Author Archives: Katherine Sawyer

Campus Sustainability Council update: Waste Working Group

Since the beginning of March, the three Working Groups of the Campus Sustainability Council have been meeting to discuss the current state of energy/emissions, water, and waste policies and practices at Tufts, and to create new policy measures in these areas.

The Waste Working Group met for the first time on March 12th and reviewed its roles and responsibilities, which include collaborating to create university-wide solid waste reduction/avoidance goals, presenting goals to the main Council for feedback and approval, and creating strategies to meet the goals, including implementation planning.

The group reviewed how Tufts manages its waste as well as consumption data. They learned that causes of waste output variations are usually hard to determine but that waste increases noticeably during a strong economy and times of high consumption, and that reduced consumption and reusing materials could impact waste output considerably. The group reviewed the waste breakdown for the past several years on the Boston and Medford campuses. Finally, the group looked into strategies for waste reduction. The waste management hierarchy follows, from most preferred to least preferred:

  • Source reduction and reuse
  • Recycling/composting
  • Energy recovery
  • Treatment and disposal

In the second meeting, the Waste Working Group decided to break down into smaller sub-groups, and the third meeting was spent working within those groups. The groups, along with their objectives, are:

  • Waste Management
    • To identify gaps and weaknesses in current waste management and address gaps, and to achieve uniformity in waste management practices wherever possible
    • Group will cover practices and metrics
  • Source Reduction
    • Group will impact waste reduction and responsible choices through purchasing contracts and client interface
  • Labs and Hospitals
    • Group will focus on laboratory and hospital waste management including animal facilities
  • Marketing and Education
    • Group will raise the level of awareness for waste reduction across all Tufts communities through behavior change

The working group members are now in the process of brainstorming goals and areas of policy change within their subgroups. Once this process is complete, the sub-groups will discuss their findings and the Waste Working Group will make a report to the Sustainability Council. The working group is co-chaired by Gretchen Kaufman, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Medicine in the Department of Environmental and Population Health and Director of the Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dawn Quirk, Waste Reduction Program Manager in Tufts Facilities Services.

As always, Tufts community members are welcome to add their own suggestions for the working group through the easy, on-line form available on the Office of Sustainability’s website.

Campus Sustainability Council update: Energy/Emissions Working Group

Since the beginning of March, the three Working Groups of the Campus Sustainability Council have been meeting bi-weekly to discuss the current state of energy/emissions, water, and waste policies and practices at Tufts, and to create new policy measures in these areas.

The Energy/Emissions Working Group met for the first time on March 15th and reviewed its roles and responsibilities, which include reviewing current energy usage and emissions, existing initiatives and goals, as well as creating recommendations for goals and implementation plans to present to the Campus Sustainability Council.

The group reviewed Tufts’ institutional commitments to energy and emissions reduction including the 1990 Talloires Declaration and Tufts Environmental Policy, the 1999 Climate Change Commitment to follow the Kyoto Protocol and reduce carbon dioxide levels to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, and the 2003 New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan with the goal to be 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75-85% below 2001 levels by 2050. The members also learned that many energy-saving initiatives at Tufts are already underway, including:

  • Occupancy sensors in most rooms on campus
  • Daylight sensing/dimming, lighting & controls
  • Ongoing technology updates include LED lighting
  • Equipment efficiency
  • State of the art boiler controls and boiler upgrades
  • Retro-commissioning of buildings
  • Heat-recovery programs
  • Energy Star vending machines & vending misers
  • Free CFL bulb exchange
  • IT upgrades (LCD screens, laptops)
  • Solar panels on Sophia Gordon Hall, Schmaltz House, Fairmount House
  • Management- Residence Hall winter break shut-down
  • Behavior modification
  • LEED Certification
  • Fuel Switching from oil to gas
  • Renewable energy such as solar and geothermal

The working group members discussed the differences between Tufts’ campuses energy use and emissions, life-cycle costing, ways to evaluate proposed solutions and appropriate metrics for evaluation. The group is in the final stages of assessing the current state of energy and emissions at Tufts and will soon move on to metrics and goal setting. The working group is co-chaired by Ann Rappaport, Lecturer at Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Betsy Isenstein, Director of Facilities Technical Services.

As always, Tufts community members are welcome to add their own suggestions for the working group through the easy, on-line form available on the Office of Sustainability’s website.

Make an impact: choose your food wisely

Source: Tufts Photo

Do you know where your food comes from? When you pick up an apple after lunch in the dining hall or go grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon, do you read labels to see if your food is local, organic, or whether it has traveled hundreds of miles to get to you?

Many of us don’t know the answers to these important questions, but we should. Every day, we vote – three times a day (probably more) – with our dollars based on what we choose to eat and consequently, the type of food industry we choose to support. In the growing battle between local, organic farming, and mass-produced international produce, most of us are unaware of how much power we have to make a difference. If you’re blindly picking the cheapest fruits and vegetables off the shelf, you may be unwittingly supporting poor labor practices and unfair working conditions, the use of untested pesticides, or corporate culture detrimental to communities. Not to mention, cheap food is often lacking in nutritional value—much of supermarket produce is artificially ripened and often genetically modified. (Did you hear about the petition asking Walmart not to sell unmarked, genetically modified engineered sweet corn from Monsanto?) When you choose cheap supermarket produce, you may not know the truth about the food you are purchasing.

Fortunately, though, it is becoming easier and more convenient to make good decisions about your food and the food producers you support.

Here at Tufts, there are a number of ways you can help support local, organic industry. Tufts Dining Services serves local, organic, and Fair Trade products in addition to vegetarian options, cage-free eggs, and certified sustainable seafood. By looking for these products and choosing to avoid options that are not sustainably produced, you can make healthier, more eco-friendly choices. In addition, you can leave comments in the dining halls requesting more sustainable products—Dining Services is very receptive to feedback and communicating that this is an issue that is important to you can have a large impact down the line. (The sale of single-serve bottled water was eliminated from Hodgdon thanks to a student petition.)

A sample of vegetables that comes with a farm share

Another option on campus this semester is to purchase a CSA farm share to support local farms. A CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, allows you to buy a share of a local farmer’s harvest. This is a great opportunity for consumers to invest in the local economy and purchase environmentally sustainable produce. This pilot program will run from February to April and you can get an individually packed box of fresh produce, delivered every Tuesday to the Office of Sustainability for pickup. There are different sizes available to suite different needs: a Small share (good for 1-2 people) is $24/week, Medium (good for 2-3 people) is $31/week, and Large (good for 4 or more people) is $42/week. The prices are very reasonable, especially when you consider how the CSA will replace the portion of your weekly grocery bill going to fruits and vegetables of questionable origin (and quality) with local, organic, fresh produce. To sign up, click here.

About Enterprise Farm

Enterprise Farm founder Dave Jackson and his family live onsite at the farm

Besides supporting local, organic agriculture, you will also be helping a wonderful social initiative. Enterprise Farm is an organic farm whose mission is to grow the best quality produce possible and care for their farmland in the process. They allow for direct farm-to-table purchasing by selling at farmer’s markets, through CSAs and in some local stores. By eliminating the middle man, they aim to sell fresh, high quality produce at low prices.
Enterprise Farm believes that great, fresh food is a right and helps families across the greater Boston area achieve this goal. They accept food stamps and donate produce to Food For Free in Cambridge, the Northampton Survival Center, and other food redistribution organizations. The farm has also created low-cost Senior Shares in partnership with Senior Whole Health to distribute to the elderly in Boston. Finally, the farm’s CSA-supported Mobile Market traveled to low-access communities in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, and Middlesex counties last summer with with fresh, local produce and a portable EBT machine. Through all of their initiatives, Enterprise Farm is helping advocate food justice and sustainability.

So, the next time you eat in the dining hall or go for a cup of coffee, think about all of the options available to you and the impact of your choices. Every decision you make about what to eat can either positively or negatively impact not only your own health, but the health and sustainability of the food systems upon which we all rely.

Green Gifts Guide

This holiday season, when considering what to give your loved ones, why not show some appreciation for the planet as well? With the growing popularity of green gifts, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list. To help, websites such as Inhabitat and the Huffington Post have compiled guides specialized for different kinds of gift recipients.

When looking for a special gift for her, think organic cotton, hand knit scarves and gloves, or recovered and repurposed metal necklaces and earrings. These options provide, stylish, personal gifts that won’t impact the environment as much as your everyday accessories. Organic fabric scarves and pendants made from recycled metal are good bets. For him, look for organic shaving and body products, or eco-friendly tech gadgets and accessories. From eco-friendly body kits to shave kits with natural oils, there are great options that won’t harm the planet. In terms of gadgets, think recycled felt ipad cases, stylish watches made from corn resin, or wooden earbuds that not only boost sound but cut down on plastic. When it comes to the food lover in your life, go for recycled material bottles or glasses, or even a hand powered espresso maker. Definitely don’t forget about Mom and Dad this holiday season; we’ve got them covered too with a selection of sustainable products to beautify the home and amp up the kitchen. Go for a plant or mushroom growing kit, cork bowl or cork and bamboo chopping block, or even a bird house to spruce up the home. Even if you’re shopping for a child, you can still go green. Kids are sure to love recycled-content alphabet crayons, a toy school bus made from recycled milk jugs, or eco-dough—sure to provide hours of entertainment.

So, whatever you choose to give this year, remember that it is possible to not only find the perfect gift, but also to buy responsibly and support a more sustainable world. Give back in every way this season with thoughtful, sustainable gifts for everyone on your list.

Dec. 1, 2: OneWorld Global Crafts Bazaar

Join OneWorld on December 2nd between 11:00AM and 4:30PM in the Mayer Campus Center for the Third Annual OneWorld Global Crafts Bazaar. The OneWorld Bazaar brings together student groups, local artisans, students and faculty in efforts to raise awareness about fair trade and global inequality. Join over 20 student groups and 5 local vendors to browse hundreds of local and global fair trade crafts and food products. With this year’s theme, Fair Trade and Socially Responsible Consumption, the bazaar will help you think about how to “Vote With Your Dollar” as you get a head start on holiday shopping. Enjoy free food from local restaurants, support artisans around the world, and learn more about ways you can be a more responsible consumer in the future! For more information check out our website www.oneworldtufts.com or email dahlia.norry@gmail.com.

Where did the idea of “fair trade” come from? Who decides what is fair? What do all those labels and certifications mean, anyway? How do you know that your purchase actually is “fair”? Elizabeth Bennett, PhD candidate at Brown University and Fletcher alum (MALD ’08) will answer these questions and more in her lecture at 7:30 on December 1st in Cabot 205.  Our discussion will include a history of fair trade, a comprehensive explanation of how fair trade certification works, a summary of current debate and controversies in fair trade, and guidance on how to be a fair trade and socially responsible consumer.  For students interested in learning more about what the commonly-used term ‘fair trade’ actually means, or who would like to get involved in the fair trade movement, this lecture will be both interesting and instructive! For more information email check out our website www.oneworldtufts.com or email Molly.Weinstein@tufts.edu .