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Lesley’s Ongoing Commitment to Sustainability

In part one of my look at sustainability at Lesley, I wrote about Lesley’s Dining Service and spoke with its manager, Ed Fogarty. You can read that article here:  http://lesleypublicpost.com/wordpress/2018/04/21/promoting-environmental-sustainability-what-well-what-improve/

To get additional information, I recently met with Sara Wolons, who is responsible for sustainability and campus planning.  Wolons informed me that the Office of Sustainability at Lesley University has collected monthly data for waste diversion, and sets goals for waste reduction. There is also work being done on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which thanks to reduction in air travel, had reduced significantly.  She said they do an annual inventory, and are in the process of writing a revised Climate Action Plan, because the University has met its initial goal and greatly reduced emissions by 63%.

The focus of the Office of Sustainability is two-fold:  reducing waste and making the buildings smarter.  They are looking into renewable energy sources, solar farms, etc. and Wolons has suggested options like tackling “Plug load” and “sub metering” to understand what load each building was producing.  She also shared that “the trickier goal [is] of behavior change, like turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use,” in order to save energy; and “taking only what you are going to eat” so as not to waste food, as well as “following directions for composting, recycling and trash.”

To spread awareness and promote behavior change, her office also sponsors a number of annual events for the Lesley community:

Campus Sustainability Day: This event takes place in the fall, around October.  Various vendors, the City of Cambridge, and Casella Waste Systems (the company which does recycling, compost and waste management at Lesley) all collaborate. They usually have light music with a band that has a sustainable focus, something unique about repurposing material.  The bicycle vendors offer free tune-ups.

Earth day:  This is celebrated all over the USA, including at Lesley; it encourages awareness of, and respect for, the environment.  Earth Day usually takes place in April every year; however, this year’s event was rescheduled due to inclement weather.

An 8-week competition, Recycle Mania, takes place across the US and Canada, with over 400 schools participating, and Lesley is among them.  This year’s focus was “the clean plate challenge” to encourage people to “clean their plate and reduce food waste.”  Wolons mentioned that it was a challenge for them too, and that composting is stopping food from going to the landfill; but still, there is tons of food being wasted and it is a matter of how they can repurpose it when done.

Sustainable Clean Out: during the first two weeks of May, tables with boxes are placed outside the residence halls so that student who are moving out can donate clothing, linen, shoes, and accessories that they don’t need anymore.  The Office of Sustainability partners with Bay State Textiles which takes all the donations and recycled items to sort and send overseas.

The Sustainability office works closely with the Community Development Office and members of the Environmental Club at Lesley. Sara Wolons said students who would like to help are welcome to visit the Office of Sustainability as they needed more people in the field.  Interested resident hall students can become “Eco Reps” to help peers with composting, recycling, etc.  In general, they would like to see more participation from people who are concerned about environmental sustainability; her office has actively sought opinions and feedback so as to incorporate good suggestions into planning future events.

Next, I met with Sarah Viadero, the Director of the Community Service office at Lesley.  This office provides opportunities for service to the community in a wide range of areas like serving a meal at a shelter, working with kids, tutoring and reading; there are also environmental opportunities like cleanups in the neighborhood and assisting on local farms.  Viadero said they were on mailing lists and they get requests for cleanups in the surrounding areas like Harvard and Porter Squares.

Lesley students also help at farms like Waltham Community Farm and Gaining Grounds farm in Concord, weeding and harvesting crops and providing any other help that the locals need on the farm.  The Community Services office also work with student led initiatives like the Community Gardening Club and the Environment Club at Lesley.  Last year they helped at one of the community gardens of the City Sprouts Program of Cambridge Public Schools in celebration of the Earth Day.

Students who want to volunteer their time can also apply to various programs through the application process.  One such program is called Alternative Spring Break where students travel during the vacation week to serve others in need.  This year, two groups of students went, one to Asheville, North Carolina and the other to York, Maine; throughout the week, students served on different projects.

Sarah Viadero told me that people often call her office to ask for volunteers.  Several local examples are the nightly meal service program in Harvard Square, the Tuesday Meal Program, and the Friday Café.  Students from Lesley can help with food preparation, serving and cleaning up, as well as eating with the community if they want.

My last stop was meeting with two students– Julianna Risica and Shiloh Atkinson, who have revived the Environment Club at Lesley University. They have held weekly meetings and have taken a trip to Walden Pond with other members of the club and their English professor.  During their trip, they learned more about naturalist and author Henry David Thoreau: his experiences with the environment, as expressed through his writings; and a first-hand look at how he lived his life.  They also saw the reconstruction of his cabin, walked around the pond enjoying the sun, and had a picnic.  The students would like more members, and they are hoping additional students will join the club; in the fall, they are planning to spread more information about the environment club, and they would like to collaborate with other related clubs like the Community Gardening Club.

To sum up, students who are interested in the environment and who want to promote a sustainable campus can find many opportunities to participate.  I found there is a lot happening, both on and off campus, and students who want to be part of this ongoing effort can find many ways to do so.

Students enjoying one of Lesley’s Sustainability Day events. (Photo by Sara Wolons)

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