At the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, a group of students and staff are working together to promote environmentally sustainable practices and serve as advocates for change at the nation’s oldest graduate school for international affairs. The Fletcher Sustainability Council (FSC), launched in September 2012, was formed to “bring together Fletcher stakeholders, talent, and authority to discuss, plan, and act on sustainability initiatives in a well-planned and cost-effective manner.” In just under two years, they have done just that, leaving an already noticeable mark on the day-to-day lives of Fletcher students, faculty, and staff.
Perhaps the most visible of their initiatives takes the form of a recently installed water bottle filling station in the school’s Hall of Flags – a public space used as a gathering place between classes and a reception area for visitors. This station, along with several counter-top tap water filtration systems in faculty areas, have served to nearly eliminate the use of water coolers and bottled water in the halls of the Fletcher School.
The Fletcher Sustainability Council has also worked to improve the environmental sustainability of the Mugar Café, a popular lunch destination and lounge for Fletcher students. Instead of disposable dishware and eating utensils, students are encouraged to use washable and reusable items, even if they are just getting a cup of coffee or a glass of water. The café has areas for its customers to properly compost their food waste and recycle any paper or plastics they use. Students took quickly to this initiative, especially after the council encouraged professors Kelly Sims Gallagher and Bill Moomaw to promote recycling and composting at Mugar, and unnecessary waste at Mugar Café has dropped precipitously.
What makes this group so strong is their ability to bring together students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders in the spirit of a common mission. This makes the group especially nimble, creative, and influential as agents of change at the Fletcher School. A story that best demonstrates this is one regarding their push to introduce more recycling receptacles throughout Cabot, Goddard, and Mugar Halls on the Tufts campus.
When approached about the introduction of more recycling receptacles, the Fletcher administration was hesitant to move away from the traditional aesthetic of their existing round, metal garbage bins, and pushed back on the idea of purchasing more rectangular, plastic recycling receptacles which are common on the Tufts campus. To address this challenge, the Fletcher Sustainability Collective cleverly offered to paint existing trash receptacles blue and green to create bins for recycling paper, cardboard, plastic, and metals. These bins would match the size and shape of the bins Fletcher already uses, and could then be placed alongside the existing brown bins to create a uniform aesthetic
To make this possible, the council has been working closely with Tufts Facilities and the Fletcher Administration, and in the near future this project will be fully complete. The receptacles are expected to reduce the unnecessary waste produced by the Fletcher School as well as serve as a visible reminder to Tuft’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Fletcher Sustainability Council’s solution to this problem was innovative, creative, efficient, cost-effective, and achieved through buy-in from several stakeholders, all qualities which prove that they are a true agent for positive change on the Tufts campus.
Other successes of the Fletcher Sustainability Council include:
· Fletcher’s orientation being a week-long zero waste event for the first time
· FSC providing Fletcher student group leaders with special green event training
· The design of new signs and leverage of social media to inform and influence behavior
· Their working with Fletcher staff to have the school’s various offices become Tufts Green Office Certified
Even the “little things” can show that they are affecting positive change on campus, such as “the majority of staff bringing their own mugs to meetings rather than using the paper cups provided,” explains Dan Hurwitt, a Technology Assistant at Fletcher and a member of FSC. According to Hurwitt, “money has been saved [and] waste has drastically reduced,” and if his enthusiasm is any indicator, the Fletcher Sustainability Council’s work is still far from over.