff member Brianna Florio to get their office Green Office Certified – a first for the SMFA campus. Misha and Brianna also became the SMFA’s first Eco-Ambassadors.

Misha D’Andrea speaking about sustainability efforts at the SMFA (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

Together, they helped make their office more sustainable by promoting compost, green commuting, using recycled paper, and other small sustainable changes staff members could easily make. In addition, they helped make Jumbo Day, the SMFA’s accepted students day, a zero-waste event by purchasing compostable plates, cups and utensils through an Eco-Ambassador grant. They also joined the SMFA Sustainability Task Force, spearheaded by a SMFA faculty member, that is made up of faculty, staff and students who want to make the campus more sustainable.

Freedom Baird from the Medford/Somerville campus Educational Technology Services recalled feeling pleasantly surprised that sustainability was a part of her new employee orientation. For her, this represented the university’s recognition of sustainability as an important issue and part of the campus culture. Excited, she immediately reached out to Shoshana and joined in on the Eco-Ambassador training.

Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University

Thinking of ways she could help her office become more sustainable, Freedom noticed that her building purchased large 5 gallon bottles of water that had to be replaced frequently. She began putting together a survey to see if people in her building would be willing to switch to a water filtration system instead, which would greatly reduce plastic waste.

In crafting the survey, she used many of the tips from her Eco-Ambassador training. Freedom demonstrated to everyone at the ceremony how difficult it was to replace the large containers of water every time a new one was delivered through a dramatic performance. She noted that not having to do this anymore was a big sell for purchasing a water filtration system instead.

The event was a great way to celebrate individual employees and offices working to make Tufts a more sustainable place. Learn more about the Green Office Certification program and the Eco-Ambassadors program on our website.

Eco-Ambassadors Tour the SEC

Recently, the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), located on the Medford/Somerville campus at 200 College Avenue, received LEED Gold certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary green building rating system that recognizes high-performance, energy efficient and sustainable buildings.

On Wednesday afternoon, 11 Eco-Ambassadors went on a tour of the SEC to better understand what makes the building so energy efficient.

Elliott Miller and Michael Skeldon from Facilities Services along with Bruce Panilaitis, the Director of the Science and Engineering Complex, led the group through the architecturally stunning building to explain the inner workings of this state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind building.

Repurposing Tufts’ History

The exterior of an older building accents the new modern building’s interior

In the initial planning stages, the SEC was set to be built next to the location of the older Robinson and Anderson Halls, with potential plans to demolish Robinson Hall. However, they later decided to preserve both of the older buildings and convert them into wings of the new SEC. Not only is this more sustainable, it also helps preserve the history of the University. What is left is a stunning juxtaposition of old and new with the exposed brick visible within the modern interior of the atrium of the building.

The SEC houses several departments including Biology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as the offices and labs of several other departments. The structure of the spaces provides ample opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Energy Efficiency

The SEC is designed for maximum energy efficiency. The building has tight doors and a white reflective roof to reduce the summer cooling load. While having an all-glass exterior may seem inefficient, the triple glazing on all SEC windows reduces heat loss in cooler months and helps keep the building cool in warmer months.

The volume of air that goes in and out of the building is tightly controlled. Conditioned air is recirculated from office and classroom areas and blended in with outside air for laboratory use. The building also uses low and medium temperature chilled water to provide year-round cooling. The chilled water has two systems and different supply temperatures (38°F and ~60°F) to optimize the efficiency of the CEP (Central Energy Plant) chillers and to provide efficient condensation free cooling without risking dripping from the chilled beam cooling.

Scheduling and occupancy sensors are built into each lab and office in the SEC and daylight dimming sensors automatically control the light levels in rooms to adjust for varying amounts of sunlight. There are also carbon dioxide air quality sensors in meeting rooms. When there are more people, more air is let into the room to maintain a consistent minimum air quality level and a comfortable temperature. If no one is detected in the room after a preset amount of time, the lighting is turned off and the heating or cooling set-points are significantly relaxed to minimize energy use until someone reoccupies the space.

Exposed piping on the ceiling of a lab in the SEC

Exposed piping on the ceiling of a lab in the SEC

A striking aspect of the building is the exposed ductwork and piping which actually has a very practical purpose — having all of the valves and airflow controls exposed allows technicians to easily see the control position indicators of the equipment and troubleshoot a malfunction, often without even having to get a ladder. This allows for quicker repairs which reduce the amount of time when energy can be wasted as the problem is being solved.

Sustainable Lab Design

A typical lab bench in the SEC, with components plugged into the ceiling which can be easily removed and replaced to suit the researchers' needs

A typical lab bench in the SEC

The SEC’s new LEED Gold certification is particularly notable because of how difficult it can be to achieve a sustainable design in a laboratory building. These types of buildings tend to be highly energy dependent and unsustainable due to necessary safety precautions and the complex needs of lab occupants. Air changes in lab spaces are particularly important as they make sure that the air stays clean of contaminants and at a moderated temperature.

One of the tour guides, elliott miller, points to the exposed piping in the ceiling to explain the air ventilation systems in a lab

Elliott explaining the air ventilation systems

 

The building’s lab spaces use a minimum amount of air changes to reduce the amount of heating or cooling necessary to maintain the laboratory environment. To help optimize the air change rates, an air quality system monitor made by Aircuity, a company headquartered in Newton MA, measures certain parameters like VOCs, dust, humidity, and CO2, and compares them to the outside air. The system samples the air every 15 minutes and if abnormalities are detected, the frequency of air changes (air from the laboratory gets sucked out and replaced by new air coming in from the outside) is increased until the contaminants in the air are back down to an acceptable level.

Normally,  a minimum of five air changes occur each hour during the day, and less at night when no one is in the building. Mike explained that this is much less than some other laboratories that are designed to constantly exhaust 10 to 12 air changes in an hour.

The labs also have high-efficiency low flow fume hoods that are able to sense how much air should be flowing based on whether the fume is open or shut and if there is a person present. When no one is present, less air is drawn through which helps to further conserve energy.

The labs also accommodate a wide range of research needs while respecting sustainability. “A key aspect of efficiency is adaptability,” Michael explained. In the SEC, each level has the same basic layout even though the building is used by many different departments.

In addition, the individual labs are designed to be easily modified. The furniture is not fixed so that it can be easily moved at any time and infrastructure aspects such as vacuums, chords, chemicals, and gas can be easily installed or removed from fixtures on the ceiling. This allows the needs of the researchers occupying the lab at any given time to be easily met without needing to significantly change the physical space.

Utilizing the SEC

The SEC is as functional and practical as it is energy-efficient and beautiful!

One of the biggest challenges of introducing a new, state-of-the-art building such as the SEC comes after the construction is completed. A building with many sustainable functions cannot live up to its full potential without the understanding and support of its occupants. For example, even though air is tightly controlled to ensure the highest possible energy efficiency, this is rendered useless if the occupants decide to leave the windows open in their office all day.

While there will be a slight learning curve to using the building, the SEC is sure to provide a comfortable and exciting learning and innovating space for students, faculty, and other researchers for years to come.

Grafton Campus Zero Waste Picnic

Today, we headed over to the Grafton campus for the final President’s Picnic of the year! The beautiful scenery surrounding the campus was a great setting for promoting sustainability.

 

 

As with the other picnics, the event was a zero-waste affair. In addition to having our zero waste stations, we were also able to reduce waste emitted from our event by serving condiments in bulk rather than in small individually wrapped packages, and by promoting the use of reusable place settings instead of the dishware provided at the event.

Our staff setting up the zero waste stations

As has become tradition, we handed out free door prizes – “I saved a tree at the president’s picnic” stickers and a reusable sandwich bag – to everyone who came to the picnic with a complete reusable place setting. We define a “complete” place setting as being a plate, utensils, and something to drink out of (a reusable bottle, cup, or mug).

Our sticker and sandwich bag prizes

Those who brought their own place settings were also encouraged to enter our raffle. We raffled off our final lunchbox, and had Dr. Joyce Knoll, the interim dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary medicine, draw the winner. Dr. Maureen Murray of the Tufts Wildlife Clinic was our lucky winner!

The lucky winner of our final lunchbox – Dr. Maureen Murray from the Wildlife Clinic!

We have really enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm the Tufts community has for sustainability. Some attendees proudly showed us their OOS swag they got from previous president’s picnics, such as the reusable personal hand towels from last year and the reusable lunch boxes from two years ago!

She brought the lunchbox she got from us two years ago!

Thanks so much to everyone who attended the picnics this year and brought their own place settings. Catered events often have a lot of waste associated with them, so we are so glad that you all have helped us make Tufts events more sustainable. We can’t wait to see you all again next year, and don’t forget to tell your friends — we always bring prizes!

Boston Campus Zero Waste Picnic

Another president’s picnic, this time on the Boston campus! Although it was forecast to rain, we luckily didn’t feel a single drop throughout the duration of the event.

As with all of our zero waste events, all of the trash bins normally available in the green space next to the Jaharis Building for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences on the Boston campus were covered so that attendees would not be able to use them.

Something that was different about this particular zero waste event was that everything given to the attendees including cups, plates, utensils, and napkins were all completely compostable. While we usually have both recycling and composting toters at our zero waste events, at this event we simply needed to direct people to place all their used items and leftover food into the compost.

Michelle with the free reusable sandwich bag she got for bringing her own place setting!

As has become tradition, we handed out free sandwich bags to the lucky first 50 people who came to the Office of Sustainability’s table with their own reusable place settings from home (or from their office!).

President Monaco picking the raffle winner!

 

Additionally, everyone who brought a component of a reusable place setting was invited to enter our raffle. President Monaco picked the lucky winner, Dorothy Vannah, the director of the Simulation Learning Center at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.

The lucky winner with her new lunchbox!

In addition to handing out flyers about commuting benefits and becoming an Eco-Ambassador, we also had Michelle Lee-Bravatti, a second-year graduate student at the Friedman School help spread the word about the new composting program at the Boston campus that she initiated this past spring. Not only are there composting bins in several locations throughout the Boston campus, individual offices can also inquire about getting an office composting bin. Be sure to contact michelle.lee_bravatti@tufts.edu for more information.

Next week, we’ll be in Grafton for the final President’s Picnic of the year!

Tufts Community Resilience Building Workshop

In 2016, Tufts University’s President Anthony Monaco signed the Second Nature Climate Commitment on behalf of the university. The Commitment integrates two critical components of climate leadership: carbon neutrality and climate resilience. One stipulation of the Commitment is for the university to complete a campus-community resilience assessment.

While climate change mitigation strategies aimed to reduce carbon emissions are often emphasized, it is equally important to consider how communities can plan for the predicted impacts of climate change.  In addition, due to recent events such as Tropical Storm Irene and Sandy, there is a heightened sense of urgency within our local and regional communities to increase resilience and adapt to extreme weather events.

In order to advance the Climate Commitment goals and address concerns that the Tufts community has regarding natural and climate-related hazards, Tufts University hosted a Community Resilience Building Workshop for the Medford/Somerville campus. The workshop took place on May 3rd, and was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy.

Picture from the resilience building workshop, attendees listening to speaker

Source: Adam Whelchel/TNC

Community Resilience Building workshops help municipalities and institutions create an opportunity for their community to to gather and plan proactively for potential emergencies. This is an important step towards climate adaptation and community capacity-building to deal with a changing climate.

The Tufts University Core Team that helped prepare for and organize this workshop included Tina Woolston from the Office of Sustainability, Geoff Bartlett and Matt Hart from the Department of Public and Environmental Safety Emergency Management Unit, as well as two Tufts students, Emma Conroy and Sophie Lehrenbaum.

Around 60 Tufts and surrounding community members attended the workshop, including representatives from various Tufts groups such as Facilities, Finance, Health Services, Construction, Public and Environmental Health and Safety, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, representatives from the City of Medford’s Office of Energy and Environment and Office of Public Health, the City of Somerville’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency were also present.

The full day event started with an overview of climate change impacts in the Northeast, the top 4 potential climate related hazards as identified during a recent Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment undertaken by the Department of Public and Environmental Health and Safety, and an introduction to the resources that would be discussed during the next portion of the event. These resources included maps of the campus, the existing hazard mitigation plan, information on the number of days over 90 degrees and flooding, as well as maps depicting natural disasters that have affected the area.

Source: Adam Whelchel/TNC

Attendees were then broken up into five groups, and through a facilitated process, discussed the existing vulnerabilities and strengths of the campus, and prioritized concrete actions that could be taken. As a part of this process, each group illustrated where they thought vulnerable areas and potential hazards were located on top of a base map of the university.

One group’s illustration of hazards on the Medford/Somerville campus (Source: Adam Whelchel/TNC)

While all groups recognized that Tufts, along with its host cities, already has many strengths and assets that will help in emergency situations, many recommendations were made on how Tufts could better prepare for such events through longer term, comprehensive planning.

Some of the top priorities for action by the Medford/Somerville campus community that came out of the workshop were:

  1. Human Welfare – supporting students and employees during an emergency
  2. Infrastructure – utilities, stormwater, and continuity planning and upgrades
  3. Food – food supply, distribution, and storage during an emergency

Community-based actions towards adapting to the predicted impacts of climate change can lead to planning and preparation that meets the specific needs of the community and the local landscape. In addition, it helps empower community members to take charge and prepare for some of the climate-related challenges we currently face as a society that may not be within our individual control to avoid.

Adam Whelchel, the lead facilitator of the workshop, commented, “the Nature Conservancy is proud to have played a part in helping Tufts University take a significant step towards enhanced resilience via the Community Resilience Building process. Tufts now joins an elite group of universities around the globe that have proactively embraced resilience as an opportunity to find a more vibrant future for their faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding community.”

Similar Community Resilience Building Workshops will be coming to the Boston and Grafton campuses soon, stay tuned!

 

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