Students updated on state of campus sustainability

October 4, 2019

The Office of Sustainability updated students on new efforts to make the school more sustainable, including financing renewable energy across the country and eventually discontinuing the sale of plastic water bottles on campus, with the exception of the Hoot market and vending machines, according to Mary Fischer, manager of the Sustainability Programs Office on Thursday in the International Lounge. She said that these efforts would reduce plastic bottle usage on campus by approximately 10,000 bottles annually. The school has a contract with Coca-Cola in which the company gives the university $50,000 back per year for selling their products. Brandeis has four years left of that ten-year project, so if they were to break the contract early, the university would lose $200,000 by stopping those sales. 

According to Fischer, Brandeis is the 12th highest university in carbon-offsets, and this initiative would further improve the school’s standing. She said that renewable energy solutions would be difficult to implement on campus; to power the entire school, there would need to be solar panels that cover the entire surface of the campus or 13 wind turbines. Instead, it was decided that the funding would go toward offsetting carbon emissions in areas with higher carbon footprints. 

Eversource is also helping the university enstate an energy storage project, the Tesla 780-kilowatt lithium-ion battery-based storage system, which will both save Brandeis $50,000 annually on its electric bill and reduce peak demand.

The battery will charge overnight when the price of electricity is at its lowest and discharge during the day when prices are at their highest. The university can then buy more of its electricity at the least expensive times, according to Eversource’s website. 

“Large commercial customers, like Brandeis University, can use battery storage in order to help lower their costs and benefit the environment,” said Eversource Vice President of Energy Efficiency Tilak Subrahmanian.

Other initiatives that the Office of Sustainability is working on include adding 40 more compost bins around campus. Fischer said that composting is more important than recycling in lowering the school’s carbon footprint, so this would be the first step in working toward that. 

Other groups at the forum included the Senate Sustainability Committee (SenSus), Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ), Student for Environmental Action (SEA) and Symbiosis and The Heller School. These groups spoke about their efforts, including a clothing exchange by SEA and tabling by the BCJ. Student Union Senator-at-Large and Dining Committee Chair Nancy Zhai ’22 also announced that as Brandeis considers new dining vendors, she will be holding open forums to hear the community’s input.

There was also a table at the forum with various options for students to become involved with different initiatives such as signing the petition for bottled water sales to be discontinued on campus, signing a green pledge and taking a reusable water bottle. Stickers with barcodes that connect users to the “Fill it Forward” app were available for students to take. This app allows users to log the water that they drink everyday and the organization donates to those who don’t have access to clean water. Fischer said that some of the most important things that students can do to make an impact are washing clothes in cold water and switching to LED lightbulbs.

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