Tufts Boston Campus Community Resilience Building Workshop

By Hanna Carr

In 2016, Tufts University’s president Anthony Monaco signed the Second Nature Climate Commitment, which commited the University to act to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Aside from pledging Tufts to be carbon neutral by 2050, the Commitment includes a stipulation that Tufts lead and complete a “campus-community resilience assessment.” While it is important to reduce emissions in order to mitigate climate change and prevent its worst impacts, it is vital that institutions such as Tufts also develop a plan to adapt to the effects that are already present and are likely to be felt in the near future. These impacts include more frequent and severe hurricanes and nor’easters, higher temperatures, flooding due to sea level rise and precipitation, and an increase in the occurrence of infectious disease, among others.

As a first step in this resilience assessment, Tufts held a Medford/Somerville campus Community Resilience Building (CRB) workshop in May 2018, which helped identify the infrastructural, societal, and environmental strengths and weaknesses of the Medford/Somerville campus, as well as opportunities to strengthen its capacity for resilience. Some top priorities for actions that were identified at that workshop were human welfare (supporting students and employees during an emergency), infrastructure (utilities, stormwater, and continuity planning and upgrades), and food (food supply, distribution, and storage during an emergency). Read more about the Medford/Somerville Community Resilience Building workshop here.

On January 31st, 2020, around 50 participants convened on the Tufts Health Sciences campus to engage in a Boston Campus CRB workshop. There was a diverse group of participants, coming from across Tufts; including Facilities, Sustainability, Capital Programs, Human Resources, Tufts Technology Services, the Friedman School, the Medical School, the Dental School, the SMFA, Tufts Medical Center, HNRCA, Tufts Shared Services, and more. Representatives from Climate Ready Boston, the City of Boston Office of Emergency Management,the Commonwealth of MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the Boston Public Health Commission were also in attendance.

Peyton Jones from Climate Ready Boston addresses CRB Workshop participants on the Tufts Health Sciences campus on January 31st, 2020.

The Core Team that helped organize and lead this workshop included Tina Woolston and Hanna Carr from the Tufts Office of Sustainability, Rich Perito from the Tufts Office of Emergency Management, and Adam Whelchel from the Nature Conservancy, who is the creator of the Community Resilience Building workshop model.

The full-day workshop began with a presentation introducing the participants to the topic of climate resilience and preparing them for the rest of the day’s events. Tufts’ Executive Vice President, Mike Howard, kicked off the workshop by delivering a few words about the importance of accounting for the impacts of climate change in planning for Tufts’ long term success. Rich Perito presented on Tufts’ hazard identification process, and Peyton Jones from Climate Ready Boston spoke about Boston’s approach to climate resilience. Adam Whelchel and Hanna Carr introduced the workshop purpose, structure, and resources, including maps showing the extent of flooding and hurricane inundation on the Health Sciences and SMFA campuses.

Julie Wormser from the Mystic River Watershed Association facilitates a small group discussion.

The participants were then broken up into four small workshop groups, facilitated by experienced volunteers from The Nature Conservancy, Second Nature, and the Mystic River Watershed Association. In these groups, participants labeled maps of the Health Sciences and SMFA campuses and identified features of the campuses that may present strengths and vulnerabilities in the face of four climate-change-related hazards: hurricanes and nor’easters, flooding, extreme temperatures, and infectious disease. The participants also brainstormed actions that Tufts could take to mitigate the vulnerabilities and build on the strengths. After lunch, the participants shared out their respective groups’ top 3 action items. Post-workshop, the Tufts Offices of Sustainability and Emergency Management will work to develop a report based on the findings of the workshop and follow up with the relevant individuals to execute the top action items.

Some common themes among action items for the Boston campus included building a cogeneration plant to increase Tufts’ energy independence; strengthening communication channels among the Tufts community and between Tufts and the City of Boston; working with public transportation entities to support improved public transportation; and coordinating with local communities such as the Chinatown and Fenway neighborhoods to create a people-centered approach to hazard mitigation and resilience.

Participants were encouraged to label base maps in their small groups to indicate key features of the Health Sciences and SMFA campuses that may be vulnerabilities and strengths in a climate change-related hazard event.

Community-based actions towards adapting to the predicted impacts of climate change, such as the CRB workshop model, encourage people-centric planning that meets the specific needs of the community, and its local landscape and infrastructure. In addition, it empowers community members to advocate for and actualize projects to mitigate the severity of the impacts of climate change and improve their community’s ability to withstand a climate change-driven emergency situation. This workshop will help Tufts incorporate climate resilience into its long term capital planning.

Congratulations to the Green Fund Winners of 2020!

On Friday, January 30th, hopeful Green Fund applicants presented to committee members and interested public about their projects. After deliberation by the Green Fund Committee, the following projects were funded:

Tufts Wide:

Tufts Technology Services(TTS). Presented by Freedom Baird. This project reminds Tufts community members that Every Watt Helps! They are creating a publicity campaign and operating procedures to help cut down on unnecessary energy usage. Look for their stickers around campus!

SMFA:

The SMFA Garden is the brainchild of Michaela Morse and Lauren Kimball-Brown who are creating a collaborative garden that will encourage local pollinators and the cross pollination of the various artists at the SMFA.

Health Sciences Campus:

The Multi-Site Conference Hosting initiative(MULCH) is an initiative Parke Wilde proposed to create a more sustainable way to go to conferences: rather than flying across the country, applicants can go to local hubs and mingle with other conference attendees either in person or with technology.

The Fall Harvest Week project presented by Kevin Cody of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is working to integrate local produce in Tufts Dining halls. New Entry will work with Tufts Dining to host a number of harvest events in Fall 2020 to highlight delicious local foods while also educating the Tufts community about the conditions of small farmers.

Grafton Campus:

The Elm Café Meal Take Out project presented by Lauren Gawel willestablish a take-out container system at Elm’s Café. This system will help students enjoy meals while minimizing waste!

Medford Campus:

The Loj Composting Project was presented by Ida Weiss and is designed to make Tufts Mountain Club (TMC) even more environmentally friendly! Soon there will be a student made and designed bear-proof compost bin at Tufts “Loj” in Woodstock NH for any food scraps from delicious Loj meals.

The Tisch Roof Garden Renewal project was proposed by Alicia Bellido and Bayley Koopman to revitale one of the best views at Tufts. Working with Tufts Garden Club, they will turn the TUFTS on top of Tisch roof to a beautiful garden that benefits local pollinators.

Fall in Love with Sustainability this Valentine’s Day

As February 14th approaches, love is in the air and, for many of us, in our shopping carts. Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to show some appreciation for our loved ones, but with all the gifts, cards, and flowers, the amount of waste left behind can come at a steep cost for the planet. Share your love for the Earth this Valentine’s Day with these sustainability tips from the Tufts Office of Sustainability:

  • While a store-bought gift might be traditional, skip the landfill and try opting for an experience or homemade gift instead:
    • Plan a romantic picnic or bike ride at Mystic Lake or the Middlesex Fells if you’re on the Medford/Somerville Campus. Check out the Ecomap for bike rentals and repairs locations.
    • Give your loved one the gift of sustainably farmed fresh produce by registering them for the coming season of Tufts CSA.
  • Check out the Craft Center on the Medford/Somerville campus for all your homemade card and gift needs.
  • Make sure you are familiar with waste disposal at Tufts, especially where your nearest specialty recycling and compost sites are located. This information can also be found on the Ecomap
  • Minimizing Waste on Valentine’s day:

  • DO Recycle:
    • Aluminum cans
    • Cardboard boxes from gifts or flowers
    • Card envelopes
    • Plastic floral wraps only at participating stores (most likely grocery or hardware store)
    • Cardboard chocolate and gift boxes
    • Plain paper greeting cards (without metal, plastic, musical elements, glitter, or foil add-ons)
  • DON’T Recycle:
    • Any greeting cards with other elements than plain paper
    • Candy wrappers
    • Ribbons and bows
  • COMPOST:
    • Flowers and bouquets 

(list taken from The Recycling Partnership)

Get creative and make this red and white holiday green your way!


A Sustainable Orientation Week

Education and Outreach Program Administrator, Shoshana Blank, and summer Communications Intern, Michaela, table at the Graduate Student Resource Fair in Alumnae Lounge.

Every year, the Office of Sustainability makes a tremendous effort during Orientation to teach as many incoming students, staff, and faculty as possible about Tufts’ sustainability commitments and initiatives, its waste management practices, sustainable commuting options, and more. We also try to reduce the University’s carbon footprint by making as many Orientation events as possible zero-waste, ensuring that materials are either recycled or composted. 

This year was no exception. Throughout Orientation, the OOS made presentations on sustainability at Tufts to a total of 511 new students, faculty, and staff across our many graduate schools, including the Dental School, the Friedman School, the Fletcher School, the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, to name a few. In addition, the OOS trained 220 Tufts Dining employees on proper recycling rules to ensure they were well-informed to sort recyclables, compostables, and trash in the kitchens and cafes. 

Summer Programs Intern, Jennifer, tables on the Boston Health Sciences campus.

The OOS also tabled at events for a wide range of programs offered at Tufts. We reached about 500 new students by speaking directly with them at events held by their respective schools. Two hundred of these students were new first-year students. The remaining 300 were graduate students from the Tufts School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Engineering, the Fletcher School, and Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, among others.

At all our various tabling events, the OOS distributed a total of 1,340 informational brochures on sustainability issues ranging from recycling, to biking, to sustainable commuting to Tufts’ many campuses. The most widely distributed and seemingly the most popular were the Eco-Maps, which identify the locations of important sustainability landmarks on the Medford/Somerville campus, such as recycling and compost bin locations, bike racks, hydration stations, and even a geothermal heat pump. You can find an interactive Eco-Map that spans all Tufts campuses here, and online versions of our other brochures here.  

A zero-waste event worker staffs her waste station at the Freshman Food Fair.

In addition to spreading awareness about sustainability at Tufts, the OOS worked to make Orientation itself more sustainable by diverting waste from landfills. Throughout the week, 34 students made 16 events zero-waste, meaning all waste accumulated was either recycled or composted. This effort diverted waste from landfills/incinerators from 14,000 meals. From these 14,000 meals, 232 bags of compost and 72 bags of recycling were collected. 

Pictured above is just a portion of the total 192 pounds of plastic film waste that was collected during Move-In this year.

Additionally, twenty of our Eco-Reps met and educated residents as they were moving into their dorms. The OOS also created seven new educational Move-In recycling signs and OOS workers collected 192 pounds of Move-In-related plastic film to be recycled into plastic benches through Trex.

Summer Donations Intern, Serena, coordinated pick up of the cleaned and tested items back from GradBag.

Last May during Move-Out, the OOS diverted three tractor-trailer loads of reusable items from the waste stream and worked with the non-profit GradBag to clean, test and organize them into another Back-to-School Sale. Incoming students served by the FIRST Resource Center, a community for first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students, were able to choose items first and without cost. About 75 of these students took advantage of these free goods to outfit their dorm rooms and collect winter clothing and other school supplies.

The Back-to-School sale had many things students may need to make Tufts home, including dorm decor and other festive goods.

The remaining items were sold back to returning students and staff on Labor Day. Several offices and organizations also benefitted from the recovered items: 

  • Tufts Mountain Club received sleeping bags and pads
  • Tufts Sports Medicine was given various crutches, braces, and weights
  • 233 items totaling 90 pounds of dishes were returned to Tufts Dining
  • Around 300 books were donated to More than Words, a job training and youth development program that employs Boston’s most vulnerable youth in their bookselling business
  • Non-perishable food donations were given to Project Soup, a Somerville food pantry
  • All current textbooks were offered to the FIRST Resource Center for low-income, first-generation and undocumented students to use. 

All in all, it was a very successful Move-In and Orientation Week for sustainability at Tufts. The OOS will continue to work to make more Orientation events zero-waste and to reuse as many items donated from Move-Out as possible to divert this waste from landfills. We will also work throughout the year on publicizing and monitoring Tufts’ sustainability initiatives—this is just the beginning!  

Blog post written by exiting Programs Intern, Celia Bottger.

Field Trip: Anaerobic Digester

On Friday, August 2, Eco-Ambassadors visited Jordan Dairy Farms Heifer Facility in Spencer, MA to learn about organics to energy anaerobic digestion. Jordan Dairy Farms partners with Vanguard Renewables, a company that engineers and operates anaerobic digesters, to repurpose food waste and manure as bedding and fertilizer. The trip demonstrated how closing the waste cycle can be cost effective and energy efficient.

John Hanselman, Executive Chairman of Vanguard Renewables, explains anaerobic digestion to the group.

Inputs: Vanguard Renewables’ food industry customers, including manufacturers, breweries, and grocery stores, send their depackaged food waste to Jordan Dairy Farms. The farm receives about 120 tons of food waste each day, between five and ten truckloads. The food waste is added to the first anaerobic digester, along with manure produced by the farm’s cows.

What Happens: Incoming organic waste is filtered for plastic and other solid contaminants, then mixed with waste already inside the first digester. The methanogens, or digesting bacteria, can only survive a 0.5 degree temperature change in a period of 12 hours, so convection keeps the mixture at a steady 104 degrees. Waste air passes through three successive filters– cedar chips, activated carbon, and carbon– to eliminate odors.

Above: Technicians conduct regular chemical tests to ensure correct pH and microbe levels.
Below: Pressurized tubes control digester heating and cooling.

After five days in the first digester, the mixture is transferred to the second digester, where it will spend 25 days. The organic waste is mixed at various heights throughout the digester to ensure uniform temperature and pH. 200 different sensors monitor the digester at all times. The biogas produced in the second digester is about 65% methane, with some carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. The gas is captured in two membranes stretched above the digester.

Membranes capture the methane gas given off by digestion.

Outputs: The gas is sent to a combustion engine connected to a generator, producing one megawatt of power every hour. The liquid is extracted from the digested waste and becomes organic fertilizer for crops, while the leftover solids become soft, dry bedding for cows. As part of their partnership, Vanguard Renewables shares all digestion products with Jordan Dairy Farms.

John shows the group handfuls of soft, dry bedding material produced from digestion.

Vanguard Renewables operates five anaerobic digesters on small, family dairy farms across Massachusetts, and receives food waste from 65% of Massachusetts food manufacturers. Anaerobic digestion diverts organic waste from the landfill and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from said waste by more than 85%. Anaerobic digestion shows that renewable technologies both protect the environment and stimulate the economy.

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