The Year of Climate Action is Brandeis’ attempt at “bold, coordinated action and leadership” to combat climate change. Kicking off with Peter Frumhoff’s visit to campus late in the spring 2022 semester, the Year of Climate Action is now in full swing. The Year of Climate Action is a year-long affair, and this semester includes events like recycled-material puppet making, a costume stock clean-out clothing giveaway and a theater performance centered around climate change. These events are all wonderful ways to educate the student population about climate change and mobilize students to think about ways they can take action. Many student groups are already taking action against climate change and environmental damage. In the past few years, the university has had groups of students attend climate marches in Boston, coordinating buses of students to go and advocate for climate action, according to previous Hoot articles. There are also multiple groups on campus dedicated to sustainability and climate action on campus. One such group is Re:Wild Brandeis, formerly known as Herbicide-Free Brandeis, which has held multiple clean-up and weeding days on campus and in the greater Waltham community. Most recently the group conducted a trash cleanup of Stony Brook Basin, also known as the reservoir. The initiative resulted in the cleanup of a spot frequented by Brandeis students that is typically filled with litter, according to a Hoot article. The university also offers a great number of courses on climate action and sustainability which students can take in order to learn more. With the faculty and staff at the university, there are many resources for students to become more informed on environmental practices. The university has also brought in guest speakers to talk on topics of climate action, according to a Hoot article. The Office of Sustainability is offering an energy efficiency project dashboard available to community members to increase transparency, according to the Office of Sustainability’s website. However, when attempting to view the project details in the GRITS application an error page reads “We’re sorry but something went wrong.*” This is a great resource to help community members understand energy projects on campus in greater detail; however, it requires more work to be fully effective at this point. Another initiative being put into place is the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan, which intends to create a prevention-based strategy for pest management, according to the plan. The plan proposes using small amounts of both organic and/or approved pesticides to minimize pest quantities. The IPM plan is being tested out on certain areas on campus**, marked clearly by signs, according to the plan. However, this means that the rest of campus is not adhering to these new and “more green” guidelines. Expansion will depend on how successful the program is. Brandeis has had its fair share of failures with green initiatives on campus, including many of the compost bins on campus being used incorrectly. The university last October issued emails to students in various quads stating the misuse of the compost bins, according to a previous Hoot article. Community members were putting trash in the compost bins; as a result, when the Black Earth driver came to collect the compost they would not pick up the contaminated bins. If the bins continued to be used incorrectly, the university warned they would unfortunately have to be discontinued. Despite being warned of the consequence if the bins were continually used incorrectly, community members were not able to get their act together. The compost bins at The Charles River Apartments were removed due to students not correctly using them***. This is just one example of students on campus not being invested in green initiatives on campus. Additionally, Brandeis’ current draft climate action plan, Vision 2030, has several shortcomings. It doesn’t have proper definitions of what climate change education should encompass and doesn’t give proper mention to the true path to a greener Brandeis: divestment from fossil fuels. Although Vision 2030 does have a few redeeming ideas in it, it doesn’t put Brandeis on the right trajectory. To have initiatives, plans and events is one thing, and it is great that the university and the Office of Sustainability are offering community members a chance to be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives. However, it is up to the students to be invested in this cause. It is up to the students to actively make choices that will be beneficial to their environment, and it is up to the university to do their part to reduce divest from fossil fuels and reduce emissions.
* The link no longer returns an error page.
** The organic land management trial is actually a separate initiative. The IPM plan is already being implemented across all of campus and was in place before the organic land management trial was implemented.
*** The issue was actually across all residence halls, not just Charles River. All of the residence hall compost bins were removed as they were all repeatedly contaminated. However, we continue to compost across the rest of campus, including dining halls, which are by far the greatest source of compost on campus, and we have expanded compost this year to include retail locations at The Hive Food Court in Upper Usdan, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Dunkin, Starbucks.