Author Archives: Robert Lynch

Saluting the Fletcher Sustainability Council!

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.

Zero Waste Week Challenge: Day 1

Today is the first day of the Tufts University Zero Waste Challenge and I am happy to report that, so far, I have accumulated zero waste! Of course, this won’t last long, as I am bound to pick up an individually wrapped peppermint from a restaurant’s greeter or mistakenly order a coffee served in a non-recyclable cup, but I am pleased with my progress thus far!

Unlike last year’s challenge, my goal with this year’s challenge will not be to accumulate as little waste as possible, but rather to test my knowledge about recycling, reuse, and composting on the Tufts campus and in our Massachusetts communities.

For example, I composted my brown paper napkins from lunch today. Did you know you could do that? Because, if not, now’s as good a time as any to start, and with ample compost bins on the Tufts Medford campus, it is not at all inconvenient to do so. I recycled today’s copy of the Daily and took advantage of scrap paper at my Office of Sustainability desk in lieu of clean notebook paper (of course, that too was recycled once I was finished with it). I even used reusable silverware and coffee mugs throughout the day, and took advantage of our campus’ plentiful water fountains to keep my reusable water bottle filled.

Thanks to Tufts’ commitment to being an environmentally sustainable campus, it is easier than ever to keep a zero waste challenge bag empty for a long period of time. If you too are up to the Zero Waste Week challenge, stop by Miller hall to pick up your one gallon bag. Pin or clip it to your backpack, satchel, or purse and keep up with everything you throw away that isn’t composted or recycled, or could have been avoided via reuse (i.e., plastic water bottles used instead of a reusable bottle).

And, don’t forget, on Wednesday, October 16th, at 12pm - bring your Zero-Waste challenge bag to the Academic Quad where the Eco-Reps will be making a pile of the Zero-Waste challenge bags alongside “Jumbo Mountains” -  piles of trash generated from 5 different residence halls in the past week– to demonstrate just how much of a difference being conscious of your consumption and waste can make.

The first 100 people to drop off their bags will get free cider donuts and cider, and one bag will be chosen at random to win a cool Terracycle backpack made of recycled material (so put your email address on the bag when you drop it off!)

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