Sustainability at Tufts

sustainability.tufts.edu

Category: Climate (page 1 of 9)

Mitigating the Urban Heat Island Effect, MIT Climate CoLab (Cambridge, MA)

MIT’s Climate CoLab  and the City of Cambridge are currently running a contest that seeks fresh, innovative approaches on what to do about the urban heat island effect in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Tufts Releases Progress Report on Campus Sustainability

2014 Tufts Sustainability Progress Report

2014 Tufts Sustainability Progress Report

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Tufts University has released its 2014 Campus Sustainability Progress Report, a year after the Campus Sustainability Council issued a report presenting recommendations for the university in the areas of waste, water, and energy use and emissions. The council, established by Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco in 2012, includes students, faculty and staff from across Tufts’ three Massachusetts campuses.

The 2014 progress report highlights sustainability-related developments and achievements made over the past year, including the creation of an energy master plan for the Medford/Somerville campus, establishment of a solid waste minimization program, and improvements in the capital planning process to integrate sustainable design principles in planning construction projects.

“Universities play a vital role in helping the world address challenging environmental issues such as climate change and resource depletion, and sustainability is a strategic priority for me and for Tufts,” said Monaco. “The Campus Sustainability Progress Report shows how our university community has worked together to make significant strides toward achieving many of the recommendations put forth by the Campus Sustainability Council in 2013. We want to build on that momentum and continue to be a leader in the area of sustainability in higher education.”

The report highlights a wide range of current and upcoming sustainability initiatives across the university, among them:

  • The installation of water- and energy-conservation features like Tufts’ first rain garden, an electric vehicle charging station, and solar arrays planned on in both the Medford/Somerville and Grafton campuses;
  • A transportation working group focused on reducing the impact of Tufts-related travel and improving access to multiple modes of transportation to the community;
  • LEED™ certification of two more spaces at Tufts – the Biology Collaborative Cluster at 200 Boston Avenue in Medford and the Sackler building in Boston; certification is also planned for two upcoming projects: renovation of a warehouse at 574 Boston Avenue, Medford, into an classrooms and teaching labs, and proposed construction of a Science and Engineering  Complex near the School of Engineering
  • Enhanced recycling programs which handle laboratory-specific material like Styrofoam™.

Despite 38% growth in Tufts’ built environment since 1990, the university’s greenhouse gas emissions per square foot have decreased 27%. Tufts formally adopted goals in the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan in 2003; these goals call for reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, a goal Tufts has achieved; reducing them to at least 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 75-85% below 2001 levels by 2050. The Campus Sustainability Council reaffirmed these goals by committing to the Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas reduction goals, which include a target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Tufts is also working to reduce and reuse waste and cut water consumption. The university’s current recycling and composting programs mean Tufts already complies  with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s waste bans.  Water consumption across all campuses decreased in 2013, while the stormwater regulation features of our ongoing construction projects are designed to exceed federal and state requirements.

“While the university has made great progress, there is still much to do,” said Tina Woolston, Tufts’ Sustainability Program director.  “In addition to highlighting our achievements, our annual report talks about important next steps for Tufts. Examples include performing waste audits on the Grafton campus,  installing a heat recovery system on the Boston campus, and opening more freecycle stations so that students on the Medford/Somerville campus can exchange reusable items this summer.”

To read the progress report and learn more about Tufts’ sustainability programs, visit the Tufts Office of Sustainability website at sustainability.tufts.edu.

Enter the Sustainable Campus Int’l Competition!

The second edition of the Sustainable Campus International Competition (SCIC) is open for free registration online. This is an opportunity for students worldwide to transform their academic learning into real world actions and impacts. They are invited to design and apply a tool, system or practise that addresses sustainability issues relevant to their campus.
SCIC is designed as an 18-month competition. Students are asked to develop a sustainability project they can implement within their campuses and communities within one academic year. The strongest projects will forecast tangible impacts by the end of the academic year, though the projects may and are encouraged to continue in the future. The student teams will be judged for their ability to improve sustainability impacts
based on specific metrics, the strength of their engagement strategy with stakeholders and the overall quality of the project presented.
The SCIC 2014 international jury panel will be presided by the CEO of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) Iain Patton, and he declares that: “Revolution is in the air and the SCIC is at the heart of the new student-driven and staff-supported sustainability mandate that is empowering students to unleash their transformative potential”.
Students will receive online support and mentorship throughout the development of their project. The top three finalist teams will participate in an online final presentation and judging session. The SCIC will award $CAN 3,000 to the team that is selected by the judges as the strongest project. All teams are encouraged to implement their projects and submit a project assessment by July 2015 for a chance to gain further recognition.

Student Sustainability Program Adviser, U Illinois Urbana-Champaign

DEADLINE: October 14th, 2013

The Illini Union at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is seeking a talented student affairs professional to serve as a Program Advisor in the Student Programs and Activities Office.  Founded in 1867, the Illinois campus is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions. It is one of the top comprehensive research public universities in the nation. The successful candidate will be working on a campus with an academically talented and diverse student population, including 19 percent international students, 12 percent Asian American students, 5 percent African American students and 6 percent Hispanic/Latino students from a total enrollment over 42,000 students.  As the community center of the University, the Illini Union draws together all members of the University with approximately 16,000 visits of students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests on a daily basis.

Learn more!

Tufts Eco-Ambassadors Take on Styrofoam Mountain

Styrofoam seems to be a perpetual nightmare for environmentalists. A petroleum-based plastic foam consisting mostly of air, it can’t be composted or thrown in with most municipal recycling programs, but for many uses it remains the only practical product.

For example, when departments at Tufts order biomaterials, gel packs or dry ice, styrofoam is the only feasible shipping option, as it keeps the materials cool. Enter Emily Edwards, a staff member in the Chemical and Bioengineering Department, and Abbey Licht, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, both of whom became Eco-Ambassadors in 2011 at the Science and Technology Center on our Medford campus. They grew curious when they noticed those unmistakable white shipping containers piling up outside labs and classrooms in their hallway: Could they redirect styrofoam away from landfills?

To assess how much actual need existed, Edwards and Licht began collecting the boxes from the SciTech building in a storage room. After just a month, sixty boxes had accumulated.

Hoping that a solution might already exist on campus, they first talked to Dawn Quirk, the Waste Reduction Program Manager in the Facilities Services Department, about recycling the styrofoam shipping containers. Unfortunately, while the Tufts Recycles program accepts a wide variety of glass, plastic, and metal items, styrofoam can’t go into our green bins.

Above: a month of styrofoam.

Edwards and Licht knew of a local company that would recycle the styrofoam. ReFoamIt, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, compacts the styrofoam into logs at a plant in Rhode Island, then ships it away to be turned into toys and other consumer products.  But Edwards and Licht were also aware that the boxes they were storing were at least 89% air. Could they somehow reduce the volume of the styrofoam to make for easier storage and more efficient transportation? If they handled the styrofoam themselves, would the environmental impact be lower than that of ReFoamIt’s trips to Rhode Island?

Both admit that they are first and foremost engineers, not chemists. Still, like students tackling a science class project, Edwards and Licht dove right in. They first experimented with physical change, recruiting volunteers to smash the styrofoam. They employed mallets and even had the volunteers jumping up and down on top of the boxes – but despite how light and airy styrofoam may seem, Edwards says, it’s a much harder material than one would think, and after hours of work there was little significant volume reduction. The exhausted volunteers placed the styrofoam chunks into bags to be picked up by ReFoamIt.

Not to be discouraged, Edwards and Licht next sought to turn the styrofoam back into a hard, dense plastic. Their first method was chemical: they placed pieces of the styrofoam in cups of acetone, which reduced the plastic to a goopy slime that hardened once the acetone evaporated. While the process resulted in a significant volume reduction, one bag of smashed styrofoam boxes required a whole gallon of acetone, which then evaporated into the air, so significant ventilation was required during the experiment. Moreover, the bottom of a tray of the hardening plastic took months to dry.

Above: a bag of styrofoam boxes, and the equivalent amount of hardened plastic after melting in acetone. The ratio of the volumes was about 50 to 1.

Next, Edwards and Licht melted styrofoam in a large oven at 464 degrees Fahrenheit. This experiment also successfully reduced the volume, but the process produced powerful fumes which filled the lab and the connected hallway. Moreover, only a certain amount of styrofoam could fit into the oven at a given time, so Edwards and Licht needed to open the oven periodically to add more foam, losing heat in the process.

Above: the result of melting styrofoam in an oven. The volume reduction was about the same as in the acetone experiment.

Finally, Edwards and Licht investigated alternatives to styrofoam. After hearing a story on NPR, Edwards ordered an Ecovative box made out of a mix of mushrooms and straw grown into a mold. The box’s weight is similar to that of styrofoam, but Edwards notes that the box has a slight smell and an unusual texture that might not appeal to the general public. So while the mushroom box was an interesting innovation, Edwards couldn’t see a widespread application for them at Tufts.

Above: the mushroom boxes from Ecovative.

 

Ultimately, Edwards and Licht determined that the most efficient, affordable and safe way to dispose of the accumulated styrofoam would be to set up a partnership with Save That Stuff, another local recycling company with which Tufts already has a relationship. Quirk organized a monthly pick-up arrangement, and it has been running smoothly ever since.

Above: sacks of styrofoam waiting for Save That Stuff.

Even though they weren’t able to find an effective way to minimize the styrofoam before sending it away, Licht and Edwards seem satisfied with the results. Licht mentions that until they started collecting the boxes in one room, she had never really thought about how much styrofoam the building used or where it all went. (Prior to their initiatives, it all went into the trash.) They seem eager to find where else this model can be applied at Tufts – there are bound to be other sites of potential improvement that go under the radar, undetected until someone dares to ask whether there might be another way.

Moving forward, Edwards and Licht and Tufts Recycles! are hoping to expand the use of the system they have established at SciTech to collect the styrofoam from labs at the Gordon Institute (200 Boston Avenue) and from the biology department.

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