COP26 and You: How Global Discussions on Climate Relate to Life at Tufts

Hope, frustration, and urgency have all come out of COP26 along with updated commitments to accelerate climate solutions. But how does a massive convening of world leaders, climate activists, and global key players affect life at Tufts?

While the consequences of climate change span across the world, students, staff, and faculty here at Tufts are researching and implementing projects to reduce waste and emissions, fight for equal access to a clean planet, and work towards national and global climate goals. Below we explain the commitments agreed upon in the Glasgow Climate Pact signed at COP26 and how these are playing out on your campus.

Science and Urgency: Nations at COP26 agreed not only to “fully embed science in the decision-making process” when it comes to climate action, but to act in accordance with the urgency that is needed to achieve the goals laid out by climate science. This includes urgency to reduce global warming as we near the 1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature rise limit.

At Tufts, there is a Sustainability Council made up of faculty, staff, and students that are working to identify climate issues that are most impactful to the Tufts community and set goals to address these issues in alignment with climate science and global climate goals. You can also hear directly from the Tufts delegation of students and faculty that attended COP26 about their observations and attitudes towards climate urgency at the conference.

Five Tufts students stand facing the camera with U.S. Senator Edward Markey
Tufts delegates at the U.N. climate conference met with U.S. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts. Photo: TuftsNow

Climate Adaptation: Nations agreed to “reduce vulnerability, strengthen resilience and increase the capacity of people and the planet to adapt to the impacts of climate change.” Specifically, this includes upholding the climate adaptation goals of the Paris Climate Agreement (signed in 2015) and committing to tracking, communicating, and enhancing global progress on climate adaptation.

A group of people sitting in a room listen to someone speaking about climate resiliency
The Medford/Somerville campus community resilience building workshop held on May 3, 2018. Photo: Adam Whelchel/TNC.

In 2018, Tufts conducted a climate resiliency workshop and assessment at the Medford/Somerville campus and in 2020 conducted one at the Boston campus. Here, Tufts community members identified potential climate emergencies that Tuft’s campuses are vulnerable to and created recommendations to address these vulnerabilities.

Climate Mitigation: Nations agreed to accelerate actions that reduce their emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. These actions include, but are not limited to, decreasing coal power and other fossil fuels, reevaluating emissions reduction goals, annual reporting on progress towards long-term goals, and an invitation for nations to submit long-term strategies to reach “net zero by mid-century”.

In 2016, President Monaco signed the Second Nature Climate Leadership Commitment, which committed Tufts to reach zero carbon emissions no later than 2050. The Office of Sustainability conducts annual reports on our progress towards this goal and The Tufts University Operations Division recently published an Energy & Water data dashboard showing yearly energy emissions data.

You can take part in this effort to reach zero carbon by 2050 with simple daily climate actions!

Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from energy use and the university vehicle fleet over a 30-year period.

Finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for mitigation and adaptation: Overall, the participating nations at COP26 recognized the importance of working collaboratively, raising funds, and sharing knowledge and resources on how best to approach climate mitigation and adaptation. They agreed to continue discussing plans on how to collectively finance mitigation and adaptation strategies through 2027. While action on this issue lags, these funds are critical for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries who tend to experience the most severe consequences of climate change and need adaptation strategies in place to survive.

The Fletcher School’s Climate Policy Lab (CPL) researches climate policies to evaluate their “financial mobilization, economic efficiency, environmental effectiveness, and equity” in order to identify effective ways for governments to fund mitigation and adaptation strategies. The Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning graduate school is also at the forefront of researching and recommending best practices for climate solutions within the “intersection of planning, policy and social justice”.

Sign up for the Office of Sustainability’s webinar in December focused on fossil fuel divestment and the endowment at Tufts to hear more about how finance intersects with the environment.

Loss and Damage: Loss and damage refers to the effects of climate change that are difficult to avoid and includes severe consequences such as “loss of lives, livelihoods and ecosystems”. Nations at COP26 endorsed the need for more money to be provided to help minimize loss and damage and created a plan for discussions on how such funds will be used and given out.

Ways to address loss and damage have been hotly debated in recent years and Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School, talks about the difficulties in reaching a consensus about loss and damage solutions in her analysis of the COP26 outcomes.

Implementation: Nations further refined the rules of the Paris Climate Agreement (signed in 2015) and plans to assess the implementation of the goals laid out in the agreement.

In 2017, President Monaco signed on to the We Are Still In joint statement saying that, despite the federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the nation remains committed to climate action and meeting its climate goals. Tufts has also signed on to a number of climate commitments aimed at energy, waste, emissions, and much more that are being implemented by an array of departments and student groups across all of our campuses.

Collaboration: Nations committed to including youth, people of all genders, and indigenous communities in climate action. They also recognized the importance of nature in climate solutions and agreed to focus on both land and ocean climate action.

Many Tufts community members are working on researching and integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into their environmental work (including this UEP graduate thesis on inclusive evacuation during climate emergencies). The Tufts Office of Sustainability recently drafted a plan to address equity and justice within sustainability across all campuses. Read through the plan and leave a comment to help steer the direction of environmental justice on your campus.

Lastly, check out these environmentally focused groups on campus working to amplify the voices of those commonly marginalized in the climate fight and find a way to support climate action at Tufts!


P.S. There are more environmental initiatives happening on all four campuses than are listed above. We encourage you to explore the Office of Sustainability’s website for more info and to talk to your peers about the climate actions they take.

Medford Launches New Adopt-a-Drain Program

Written by Anna Cornish (A22)

Last week, The City of Medford announced it would be launching a citywide Adopt-a-Drain program. Participants can now sign up to care for a storm drain near their home or work and volunteer to check on it a few times a month to clear any trash, leaves, or debris that might have been swept into it. 

Storm drains are grates on the sides of streets and roads, along the curb. Since asphalt and pavement can’t absorb water, any rain or melting snow flows along the street and into these drains. Anything that goes down a storm drain flows directly into local lakes and streams without being treated. When debris clogs drains, stormwater accumulates and picks up chemicals and bacteria from things like pet waste, garden fertilizer, and road salts. Once the water can get through, it washes any litter down the drain with it, further polluting local bodies of water and harming wildlife. Keeping storm drains clear is an easy way to prevent this pollution and ensure a healthier watershed.

To adopt a storm drain, sign up on this webpage. Participants can search for drains in their area of Medford, select and name their drain, and volunteer to check on it occasionally, especially before and after heavy rain or snow. For more information about the program, visit here, and to learn more about Tufts’ local watershed, check out the Mystic River Watershed Association website.

Adopt-a-Drain is a great volunteer opportunity for members of the Tufts community  as it is a low commitment way to connect with the larger Medford community and local water systems. 

Adopt-a-Drain was created and designed by Ali Hiple, a Tufts UEP Graduate Student and Tisch Summer Fellow. Another Tisch Summer Fellow, Anna Cornish (A22), saw the program through to completion. 

2021 Move Out: Donations, Recycling, and Waste

DONATIONS

Each year during spring semester Move-Out, the Tufts Office of Sustainability collects donation items as part of its “Trash to Treasures” program. The purpose of Trash to Treasures is to divert salvageable goods from landfills and instead provide them to community members who will use them.

DONATION STATION LOCATIONS

Visualization of donation station locations.

There will be two staffed donation stations, equipped with trailers and collection bins:  

  1. Lower Campus (Haskell Hall on Latin Way)
  2. Upper Campus (Carmichael Hall Parking Lot) 

There will be four 24/7 UPod drop-off locations:*

  1. Haskell Hall on Latin Way
  2. Carmichael Hall Parking Lot
  3. Lot next to 123 Packard Ave
  4. Hill Hall parking lot

For more information about donation station and drop-off locations, visit our 2021 Move Out Donations Map.

DONATION STATION DATES AND HOURS

Wednesday, May 4th – Friday May 7th: No donation stations, but students may drop off accepted donation items at any of the four UPods 24/7

Saturday, May 8th – Friday, May 14th: Lower and upper campus donation stations are open and staffed from 10:00am-5:00pm daily

Saturday, May 15th: Lower and upper campus donation stations are open until 12:00pm

Picture of UPods. Peel apart velcro and open using handle on side door.

OFF-HOUR DONATING

UPods are open for drop-off at all hours from May 4th through May 15th at 12:00pm.

If someone needs to donate at night or early morning when the donation stations are closed, please drop-off donations inside of one of the four UPod locations.

ACCEPTED DONATION ITEMS 

  • Clothing, sheets, shoes
  • Household items: storage containers, dorm decor, fans, vacuums, large and small lamps, mirrors, waste bins, laundry baskets
  • Dining hall dishes 
  • Books and school supplies 
  • Crutches and exercise/sports equipment
  • Unopened, non-perishable food
  • Cleaning supplies: laundry detergent, brooms and sweepers
  • Toiletries: Unopened bottles, feminine hygiene products
  • Kitchen cookware, working kitchen appliances
  • Working electronics
  • Furniture
  • Rugs
  • Media items (DVDs, VHS, CDs, vinyl records, Blu-Ray, etc.)

We will have additional collection bins at both the lower and upper campus donation stations for recycling the following:  

  • Plastic film, including grocery bags, air pillows, bubble wrap, and produce bags 
  • Broken small electronics   

We DO NOT accept:

  • Mattresses
  • Pillows
  • Hangers
  • Hazardous items (for more information about battery and lightbulb recycling at Tufts, visit our specialty recycling webpage)

RECYCLING AND WASTE 

To increase the efficiency of Tufts’ Move Out process, bring your recycling and trash to an outside dumpster. This will ease the load on our hardworking custodial and Facilities staff.

RECYCLING

Recycling dumpsters have blue lids. View up-to-date locations of campus recycling dumpsters on our Eco-Map.

View our website for more information about how-to-recycle and specialty recycling at Tufts.

TRASH

Trash dumpsters have black lids. View up to date locations of campus trash dumpsters on our Eco-Map.

There will additional be large open top trash dumpsters placed at the following locations: Harleston Hall (2), Latin Way (1), Carmichael (1), Talbot (1), Miller Hall (1), and Hill Hall (1).

View our website for more information about how to properly dispose of your waste at Tufts.

QUESTIONS?

Email recycle@tufts.edu.

New Solar Carport Installation at the Medford Campus

Design Rendering Provided by iSun Energy

Tufts University’s Auxiliary and Transportation Services department has announced the construction of a new solar carport for charging electric vehicles. The carport will be located in the Cohen Parking Lot on Lower Campus Road in Medford. It will provide charging for up to six electric vehicles. Construction of the carport will begin April 15, 2021 and is expected to be completed on April 30, 2021.

In the near term, parking spots in the carport will be on a first-come-first-served basis for Tufts University permit holders. Possible future enhancements may include the ability for electric vehicle drivers to reserve spaces using a parking management system app.

“We’re really pleased to be able to offer additional electric vehicle charging stations on the Medford campus. Not only is this a positive step toward promoting more green methods of transportation, but the carport fits squarely within Tufts’ overall commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Jason McClellan, senior director of Tufts University Auxiliary Services.

This pilot program, offered in partnership with iSun Energy, will generate energy measured by a separate meter, and excess power produced will be distributed to the grid. “By partnering with iSun and our electricity utility, the solar carport joins Tufts other solar projects in helping the Commonwealth reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, as required under the new comprehensive climate change legislation signed into law by Governor Baker in March, 2021,” said Tina Woolston, director of the Office of Sustainability. “This in turn, helps Tufts reach its own goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Learn about Tufts’ other solar installations

Learn about Tufts’ other sustainable transportation and commuting options.

Tufts won a bench made out of recycled plastic film!

The bench, located in the backyard of CoHo

Tufts has a range of specialty recycling programs through which its community members can sustainably dispose of items that cannot be conventionally recycled. This includes items such as batteries, ink and toner, textiles, and as of 2018—plastic film! Tufts’ plastic film recycling program is a partnership between local grocers and Trex, a composite decking company.

In September 2019, Tufts signed-up for a Trex challenge to recycle 500 pounds of plastic film in 6 months. Between student Move-In, Dining Center kitchens, the mail room, and a range of other efforts, Tufts was able to meet this goal. In turn, we won a Trex bench made out of recycled plastic film!

The plaque on the bench.

How did we win the challenge?

Learn more about how we engaged the Tufts community and recycled enough plastic film to win the challenge:  

Student Move-In and plastic film recycling:

Some plastic film from Move In 2019.

Each fall when students move back to campus, they bring with them a range of packing items, often including a large amount of plastic film such as air pillows and bubble wrap. During Fall 2019 Move-In, our recycling workers circulated the residence halls and dumpsters with special bags for collecting plastic film from students. We were able to collect 192 pounds of film during Move-In alone!

Residence hall recycling competition and waste audits:

Contamination in the recycling from one of our waste audits, mostly consisting of plastic film items.

Later in the 2019 fall semester, the Office of Sustainability (OOS) recycling team partnered with the Eco-Reps to hold a residence hall recycling competition. We judged the competition through a series of 11 waste audits in the residence halls. Through good-spirited competition, we educated about and encouraged proper recycling.

The waste audits also provided valuable qualitative and quantitative data about diversion rate, contamination rate, and the most common contaminants in the recycling stream. Contaminants are when items that cannot be conventionally recycled are placed in the recycling bin, thereby contaminating it.

Plastic film bin expansion and educational campaign:

After noting from the waste audits that plastic film items were one of the most common contaminants in the conventional recycling stream, the Eco-Reps and OOS recycling team embarked upon a plastic film recycling educational campaign. This involved a range of efforts, including but not limited to:

A plastic film specialty recycling bin
  • Starting a new plastic film specialty recycling bin at the Boston campus (currently on hiatus during COVID)
  • Creating new audience-specific plastic film recycling signage (a general sign, a mail room sign, and a sign for the Dining Center kitchens catered to their specific items)
  • Fielding staff and faculty Eco-Ambassador requests for new bins in select spots
  • Creating and sharing social media and newsletter content educating about plastic film and the specialty recycling program
  • Eco-Reps put out “pop-up” plastic film recycling collection bins in the residence halls

How can I recycle plastic film at Tufts?

Plastic film items include soft plastics such as grocery bags, bubble wrap, plastic padded-envelopes, air pillows, and even bread, cereal, and produce bags.

Our general plastic film recycling sign.

These items cannot be conventionally recycled because they get tangled in the machinery at the sorting facility. This can shut things down, costing time and money and posing a safety hazard to the people working at the facility. Watch this video to learn more about the hazards that plastic film poses when placed in the conventional recycling bin.

Reducing waste is a great away to avoid this problem, such as through using reusable bags instead of grocery bags. However, if you do find yourself with a plastic film item, specialty recycling it at Tufts or at your local grocer is a great way to divert it from the landfill!

Though the plastic film specialty recycling program was paused at Tufts due to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as of February 2021, the program is back up and running. Learn more about what to recycle on our webpage and find specialty recycling bin locations on our Eco-Map.

What happens when I recycle plastic film at Tufts?

Here’s how the full process works:

  1. Tufts community member drops their plastic film items into a plastic film specialty recycling bin on campus
  2. The Office of Sustainability’s specialty recycling intern services the bins on a regular schedule, taking the plastic film to a local grocer accepting plastic film in partnership with Trex
  3. Trex picks up the film from the grocery store. They clean and grind the film into granules and combine and heat it with sawdust. The resulting mixture is formed into boards.
  4. Plastic film is recycled into eco-friendly decking, benches, and other outdoor living products! You can learn more about this process from Trex here.
The circular economy and product transformation of plastic film recycled at Tufts.
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