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Fall in Love with Sustainability this Valentine’s Day

As February 14th approaches, love is in the air and, for many of us, in our shopping carts. Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to show some appreciation for our loved ones, but with all the gifts, cards, and flowers, the amount of waste left behind can come at a steep cost for the planet. Share your love for the Earth this Valentine’s Day with these sustainability tips from the Tufts Office of Sustainability:

  • While a store-bought gift might be traditional, skip the landfill and try opting for an experience or homemade gift instead:
    • Plan a romantic picnic or bike ride at Mystic Lake or the Middlesex Fells if you’re on the Medford/Somerville Campus. Check out the Ecomap for bike rentals and repairs locations.
    • Give your loved one the gift of sustainably farmed fresh produce by registering them for the coming season of Tufts CSA.
  • Check out the Craft Center on the Medford/Somerville campus for all your homemade card and gift needs.
  • Make sure you are familiar with waste disposal at Tufts, especially where your nearest specialty recycling and compost sites are located. This information can also be found on the Ecomap
  • Minimizing Waste on Valentine’s day:

  • DO Recycle:
    • Aluminum cans
    • Cardboard boxes from gifts or flowers
    • Card envelopes
    • Plastic floral wraps only at participating stores (most likely grocery or hardware store)
    • Cardboard chocolate and gift boxes
    • Plain paper greeting cards (without metal, plastic, musical elements, glitter, or foil add-ons)
  • DON’T Recycle:
    • Any greeting cards with other elements than plain paper
    • Candy wrappers
    • Ribbons and bows
    • Flowers and bouquets 

(list taken from The Recycling Partnership)

Get creative and make this red and white holiday green your way!

A Sustainable Orientation Week

Education and Outreach Program Administrator, Shoshana Blank, and summer Communications Intern, Michaela, table at the Graduate Student Resource Fair in Alumnae Lounge.

Every year, the Office of Sustainability makes a tremendous effort during Orientation to teach as many incoming students, staff, and faculty as possible about Tufts’ sustainability commitments and initiatives, its waste management practices, sustainable commuting options, and more. We also try to reduce the University’s carbon footprint by making as many Orientation events as possible zero-waste, ensuring that materials are either recycled or composted. 

This year was no exception. Throughout Orientation, the OOS made presentations on sustainability at Tufts to a total of 511 new students, faculty, and staff across our many graduate schools, including the Dental School, the Friedman School, the Fletcher School, the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, to name a few. In addition, the OOS trained 220 Tufts Dining employees on proper recycling rules to ensure they were well-informed to sort recyclables, compostables, and trash in the kitchens and cafes. 

Summer Programs Intern, Jennifer, tables on the Boston Health Sciences campus.

The OOS also tabled at events for a wide range of programs offered at Tufts. We reached about 500 new students by speaking directly with them at events held by their respective schools. Two hundred of these students were new first-year students. The remaining 300 were graduate students from the Tufts School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Engineering, the Fletcher School, and Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, among others.

At all our various tabling events, the OOS distributed a total of 1,340 informational brochures on sustainability issues ranging from recycling, to biking, to sustainable commuting to Tufts’ many campuses. The most widely distributed and seemingly the most popular were the Eco-Maps, which identify the locations of important sustainability landmarks on the Medford/Somerville campus, such as recycling and compost bin locations, bike racks, hydration stations, and even a geothermal heat pump. You can find an interactive Eco-Map that spans all Tufts campuses here, and online versions of our other brochures here.  

A zero-waste event worker staffs her waste station at the Freshman Food Fair.

In addition to spreading awareness about sustainability at Tufts, the OOS worked to make Orientation itself more sustainable by diverting waste from landfills. Throughout the week, 34 students made 16 events zero-waste, meaning all waste accumulated was either recycled or composted. This effort diverted waste from landfills/incinerators from 14,000 meals. From these 14,000 meals, 232 bags of compost and 72 bags of recycling were collected. 

Pictured above is just a portion of the total 192 pounds of plastic film waste that was collected during Move-In this year.

Additionally, twenty of our Eco-Reps met and educated residents as they were moving into their dorms. The OOS also created seven new educational Move-In recycling signs and OOS workers collected 192 pounds of Move-In-related plastic film to be recycled into plastic benches through Trex.

Summer Donations Intern, Serena, coordinated pick up of the cleaned and tested items back from GradBag.

Last May during Move-Out, the OOS diverted three tractor-trailer loads of reusable items from the waste stream and worked with the non-profit GradBag to clean, test and organize them into another Back-to-School Sale. Incoming students served by the FIRST Resource Center, a community for first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students, were able to choose items first and without cost. About 75 of these students took advantage of these free goods to outfit their dorm rooms and collect winter clothing and other school supplies.

The Back-to-School sale had many things students may need to make Tufts home, including dorm decor and other festive goods.

The remaining items were sold back to returning students and staff on Labor Day. Several offices and organizations also benefitted from the recovered items: 

  • Tufts Mountain Club received sleeping bags and pads
  • Tufts Sports Medicine was given various crutches, braces, and weights
  • 233 items totaling 90 pounds of dishes were returned to Tufts Dining
  • Around 300 books were donated to More than Words, a job training and youth development program that employs Boston’s most vulnerable youth in their bookselling business
  • Non-perishable food donations were given to Project Soup, a Somerville food pantry
  • All current textbooks were offered to the FIRST Resource Center for low-income, first-generation and undocumented students to use. 

All in all, it was a very successful Move-In and Orientation Week for sustainability at Tufts. The OOS will continue to work to make more Orientation events zero-waste and to reuse as many items donated from Move-Out as possible to divert this waste from landfills. We will also work throughout the year on publicizing and monitoring Tufts’ sustainability initiatives—this is just the beginning!  

Blog post written by exiting Programs Intern, Celia Bottger.

Field Trip: Anaerobic Digester

On Friday, August 2, Eco-Ambassadors visited Jordan Dairy Farms Heifer Facility in Spencer, MA to learn about organics to energy anaerobic digestion. Jordan Dairy Farms partners with Vanguard Renewables, a company that engineers and operates anaerobic digesters, to repurpose food waste and manure as bedding and fertilizer. The trip demonstrated how closing the waste cycle can be cost effective and energy efficient.

John Hanselman, Executive Chairman of Vanguard Renewables, explains anaerobic digestion to the group.

Inputs: Vanguard Renewables’ food industry customers, including manufacturers, breweries, and grocery stores, send their depackaged food waste to Jordan Dairy Farms. The farm receives about 120 tons of food waste each day, between five and ten truckloads. The food waste is added to the first anaerobic digester, along with manure produced by the farm’s cows.

What Happens: Incoming organic waste is filtered for plastic and other solid contaminants, then mixed with waste already inside the first digester. The methanogens, or digesting bacteria, can only survive a 0.5 degree temperature change in a period of 12 hours, so convection keeps the mixture at a steady 104 degrees. Waste air passes through three successive filters– cedar chips, activated carbon, and carbon– to eliminate odors.

Above: Technicians conduct regular chemical tests to ensure correct pH and microbe levels.
Below: Pressurized tubes control digester heating and cooling.

After five days in the first digester, the mixture is transferred to the second digester, where it will spend 25 days. The organic waste is mixed at various heights throughout the digester to ensure uniform temperature and pH. 200 different sensors monitor the digester at all times. The biogas produced in the second digester is about 65% methane, with some carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. The gas is captured in two membranes stretched above the digester.

Membranes capture the methane gas given off by digestion.

Outputs: The gas is sent to a combustion engine connected to a generator, producing one megawatt of power every hour. The liquid is extracted from the digested waste and becomes organic fertilizer for crops, while the leftover solids become soft, dry bedding for cows. As part of their partnership, Vanguard Renewables shares all digestion products with Jordan Dairy Farms.

John shows the group handfuls of soft, dry bedding material produced from digestion.

Vanguard Renewables operates five anaerobic digesters on small, family dairy farms across Massachusetts, and receives food waste from 65% of Massachusetts food manufacturers. Anaerobic digestion diverts organic waste from the landfill and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from said waste by more than 85%. Anaerobic digestion shows that renewable technologies both protect the environment and stimulate the economy.

Summer Compost Tips

Composting is a great way to divert waste from the landfill, fertilize local gardens and agriculture, and increase awareness of food waste. However, during the hot and humid summer months, unpleasant smells and pesky bugs can discourage even the most committed composters. The following tips help address common summer composting problems.

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

1. Store food scraps in the fridge or freezer

Does your compost pile up faster than you can take it out? Try keeping it in the fridge or freezer between collection days, if you are on a curbside pick up program, or until you can take it to your regular drop-off site. The cooler temperatures slow decomposition, reducing odors. Designate a food storage container or a reusable, sealable plastic bag for compost. Just don’t forget about your compost in the fridge or freezer!

2. No fridge space? Use a smaller compost bin and empty it daily

Our office compost is temporarily being collected in a sugar dish!

In our office, we switched from collecting compost in a 2 gallon bucket to a re-purposed sugar dish. It fills up fast so we take it out daily, instead of once a week. Taking turns makes this sound much less daunting! Plus, our food scraps don’t have time to get smelly, and the ants and fruit flies stay away. We will switch back to the larger bin when temperatures cool. Almost anything can be used as a compost bin, just make sure it has a lid and doesn’t leak.

3. Set a trap for fruit flies and gnats

Photo from

Pesky fruit flies and gnats invading your kitchen space? Try trapping them in a jar or glass with a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar, dish soap, and water. You can make a funnel out of paper and tape it to the container so it points down, but does not get wet. Fruit flies will be attracted to the sweet smells and fly down into the jar, but they won’t be able to get back out!  Read the full instructions here.

4. Change out the compost bag or liner more often

Programs Intern Jennifer Frye setting a recurring reminder on her phone

Every three to four days, or when your compost starts to get smelly, replace the bag or liner in your compost container. You can put the old food scraps in a new bag, transfer them to the fridge or freezer, or keep them outside in a cool, dry place until collection day or until you can bring the scraps offsite. Try setting a recurring reminder on your phone to change the compost liner. 

5. Clean out the bin after emptying it

It only takes a few minutes to wash out your compost bin with soap and water. You can even wipe it out with spray cleaner and a rag. Cleaning your bin gets rid of any spills or leaks that might build up and cause odors. Make sure to let the bin dry before putting a new bag or liner in!

6. Add paper towels, napkins, and coffee grounds

Remember that compost is more than just food scraps! Adding paper towels and napkins to your compost absorbs liquids, and adding coffee grounds decreases unpleasant odors. Tea bags will also work if you’re not a coffee drinker. All paper towels and napkins can be composted, even bleached paper.

7. Bring the entire bin outside

If you use a compostable bag as a bin liner and it leaks, bring your kitchen bin outside and transfer the contents of the bag there. This way you avoid dripping smelly liquid everywhere. To avoid leaks, try double bagging, or line your compost bin with a BioBag and paper towels. While the bin is outside, you can even take the opportunity hose it out and let it dry in the sun.

2019 Sustainability Champions Ceremony and Reception

On Thursday, July 11, the Tufts Office of Sustainability hosted the 2019 Sustainability Champions Ceremony and Reception. Guests gathered in the historic Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall to recognize newly trained Eco-Ambassadors and recently certified Green Offices. This year, two new awards were also presented: Sustainability Champion and Eco-Rep of the Year. 

Sustainability Program Director Tina Woolston speaks at the event.

Tina Woolston, Sustainability Program Director, opened the event by welcoming guests and introducing the new Executive Vice President, Mike Howard. He brings experience promoting sustainability at Smith College and MIT to his role at Tufts.  

Education and Outreach Program Administrator Shoshana Blank speaks before the awards are presented.

Shoshana Blank, the Education and Outreach Program Administrator, then explained the Green Office Certification and Eco-Ambassador programs. She spoke on the importance of individual efforts in creating an institutional culture of environmental responsibility. Faculty, staff, and student sustainability actions are vital alongside university policies.

President Tony Monaco speaks on sustainability efforts across the university in the last year.

President Monaco attended the ceremony to personally congratulate the Green Offices, Eco-Ambassadors, Sustainability Champions, and the Eco-Rep of the Year. He remarked on the many ways Tufts has demonstrated its commitment to the environment in the past year since the 2018 reception. 

Attendees check out posters featuring university Green Fund projects in 2018 and 2019. Learn more about the program on our website.

Notably, the Green Fund provided $40,000 to finance eight projects across all four campuses. Information about each Green Fund project was displayed on posters along the wall. Guests enjoyed learning about the projects, and were hopefully inspired to propose sustainability projects of their own.

The Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) receives a Platinum level Green Office certification.

The ceremony continued with the presentation of the awards. Twenty-three Green Offices received certificates in frames made of recycled circuit boards. Eight were certified at the Bronze Level, six at the Silver Level, seven at the Gold Level, and two at the Platinum Level. The 22 Eco-Ambassadors trained in June 2019 also received certificates. Each award recipient posed for a photo with President Monaco.

Inaugural Sustainability Champion Whitney Stiehler of the Tufts Wildlife Clinic receives her award from President Monaco.

Sustainability Champion awards were given to JP Beaulac of Tufts Dining, Whitney Stiehler of the Tufts Wildlife Clinic, Lynne Ramsey of the Center for Engineering Outreach and Education (CEEO), and the Tufts Technology Services Green Team, as a whole group. These individuals demonstrate an outstanding commitment to sustainability at Tufts.

Rising senior Elyssa Anneser speaks as Eco-Rep Coordinator for the upcoming 2019-20 academic year. She presented Carla Giannattasio, A20, with the inaugural Eco-Rep of the Year award.

Elyssa Anneser, A20 and Eco-Rep Coordinator for AY 2019-2020, awarded Carla Giannattasio, A20, Eco-Rep of the Year. The new awards were designed by summer Programs Intern Jennifer Frye and created by Communications Intern Michaela Morse. They made use of old records donated to the Office of Sustainability during Spring residence hall move-out and utilized the laser cutter in the Advanced Production Lab at the SMFA to cut plexiglass and circular plywood frames.

Over 80 people attended the event. It is open to the whole Tufts community.

After the awards ceremony, guests mingled and enjoyed finger foods and beverages. Discussions turned to various ways to improve university sustainability. Eco-Ambassadors encouraged coworkers to undergo training, and Green Office members promised to certify at a higher level. Guests left motivated to work towards even bigger sustainability goals. Their achievements will be celebrated at next year’s Sustainability Champions Ceremony and Reception.

To see all the photos from this year’s event, visit the Office of Sustainability’s Facebook page.

Below is a list of all the Green Offices, Eco-Ambassadors, and Sustainability Champions that were acknowledged at this year’s reception. 

Newly certified Green Offices, all of which all successfully participated in and completed the 2019 Green Office Certification Challenge–

Bronze Certified offices:

  • Tufts Technology Services – TAB 301
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Biomedical Engineering – 4 Colby Street
  • Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences Dean’s Office
  • Tufts Music Department
  • Tufts Hillel
  • Tufts Comparative Medicine Services
  • Tufts Technology Services –TAB Basement

Silver Certified offices:

  • Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching / Educational Technology Services
  • Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development & Tufts Dental IT
  • Tufts Technology Services –Information Security
  • Fletcher Global Master of Arts Program
  • Cummings School Dialysis Department
  • Department of Public Health and Community Medicine – The SUPPER Project

Gold Certified offices:

  • University Chaplaincy
  • Department of Biomedical Engineering – Black Lab
  • Human Resources
  • Tufts Technology Services -16 Dearborn Road
  • Fletcher Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
  • Office of Institutional Research
  • Foster Hospital for Small Animals -The Client Service Team

Platinum Certified offices:

  • Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP)
  • Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO)

Newest members of the Tufts Eco-Ambassador program, who were trained in June 2019:

  • Liam Curry – Facilities/Engineering
  • Kristen Dabney – Student Accessibility Services
  • Jillian DeMair – CIERP, Fletcher
  • Kim Ellwood – Office of the Graduate Dean for the School of Engineering
  • Branden Etheridge – Facilities/Engineering
  • Austin Fuller – Strategy & Program Development
  • Caroline Harrison – International Literary and Cultural Studies
  • Peter Loeb – Hillel
  • Doris Pfaffinger – International Literary and Cultural Studies
  • Jaime McSkimming – Tisch Library 
  • Monica Morin – Biology
  • Katie Mulroy – Fletcher Student Affairs
  • Liza Reed – Fletcher, Communications & PR Specialist
  • Melissa Weikart – Music Department
  • Jenna Whitney – University Advancement Special Events
  • Janice Willson – Office of the President 
  • Rebekah Plotkin – Gordon Institute
  • Justin Cronin – Chemistry
  • Karin Wiedemann – Office of Career Services, Fletcher
  • Gina O’Connor – Film and Media Studies
  • Zara Konarski Rudenauer – Counseling & Mental Health
  • Bruce Johnson – Eliot-Pearson/Child Study & Human Development

Sustainability Champions, who are individuals that go above and beyond what the traditional person (who doesn’t have sustainability in their job title) might do to help make Tufts more sustainable–

Inaugural Sustainability Champions:

  • Lynne Ramsey – Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO)
  • Whitney Stiehler – Tufts Wildlife Clinic Coordinator
  • The Tufts Technology Services Sustainability Team
  • JP Beaulac – Associate Director of Residential Dining
  • Carla Giannattasio – Inaugural Eco-Rep of the Year Award
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