Presentations highlight sustainability efforts

March 4, 2016

The State of Sustainability, a series of short presentations and talks from multiple Brandeis environmental and sustainability groups, informed the Brandeis Community of sustainability efforts occurring on campus and in the surrounding Waltham Community. The event was hosted by the Senate Sustainability Committee, a committee composed of Student Union members, on Tuesday, March 1. It featured presentations from Waltham Group’s Symbiosis, the Farmers Club, Brandeis Climate Justice, NetImpact, Brandeis Sustainability Fund, Heller Group for Environmental Justice, Students for Environmental Action (SEA), Faculty Against the Climate Threat (FACT), the Environmental Studies Department and Mary Fischer, the Brandeis Sustainability Manager. Each group provided a quick overview of past and future initiatives.

The Senate Sustainability Committee discussed their implementation of dual-flush, water-saving toilets in various bathrooms throughout campus as well as information sessions they held in first-year halls during the North Quad versus Massell Quad Sustainability Contest. Senate Sustainability Committee member and SEA member Rachel Zhu ’18, said people “were happy we could give them more tips on how to reduce their energy usage.” The Senate Sustainability Committee has also drafted an environmental literacy requirement which would, according to Zhu, require that Brandeis students have “some understanding of environment issues and … how to minimize their impact on the environment.” Currently the group is working on a video series which informs viewers about climate change, marginalized communities, the food system and what can be done to work towards sustainability.

Brandeis Sustainability Manager Mary Fischer discussed past sustainability efforts such as the implementation of solar panels on Gosman Sports and Convocation Center in 2010 and the creation of the Brandeis Sustainability Fund in 2012. According to statistics provided by Fischer, all other small private New England schools are using almost 30 percent less energy per square foot than Brandeis, and all other research institutions in New England are using about 16 percent less energy per square per square foot than Brandeis. Fischer also discussed Brandeis’ signing of the Carbon Commitment in 2009. The Carbon Commitment was a commitment to reduce Brandeis’ carbon footprint compared to 2008 levels. According to Fischer, the Carbon Commitment meant Brandeis was supposed to reduce their carbon footprint by 15 percent by 2015, but instead Brandeis’ carbon footprint went up by 1 percent from 2008 to 2015.

Fischer also spoke about Brandeis’ recycling goals of having a 30 percent recycling rate by the end of the semester and Brandeis’ relaunching of back-of-house composting in the dining halls. According to Fischer, back-of-house composting has increased Brandeis’ composting rate from about 3 tons per month to about 3 tons per week.

Brandeis Farmers Club gave a brief presentation on tackling food justice. The presentation discussed the rationale and process behind the creation of the farm on the roof of Gerstenzang as well as Farmers Markets which the club put together.

Symbiosis, one of the groups under the Waltham Group, discussed their efforts in environmental education of youth in Waltham Community. “If we can teach these kids to love the environment then maybe they can help improve the environment in the future,” said the Symbiosis spokesperson.

Brandeis Club Students for Environmental Action discussed their three semester initiatives at Brandeis: Create an environmental component during first-year orientation, collecting and creating maps of walking and hiking trails in the Waltham area and raising awareness for recycling.

Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) discussed their continued efforts to get Brandeis to divest from fossil fuels. BCJ mentioned that they planned to hold rallies as well as continue to cosponsor events with other sustainability clubs on campus.

Brandeis Faculty Against the Climate Threat (FACT) also discussed their divestment efforts mentioning that a faculty fossil fuels divestment petition submitted by FACT in February of 2015 has 149 faculty signatures.

The Heller Environmental Justice Group discussed their efforts to have a global impact because, as Heller Environmental Justice Group member Huong Le puts it, “A lot of students from the Heller School are from around the world.” The group joined a Global Bazaar to help people from around the world share their products.

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