At the first Massachusetts Sustainable Campuses conference held April 21 at UMass Boston, an impressive picture emerged of what campuses and schools are currently doing to implement sustainable and green efforts in their microcosms.
The two-day conference included nearly 500 sustainability experts and peers from government, business, education, and nonprofits from two countries (USA, Canada), nine states (CT, HI, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT) 94 Massachusetts communities, and 45 campuses and schools who are contributing to local and global sustainability. There were 32 sessions with about 90 presenters while 41 exhibitors showcased services and products for sustainability.
Conference director Jen Boudrie said the event was an extraordinary opportunity to connect people to see what is happening on campuses across the Commonwealth. “Staff, faculty and students are achieving amazing results. We now have a net zero energy campus at Mount Wachusett Community College and a net zero energy building at North Shore Community College. Several campuses, like Harvard University, are purchasing 10-25% of their food from local farms and composting their food waste. Campuses throughout the state are adopting bike share programs. Sustainability is being integrated across the curriculum and new programs and courses are being created every year like the facilities director program at Mass Maritime Academy.”
On Saturday, which was dedicated to campuses, about 20% of the attendees were students of all ages. Seven high school students co-presented with their teachers Cate Arnold from Boston Latin High School and Karen DiFranza a sustainability teacher form Hubbardston. Ten college students provided posters or presented on sustainability topics from Clark University, MIT, Northeastern University, Suffolk University, UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth and UMass Lowell. The rest attended sessions to learn about sustainability initiatives on campuses across the state.
Boudrie who leads Green Marlborough, declared, “there is an extraordinary transition going on, a real movement towards more sustainable development, that co-benefits our environment, our economy, our health, and society. It is evident on campuses and communities across the state, and at all levels, from top to bottom.”
Key Massachusetts sustainability personalities and proponents delved into topics such as: Facilities Directors and Sustainability - What does the Job Involve?; Sustainable Food Systems and Campuses; Clean Energy Initiatives on Campus; Creating a Culture that Values Sustainability; Career Preparation for Sustainable Development; Project Financing and Getting to Net Zero Energy on Campus and many more.
Because a campus is a self-contained community, it is a microcosm that can serve as a testing ground for renewable energy initiatives. Today's students who are engaging in sustainability efforts are ambassadors who will carry solutions and visions into the future.
One of the most impressive campus success stories is no doubt Mount Wachusett Community College which converted an all-electric facility to a closed- loop biomass fueled hydronic system. With its renewable and efficiency projects in place, MWCC is one of a few campuses in the world that is approaching Zero Net Energy and Zero Net Carbon.
Ed Terceiro, Chief Operations Officer and Resident Engineer at MWCC shared a plethora of noteworthy statistics. At the end of the day, MWCC will have reduced its carbon emissions by 2900 metric tons, a reduction of 92% from baseline. This total reduction is equivalent to annual emissions from 569 passenger cars or electricity use at 352 homes.
Henrietta Davis, Mayor of Cambridge and Harvey Michaels, Energy Efficiency Scientist and Lecturer, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT jointly discussed ‘Higher Education and Community Leadership’ and the roles that colleges and communities play in sustainable development. There was an open dialogue with the audience on the boundaries, connections, and crossovers that exist between campuses and communities. During session breaks participants were busy networking. Some were heard exclaiming their keenness to implement certain ideas and replicate success stories validated by speakers.
Conference director Jen Boudrie received accolades for organizing such a timely conference and assembling such a stellar gathering of experts. The impressive lineup of speakers, key institutions represented and the sheer volume of information, ideas, statistics and forward looking projections around the topic of sustainability, made this first time conference a very timely event and one to watch in the years to come.