The Brandeis Sustainability Committee recently adopted new initiatives targeted at conducting campus maintenance in more sustainable ways and collecting data to make informed decisions regarding future infrastructure changes. These efforts are part of Brandeis’ intermittent years of climate action. The 2022 to 2023 academic year is Brandeis’ fourth year of climate action, with previous efforts occurring in 2020, 2016 and 2008. The larger scope of Brandeis’ focal years of climate action are to commit to carbon neutrality no later than 2030 and achieve the other goals outlined in the Vision 2030 draft plan.
An ongoing set of initiatives towards greener infrastructure practices are the organic land management changes. Previously, Brandeis utilized an herbicide called Roundup, which was a glyphosate-based herbicide. Glyphosate has been the most commonly used herbicide in the United States since 2001. While glyphosate is not approved for aquatic use since it is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms, its effect on humans is controversial. The European Chemicals Agency, pesticide regulatory organizations and other scientific organizations have reached the consensus that the labeled usage of glyphosate has not demonstrated human carcinogenicity. However, there are reported cases where people suffering from cancer linked their illness to glyphosate based products. In one such lawsuit, a man was awarded $80 million and afterward, wholesale department store Costco discontinued selling glyphosate.
During the summer and for the duration of the fall semester, the Brandeis Grounds Team plans to pilot novel landscaping methods, such as replacing the use of Roundup with a nontoxic and organic replacement. Moreover, Brandeis states that currently used pesticides will also be replaced by organic and nontoxic chemical products to be applied only as needed. Currently, Brandeis has already applied the organic fertilizer to grass islands in lower campus at Ziv Quad. The fertilizers will be implemented throughout campus if the Brandeis Sustainability Committee deems that they were successful.
In an email with The Brandeis Hoot, Associate Director of Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer clarified what the committee hoped to see through the use of organic fertilizers, writing, “The main measurements of success will be no visible decrease in the health of the turf and soil in the trial areas (including no dead grass).” The team plans to synthesize observations and data to conduct a full assessment of the efficacy of organic fertilizers in mid-November.
In addition to the recently implemented organic land management plans, the Brandeis Sustainability Committee has also been working toward developing the Decarbonization Action Plan in conjunction with external consultants and the Capital Programs team at Brandeis. Currently, the team is assessing the work that must be completed in order to effectively transform Brandeis to conclude fossil fuel usage. According to the Year of Climate Change website, “The resulting Decarbonization Action Plan will give Brandeis the analysis and tools needed to commit to new greenhouse gas reduction targets. Most importantly, the plan will include an adjustable 10-year capital investment and energy procurement strategy that leverages our existing 10-year deferred maintenance plan, augmented with lower-emitting and less energy-intensive solutions.”
The research regarding energy usage will be conducted from June this year to early 2023, according to the website, and data regarding the use of organic fertilizers will be monitored this fall. Moving forward, the Brandeis Sustainability Committee plans to provide opportunities for community feedback and to allow the Brandeis community to pose questions or concerns.