Wesleyan Community Brainstorms Sustainability Ideas, Efforts at Workshop

More than 50 faculty, administrators, staff and students gathered to brainstorm and develop creative new ideas for Wesleyan’s next Sustainability Action Plan on Feb. 21.

More than 50 faculty, administrators, staff and students gathered to brainstorm and develop creative new ideas for Wesleyan’s next Sustainability Action Plan on Feb. 21.

By 2050, the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment is requiring that Wesleyan become carbon neutral. To meet this goal, the university needs to reduce its emissions 1,000 tons annually for the next 36 years — the equivalent of the carbon sequestered by 860 trees each year.

To help the university meet this goal, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office and the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES) hosted a Sustainability Action Planning Workshop on Feb. 21. More than 50 faculty, administrators, staff and students gathered to brainstorm and develop creative new ideas for Wesleyan’s next Sustainability Action Plan.

“In order to meet this goal, we need to get started now,” said Bill Nelligan, director of environmental services. “Many of us only work inx or visit a small number of buildings or areas on campus, so we’re looking for input from the entire campus community.”

Sheri Condon, accounting specialist, and Kiley Kennedy '16 both participated in the Sustainability Action Planning Workshop. Kennedy, a physics major, signed up to engage with Wesleyan faculty and staff on the issue of sustainability "because my conversations about sustainability are almost always with other students. This workshop gave me the chance to voice my ideas and hear from other perspectives," she said.

Sheri Condon, accounting specialist, and Kiley Kennedy ’16 both participated in the Sustainability Action Planning Workshop. Kennedy, a physics major, signed up to engage with Wesleyan faculty and staff on the issue of sustainability “because my conversations about sustainability are almost always with other students. This workshop gave me the chance to voice my ideas and hear from other perspectives,” she said.

The five-hour event included an introduction by Wesleyan President Michael Roth, a brainstorming session, group idea development sessions and presentations.

Workshop attendees broke into groups to focus on areas of campus buildings; dining and food; diversity, inclusion and affordability; education and research; energy; community and campus engagement; grounds; health and well-being planning; purchasing; transportation; waste; and water.

Physics major Kiley Kennedy ’16 joined the health and wellbeing workgroup, which focused on connecting the ecological and environmental factors with physical and psychological health. The group brainstormed several ideas, and suggested Wesleyan offer integrated (faculty/staff/student) fitness classes; outdoor classrooms; extensive outdoor running trails/maps; an outdoor fitness center above the Central Power Plant; and for-credit outdoor physical education classes.

“The overall goal of these ideas are to give people who have a hard time getting active or feel confined to the gym better access to physical activity outside of the gym. There are also ways to encourage walking that might help with physical and psychological health and atmosphere,” Kennedy said. “We also discussed ways to engage with and integrate faculty, staff, students and the Middletown community through environmentally-focused activities and fundraisers.”

Anita Deeg-Carlin, administrative assistant in the Physics Department, participated in the engagement workgroup. Her group discussed ways to streamline the efforts of the 20-plus environmental student groups on campus, how to better communicate and collaborate between the groups and the Sustainability Office, and also how to identify, motivate, and support interested staff, faculty and community members.

“Our group concluded that the Sustainability Office needs to become more robust, with permanent staffing, and with better rewards for student volunteers, like credit/internships/paid positions, in order to become efficient and effective with our efforts toward sustainability,” she said.

Scott Elias ’14 participated in the energy workgroup and pressed for expanding the university’s solar capacity. Currently on Wesleyan’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) report, “Energy” received 4.33/16.50 and 0/7 in the “clean and renewable energy” subcategory.

“Our energy group explored ways to conserve energy, improve efficiency, encourage behavioral change, and increase the use of clean and renewable energy. In particular, it was suggested that Wesleyan invest in solar panels on senior housing, which is currently one of the least sustainable parts of campus,” he said.

Krishna Winston, director of the Service Learning Center and professor of German and environmental studies, participated in the education workgroup

Krishna Winston, director of the Service Learning Center and professor of German and environmental studies, participated in the education workgroup. At left is John Meerts, vice president for finance and administration.

Krishna Winston, director of the Service Learning Center, the Marcus L. Taft professor of German Language and Literature, professor of environmental studies, participated in the education workgroup as a member of SAGES and chair of its education subcommittee. Her group focused on effecting behavioral change and “establishing the concepts and methodologies of sustainability so firmly in the curriculum that every student graduating from Wesleyan would understand the necessity of living sustainably and promoting sustainability in the economy and society,” she said. Winston also talked about ways to include faculty and staff in SAGES educational initiatives.

Sustainability Office intern Rachael Metz ’16 worked with members of the transportation workgroup. Her group discussed the idea of banning cars for first-year students on campus; creating an incentive for other students to not bring cars by providing reduced Zipcar rates; creating parking incentives for faculty and staff using hybrid or electric cars; switch out Public Safety vehicles with hybrid or electric cars and replace The Ride vans with sustainable vehicles, as technology advances.

“Though all of the attendees were told to think big without a budget, all of our ideas were short-term and could be accomplished in the next few years. Though I know that doesn’t hold true for all of the groups because of logistics, it is exciting that the transportation issues on campus could possibly be completely eliminated in the next few years in exchange for more sustainable options,” Metz said.

Liz Tinker, administrative assistant in the English Department, was part of the waste and dining-themed workgroup. Her group discussed dishware, composting and compost bin placement, limiting the amount of copy paper and posters. “I decided to attend the workshop after completing the Sustainability Survey on which I mentioned a number of issues I thought should be addressed. I felt that rather than just complaining about issues I should actively participate in trying to resolve them,” she said.

In March, the Sustainability Office will invite the campus to take part in the next step of creating its sustainability action plan, working in small groups to take the brainstormed ideas to the next level.

“So much energy was generated and harnessed during the workshop, we need to ‘ride the wave’ to good results,” Deeg-Carlin said. “The amount of creative, low-cost, ‘no-brainer,’ ideas that were generated was so refreshing and exciting; I look forward to getting the summaries of all the groups, continuing the conversations, and putting them into action.”

View more photos of the Sustainability Action Planning Workshop below:

Jen Kleindienst, sustainability coordinator, and Bill Nelligan, director of environmental services, speak to participants at the Sustainability Action Planning Workshop on Feb. 21. The event was held in the Allbritton Center.

Jen Kleindienst, sustainability coordinator, and Bill Nelligan, director of environmental services, speak to participants at the Sustainability Action Planning Workshop on Feb. 21. The event was held in the Allbritton Center. Kleindienst pointed out that Wesleyan’s emissions for 2012-13 were 26,795 tons — the equivalent annual emissions of 5,582 passenger vehicles.

Anita Deeg-Carlin, administrative assistant for physics, participated in the planning and engagement workgroup, which focused primarily on how to streamline the efforts of the multiple environmental student groups, how to improve communication and collaboration between them and the sustainability office, and how to identify, motivate, and support interested non-student groups.

At left, Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology, and Anita Deeg-Carlin, administrative assistant for physics, participated in the planning and engagement workgroup, which focused primarily on how to streamline the efforts of the multiple environmental student groups, how to improve communication and collaboration between them and the sustainability office, and how to identify, motivate, and support interested non-student groups.

Scott Elias ’14 participated in the energy workgroup. “I attended the conference in large part because I think that if Wesleyan is to really meet its climate neutrality goals by 2050 and do its part in the fight to avert dangerous climate change we need to expand Wesleyan's clean, low-carbon energy capacity. In particular, I think that means expanding our solar capacity,” he said. Elias also is co-organizing a Climate Conference on April 12.

Scott Elias ’14 participated in the energy workgroup. “I attended the conference in large part because I think that if Wesleyan is to really meet its climate neutrality goals by 2050 and do its part in the fight to avert dangerous climate change we need to expand Wesleyan’s clean, low-carbon energy capacity. In particular, I think that means expanding our solar capacity,” he said. Elias also is co-organizing a Climate Conference on April 12.

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor professor of environmental studies, participated in the buildings workgroup.

Dana Royer, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor professor of environmental studies, participated in the buildings workgroup.

Dena Matthews, publication production manager, participated in the grounds workgroup. "It was hard to decide which group to select because sustainability is important to me and I see many opportunities for improvement at Wesleyan," she said. "We had a terrific range of perspectives and experiences to bring to the table. We outlined some very possible solutions to unsustainable practices, including promoting transparency with the contractual responsibilities with the grounds maintenance service so our community knows the expectations and how to best respond if those aren’t met. "Also pictured are Manon Lefevre '14 and John Wareham, video production coordinator in Information Technology Services.

At left, Dena Matthews, publication production manager, participated in the grounds workgroup. “It was hard to decide which group to select because sustainability is important to me and I see many opportunities for improvement at Wesleyan,” she said. “We had a terrific range of perspectives and experiences to bring to the table. We outlined some very possible solutions to unsustainable practices, including promoting transparency with the contractual responsibilities with the grounds maintenance service so our community knows the expectations and how to best respond if those aren’t met. ” Also pictured are Manon Lefevre ’14 and John Wareham, video production coordinator in Information Technology Services.

Antonio Farias, chief diversity officer, participated in the team looking at equity in order to broaden the scope of sustainability from a privileged white middle class issue to include environmental justice.

Antonio Farias, chief diversity officer, participated in the diversity, inclusion and affordability workgroup. His team looked for ways to broaden the scope of sustainability from a privileged white middle class issue to include environmental justice. Pictured at left is Fran Koerting, director of Residential Life.

Rachael Metz ’16 participated in the transportation workgroup. She is a member of environmental groups on campus and interns for the Sustainability Office, working with Jen Kleindienst, the sustainability coordinator, to create and launch the new Eco-Facilitators program in the fall.

At right, Rachael Metz ’16 participated in the transportation workgroup. She is a member of environmental groups on campus and interns for the Sustainability Office, working with Jen Kleindienst, the sustainability coordinator, to create and launch a new Eco-Facilitators program in the fall.

Josh Krugman ’14 participated in the education workgroup. This group discussed the creation of a required interdisciplinary first-year course focused on ecology and sustainability and the espansion of the role of student fora concerning ecological and sustainability issues.

Josh Krugman ’14 participated in the education workgroup. This group discussed the creation of a required interdisciplinary first-year course focused on ecology and sustainability. “I attended the workshop because I think it’s fantastic that Wesleyan is beginning to take its ecological impact seriously, and I think it’s also fantastic that they are asking for community input, rather than just farming it out to some consulting firm, so I felt honored and compelled by a sense of community to go and help out in creating this plan,” he said. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08 and Hannah Norman ’16)

Olivia Drake

Olivia (M.A.L.S. '08) is editor of the Wesleyan Connection newsletter and campus photographer. I have two dogs, five chickens and 30 house plants. I like snow, photographing firemen and enjoying "stinky" cheeses. Send me your story ideas to newsletter@wesleyan.edu. 

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