Category: Sustainability News (page 3 of 41)

First International Flyingless Conference

Image from Professor Wilde’s Twitter Account @flyingless.

On Friday April 28, 2017, Professor Parke Wilde from the Friedman School—in collaboration with Tufts Professors Richard Auner in Music and Ani Patel in Psychology, graduate students Mehreen Ismail, Victoria Chase, and Ola Ozernov-Palchik, and Professor Mary Farbood from NYU, Andrea Norton from Beth Israel Deaconess, graduate students Maximilian Burkard and Nils Meyer Kahlen, and Professor Richard Parncutt in Graz, Austria—put on the first international flyingless conference called the Global Arts and Psychology Seminar (GAPS). This event was created with support from David Kahle, the Chief Information Officer; Tina Woolston, the Director of the Office of Sustainability; and Bill O’Brien, a Multimedia Specialist. With audiences in Graz, Austria; Sydney, Australia; Sheffield, England; La Plata, Argentina; and Boston, MA, USA, GAPS was quite a successful event.

So why a flyingless conference? Well, Professor Wilde explains this event as a hopeful one in the times of climate change. He continues that communities of universities must be leaders, yet contribute to climate change in traveling to conferences to share research and knowledge. This conference aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a lifestyle change in the academic world. He believes that while some may claim these changes are impossible or will hinder economic activity, “thoughtful people will innovate new ways of living prosperously that have less impact on the environment.”

Part of the solution can come through the many ways we can find fulfillment with minimal impact on the environment. Professor Wilde encourages his audience to think of the list of things that bring joy and happiness without being resource intensive. The professor points to music, mental health, and well-being, a direct link to the topic of the conference that before may have seemed out of place. The professor makes it clear the connection the environment has to so many other fields of studies and aspects of life.

He reminds everyone involved and participating in GAPS, “here today, you are part of something important.”

View the GAPS here:



Amazing Classes on Civic Engagement, Social Justice, and the Environment

If you are still unsure of what classes to take this coming year, and your interests lie in civic engagement, activism, social justice, and environmental protection, take a peek at the following list for the Fall’s courses. All of these courses offer the opportunity to see where environmental activism links to other important movements working for protections in our political systems.

Fall 2017:

ENV 110/HIST 170- Environmental Humanities

This course focuses on place-based knowledge, land ethics, indigenous knowledge, and traditional ecological knowledge, to social change, justice, narrative conventions, and connections with science and technology including contributions from indigenous and local communities. Primary source analysis will include literature, historical texts, and visual works.

HIST 128/PJS 128 – Civil Rights Movement

This course examines the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States and its impact on race relations, politics, society, and culture. Topics discussed during the semester include debates over non-violence vs. self-defense; integration vs. separatism; protest vs. politics; Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm X. The movement’s geographic, racial, and ideological diversity will also be explored, as will the evolution from civil rights to Black Power.

PJS 0099 -Internship- Social Change

This course utilizes supervised fieldwork in a wide range of community, peace, justice, and social change organizations. Readings, guided group discussions, and written reports integrate analysis and experience. Recommendations: PJS 1, one intermediate course each from core areas A through D, and one intermediate course from core area E which may be taken simultaneously.

PJS-0135/AMER-0050-01/SOC-0135-01Social Movements

This course analyses circumstances under which organized efforts by the powerless to affect history are attempted. The course studies the motivations, processes, and impact of social movements and reviews major perspectives in the field. Selected use of films to illustrate major themes.

ENVS 195-01/FMS 94-04/TCS 94 – Media and Environment: CREATING CHANGE

Now, more than ever, the environment needs engaged informed and skilled advocates. This class will explore current issues ranging from the Dakota Pipeline, to deforestation, to pollution of the oceans, to climate change, and give you ways to sharpen your skills to use the media for getting out effective and targeted messages. We’ll be bringing in a diverse group of important environmental advocates, organizers, filmmakers and journalists as guest speakers who will tell their stories of creating environmental awareness and change. Our focus includes the powerful role media can play in giving voice to underrepresented voices and illuminating issues of environmental justice. Learn to make a difference in local, national and global communities on the environmental issues that are most pressing.

SOC 0111/PJS 0111 – Making Social Change Happen

Social change and social justice work often begins at the local level. Historic struggles of workers, racial-ethnic groups, women, immigrants, low income people, and others started in local communities. This course focuses on theories and practices of community-based activism and local grassroots organizing. Why and how do people organize? What are the limits and potential of grassroots organizing? How do grassroots efforts connect to larger social change and to politics?

PS 099: Fieldwork in Politics: Fieldwork in Local Government

Internship placements with such employers as legislators, campaigns, news media, lobbies, law   firms, and administrative agencies. Twelve to fifteen hours of work per week. Written assignments, with supporting readings, on organizational structure, goals and strategies, and occupational socialization.

This spring the following courses were offered, so keep an eye out for them when registering for classes next spring!
Spring 2017:

English/ENV 160 Environmental Justice and World Lit

Who is most hurt by environmental degradation and abuse and who benefits? In this course we’ll examine what contemporary world literature has to say about environmental racism, ecofeminism, toxic colonialism, homophobia and the social construction of nature, globalization, food justice, and urban ecological issues. We will ask: What is the role of art in the struggle for social change?

This course meets a number of articulated English Department objectives, especially in its  emphasis on critical thinking, historical and socio-political contexts, and diverse aesthetics. Above all, the goal of this course is empowerment for social change. How can each of us participate as a change agent in the struggle for environmental justice, locally and globally? How can our understanding of literature contribute? Group work, a field trip, one paper, and active class discussion will be important parts of the course.

PS 108: Public Opinion and US Democracy (M)

Addresses the impact of public opinion in the United States on the political process and vice versa. Emphasis is on the linkage between U.S. citizens and the democratic process. Examines what public opinion is and debates about how it can be measured. Topics include the nature of attitude formation, stability and change; the role of the media in opinion-formation; the link between attitudes and behavior; group differences in opinions; how elites influence mass opinions; political inequality; polarization; and the relationship between public opinion and policy outcomes. Requires the completion of any PS foundation course (PS 11, 21, 41, 42, or 61).

PS 118-02: Organizing For Social Change

This course will trace community organizing to some of its early roots in the United States, as well as drawing connections between community organizing and other movements, including the labor, civil rights, and environmental movements. Presentations and discussions with other Boston area community organizers will be included as will be opportunities to visit with and observe local community-based organizations.

PS 118-03: Massachusetts State Government: Learning While Doing

Students will be placed in one of a dozen State House offices—for a legislator, committee, in the governor’s office, or for an executive branch agency—to serve in a policy-focused internship. These experiences will be supplemented with a class built around discussion of shared experiences, as well as on the interplay between policy and politics. The primary goal is for 3 students to develop real world skills and a deeper understanding of how politics and policy intersect to create law, regulatory programs, and social change.

Pack It In Pack It Out 2k17

Tufts’ move out team had a strong season in 2016, demonstrating great team work and drive. The program came to us with the new name Pack-A-Dorm, a play on the Tufts Jumbo mascot, the name is easier to remember and reminds residents to pack, not chuck! This program aims to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill as recycling or donations. Social media and video content helped to promote the team’s efforts in informing the community about move out.

Let’s begin by looking at the highlights. Last Spring, around 3700 students moved out of over 30 on campus residences in two weeks. With the help of 4 staff members and 36 student workers for close to 600 hours to collect 18,000 pounds of donations for Goodwill, 13,874pounds of clothing donations for Community Recycling, and 719 pounds of food donations for Project Soup, a local food pantry. Move out 2016 successfully diverted about 23.42% of all waste from the landfill.

The strategy was straight-forward—set up collection stations in each dorm for students to deposit unwanted materials for donation, collect and sort these materials, and donate to charities. Students dropping off materials at the collection station were surprised with gift cards and the chance to enter a raffle to win a gift basket from the bookstore.

Some of the prizes gifted as positive reinforcement for individuals diverting waste from the landfill during move out.

Some of the challenges Pack-A-Dorm faced are being addressed with changes to the lineup this season. It became evident that many students aren’t aware of how much stuff they have and what to do with it. As one student worker, Ashlyn Salvage A17, noted, “moving in, you never think of moving out.  Students don’t think through the things they buy.” Another worker, Megan Mooney A18, remarked that she will now “think more about the things I buy and use, and what I really need.” Student residents tended to toss or donate big-ticket items that could easily be stored and reused the next year. This included things like rugs, mirrors, printers, and microwaves, all very useful products that in the words of Ben Kesslen A18, “people just threw away.” As may be evident, all this waste is avoidable and unsustainable, but not just environmentally. There is another side to consider before leaving behind a mess of waste for other people to clean up, and that is responsibility and accountability. As Ashlyn explains, last year, “I just thought someone would pick up my stuff but now I see how much work goes into move out.”

Student move out workers taking away donated goods from residence halls.

This year marks new changes and improvements for the program, starting with a new slogan to emphasize the importance of cleaning up after yourself and reducing your waste—Pack It In, Pack It Out. Anything you bring into the residence hall, you should bring back out—either for storage, donation, recycling, compost, or trash. This mantra reminds students of their responsibility to leave no mess and to waste less. Not to worry, the student workers will still be around to help direct students moving out to different waste stations across campus, granting surprise prizes to those who work to divert waste, and providing moving carts to make it easy to get your stuff to one of the move out stations. Co-locating collection for shipping, storing, recycling, and donating makes it as convenient as throwing something away, because you just need to bring all your stuff to one location.

With less than two months to move-out, start thinking about what you have in your dorm rooms, what you will need for next year, and what you can donate. Keep an eye out for the yellow move out hats.

Tufts Student Studies Sustainability and Food Systems in Italy

PERUGIA, Italy — “So many people told me that the most important thing I could do at Tufts would be to study abroad. Tufts really focuses on intercultural communication and awareness,” said Alex Cherry from his seat at a café in the center of Perugia, Italy. Alex is pursuing a Dual Major in International Relations and Environmental Studies at Tufts University, though he is currently studying abroad through the Food & Sustainability Studies Program (FSSP) at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program in Italy.

At Tufts, Alex says that his educational background has had a focus on the science and policy of environmental studies, while at Umbra “the focus has been more on cultural identity and the contrasting ways that different societies produce and consume food.” Umbra’s FSSP is a curricular concentration that applies an interdisciplinary approach to the study of food and sustainability in order to discover how the individual, the community, and society relate to food in Italy, America, and elsewhere. As part of the program, Alex has taken courses in the history and culture of food, sustainability and food production, and the business of wine.

A key characteristic of the FSSP is that all courses include a series of co- and extra-curricular activities as a supplement to topics discussed in class. To develop a deep understanding of various food production processes, Alex has spent his semester cooking an antique Roman recipe in Florence; exploring an ancient pharmacy to learn about the medicinal characteristics of food; touring multiple, family-run, organic wineries and cheese producers; working in a synergistic garden; and visiting local farmers’ markets. He has also had the opportunity to go truffle- hunting in the hills of Umbria and discuss organic agriculture with Matteo Bartolini, a lobbyist for the European Agricultural Commission for Sustainable Agricultural Reform. When asked what he thought of the flurry of community engagement activities that filled his semester, Alex responded, “What’s the point of being a student? Why am I studying? It is so that I can be trained in a professional way so that I can go and do something for the community that I am a part of.”

In addition to his courses within the FSSP, Alex chose to compliment his semester studies with CESP 351: Fair Trade Practices: Seminar and Practicum. During the course’s practicum, Alex works in a local fair trade shop and assists with the advertisement of events that promote fair trade concepts to the locals of Perugia. He commented that the shop’s community is welcoming to volunteers of all backgrounds, including locals with mental or physical disabilities. “The whole ethos of what they do is making sure that everyone is getting what they deserve, to create a community space,” said Alex as he described how the fundamentals of fair trade translate into the shop’s community. During the seminar portion of the course, the class reviews the impact of fair trade on both local and global economies, the place for fair trade inside the global market, and the role of the World Fair Trade Organization. Readings and discussions offer comparative analysis of Italian and American perspectives on global markets and the complexities of communicating such a topic across cultures.

As he ended his conversation with Umbra staff, Alex explained that he feels it is important for students of an interdisciplinary field, such as food and environmental studies, to learn to have a well-rounded perspective that discounts neither science nor culture and history. He concluded saying, “I am really glad that I got to see both the Italian and American perspective [on food systems] at the same time and in the same place.”

About Food & Sustainability Studies at the Umbra Institute:

The Food & Sustainability Studies Program is an interdisciplinary curricular concentration at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses. For more information about the Umbra Institute or its Food & Sustainability Studies Program, contact the associate director of the Program, Zachary Nowak ( You can also watch a short video describing studying at the Umbra Institute.

Overcoming Road Blocks to Addressing Climate Change


In February, Tina Woolston, the Program Director of the Office of Sustainability, attended the Second Nature 2017 Presidential Climate Leadership Summit to represent Tufts. President Monaco signed the Commitment on Earth Day of April 2016, making the university a charter signatory. I sat down to talk with her about her experience and reflect on how the office and Tufts can incorporate the insights gathered at the conference.

We began our conversation with some of the more novel ideals she gathered from various talks and workshops. These included:

It is evident that the world needs to take action and make change now to prevent catastrophic damage to the environment and irrevocable harm to the human species.

Tina heard a recurring theme throughout the conference of the ways democracy and civic engagement are vital to the environmental movement, and how this is an opportunity for universities, including Tufts, “to teach students how to be effective civil agents” as well as for faculty to inform policy as unbiased experts. David Orr, Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College on Sustainability and the Environment, a speaker at the conference, warned that we are facing a “challenge to the fabric of democracy right now.” He explains that democracy needs to be functional and robust for climate action to succeed, which is very difficult in a time of the fake news and alternative facts that encourage inaction nationwide. The President of George Washington University, Steven Knapp, described the importance of restoring a focus on the state of democracy and civics. Sustainability in higher education concerns the effective connection between environmentalism, social issues, and civic engagement as a mobilizing force.

Tufts has a long history of valuing civic engagement from Fletcher School Alum Peter Ackerman’s International Center for Nonviolent Conflict which teaches about activism through the history of nonviolent protests to the Tisch Scholars’ Foundations class on civic engagement techniques. Tina also mentioned the potential for future workshops and symposiums to find common ground and support networks in the Tufts community that will bridge divides of movements, from human rights, to social justice, to global health, to security, to the environment and climate change, as they are all connected. In fact, the most effective climate messaging discusses impacts to human quality of life, not necessarily sustainability or the environment, which can be seen as only affecting a limited amount of people in another time or place.

Tina also saw a presentation about how Princeton University strengthened its sustainability ethos by creating a 30 year campus plan that is informed by its sustainability plan and its comprehensive utility plan.  During the planning process Princeton started each conversation about its priorities with a look at the desired impact the planners wished to have outside of the university environment. This led to planning that incorporated a reduction in environmental footprint, prioritization of environmentally related research to influence policy, and creating university policies to protect and stand up for those impacted by environmental degradation.

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