Tag Archive for sustainability

Students Discuss Wesleyan’s Sustainability Efforts during Earth Month

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office led a virtual WesFest session to introduce Class of 2024 admitted students and their families to the office.

Several Eco Facilitators and Sustainability Interns from the Wesleyan Sustainability Office, and members of the Wesleyan Green Fund and other environmental sustainability groups on campus shared information on the sustainability scene at Wesleyan. There are currently a total of 16 Eco Facilitators, two Eco Facilitator coordinators, five compost interns, three sustainability coordinators and one Sustainable Middletown intern.

Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst explained the office’s three main purposes: to reduce Wesleyan’s environmental footprint; to ensure students are exposed to information on sustainability and environmental justice in their courses; and to focus on the office’s intern program to build more of a culture of sustainability on campus.

“We’re trying to bring sustainability to more people [and] make it more accessible, . . . bring in intersectional issues as much as possible, and we’re always looking to evolve,” Kleindienst said. “We’re excited to have you here today to talk about what we do and get you excited about coming to Wesleyan!”

salma

During a virtual discussion on Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office, Eco Facilitator Salma Hassan ’22 shared her efforts on encouraging students to return their eco-to-go food containers; collaborating with the Wesleyan Resource Center on including intersectionality in environmentalism; and expanding the topic of environmental justice into more Wesleyan classes. Hassan, a psychology, French studies, and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies triple major, worked with fellow Eco Facilitator Chloe Johnson ’22 to start eco-to-go collection hours in first-year student residence complexes where students could drop off the containers on site rather than returning them to the dining halls. The effort worked, and Wesleyan’s Dining Services reported an uptick in the amount of containers returned.

Wesleyan Receives STARS Silver Rating for Sustainability Achievements

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recently recognized Wesleyan University for completing the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) reporting process and earning a STARS Silver rating.

STARS measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

“We primarily complete the STARS evaluation to have an objective, third-party view of ways that Wesleyan could be more sustainable,” Kleindienst said. “It is helpful to see how we compare to other institutions as well, and useful to be able to learn best practices from other colleges and universities.”

According to Wesleyan’s STARS report card, the University scored 61 of 100 points for its sustainability efforts in 2019. Wesleyan also received Silver ratings in 2013 and 2016.

“We’ve improved each time, and we’re just five points shy of the Gold rating,” said Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst. “We’ve learned a lot from this evaluation and have made changes internally that should improve our score the next time in 2022.”

Institutions are graded on academics (curriculum and research); engagement (campus engagement and public engagement); operations (air and climate, buildings, energy, food and dining, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste, and water); planning and administration (coordination and planning, diversity and affordability, investment and finance, well-being and work); and innovation and leadership.

Wesleyan Vows to Divest from Fossil Fuel Investments by the End of the Decade

At its most recent meeting on Feb. 29, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees discussed how to better align endowment investment practices with the University’s broad sustainability efforts.

In a recent campus-wide email, President Michael Roth ’78 and Board of Trustees Chair Donna Morea ’76, P’06 shared the following message:

Given the climate emergency, the investment and ecological risks associated with fossil fuels and the Investment Committee’s own environmental, social and governance guidelines, there was broad agreement among trustees not to make new fossil fuel investments and to wind down current investments in this sector as quickly as possible while minimizing the negative impact to the value of the endowment. The University will be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade.

Wesleyan has already made a climate commitment aiming at carbon neutrality and will now be accelerating work in this direction. This weekend, the Board authorized the first phase of converting our energy infrastructure from steam to hot water. When complete, this project will reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint by thousands of metric tons per year.

What’s the Buzz About Pollinators? Class Visits Local Apiary to Find Out

bees

Drew Burnett, kneeling, at right, gave Wesleyan students a tour of a local apiary, where they learned about the centrality of honeybees to our industrialized agricultural system. The students are pictured holding Drew’s Honeybees lip balm.

Students in a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems class recently stepped out of the classroom … and into beekeeping suits. The buzzworthy hands-on experience was part of a field trip to an apiary in Norwich, Conn.

“The course explores strategies to create a sustainable agriculture and food system,” said Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies, who teaches the class. Her students have already been gaining an understanding of some of the key environmental impacts associated with our agricultural system, and read Rachel Carson’s seminal Silent Spring. The purpose of the field trip on Sept. 18 “was to learn more about pollinators—specifically honeybees—and some of the reasons their populations have been declining in recent years,” Ostfeld said.

Hosting the students were beekeeper Drew Burnett and his assistant Curtis Witt. Burnett is the founder of Drew’s Honeybees, a honeybee-centric, all-natural, USDA organic skincare company. Drew’s Honeybees donates 20 percent of its profits to the State of Connecticut’s Agricultural Experiment Station to fund pioneering research into the causes of and solutions to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Wesleyan Partners with Organization to Recycle Surplus Furniture

Highrise

On June 17, Wesleyan employees moved outdated furniture from the High Rise apartments into a truck. The contents will be donated to IRN, an organization that recycles and finds new homes for the furniture.

Every summer, when campus is relatively quiet, the Facilities Team is hard at work maintaining, renovating, and upgrading all of Wesleyan’s buildings and grounds. Part of this work involves the large-scale replacement of furniture in residential facilities—a process that has recently been made more environmentally friendly thanks to a partnership with IRN, an organization dubbed “The Reuse Network.”

According to Jeff Sweet, Wesleyan’s associate director of facilities management, the University has partnered with IRN for the past three years to recycle old residential furniture that is being replaced. IRN “matches the needs of charities and nonprofits throughout the world with surplus furnishings and equipment from schools, universities, corporations, and other large organizations,” according to its website. IRN estimates it has saved 80 million pounds of surplus from ending up in landfills.

Commute to Work with New Vanpooling Option

This year, the Sustainability Office is partnering with Commute with Enterprise to offer vanpooling opportunities to employees.

A vanpool is a group of 7–15 people traveling to work together in a minivan or a 12–15 passenger van. Vanpool groups usually meet each day at a prearranged location, such as a park-and-ride lot. Commuters pay a monthly fee that covers the van, insurance, and fuel costs.

In addition, users enjoy:

  • Reduced personal vehicle maintenance expenses
  • Emergency ride home service
  • Roadside assistance
  • Eligibility for commuter rewards
  • Reduced stress (a recent study indicates that vanpoolers experience a 21 percent lower rate of self-reported stress than those driving alone)
  • A reduced carbon footprint

Wesleyan Publishes Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report

Wesleyan’s 750 kW-AC ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system produces approximately 1.2 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable energy each year amounting to about five percent of Wesleyan’s annual electric consumption. The solar farm is one of 62 projects highlighted in the newly released Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report, which features sustainable accomplishments on campus.

Wesleyan’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), developed in 2016, is a five-year plan that reflects Wesleyan’s commitment to a sustainable future. Written with input from more than 130 students, faculty, and staff, the plan establishes goals, objectives, strategies, timelines, metrics, and responsible parties in topic areas.

In November, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office released its first Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report, This report highlights progress made toward SAP strategies between 2016 and 2018 in the areas of planning, engagement, health and well-being, academic operations, curriculum, buildings, dining, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste, and water. The report also outlines Wesleyan’s vision for 2021 and summarizes overall progress.

“The Wesleyan community should be extremely proud of what sustainability measures we’ve accomplished in only two years,” said Jen Kleindienst, sustainability director. “The Progress Report highlights our success and it’s meant to acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments that contribute to a more sustainable campus.”

Several Wesleyan employees use small containers to collect garbage. The "mini bins" encourage recycling and reduce the number of trash can liners used on campus.

Several Wesleyan employees use small containers to collect garbage. The “mini bins” encourage recycling and reduce the number of trash can liners used on campus.

Some of the report’s highlights are below.

Since 2016:

  • Campus has received new recycling and trash signage developed and installed in every building.
  • An employee survey was conducted on current and potential use of carpooling, public transportation, and parking in order to identify target areas for emission reduction.
  • Waste Not collected approximately 22,000 pounds of donations and raised $5,000 for nonprofits.
  • Mowing heights are raised in non-athletic fields in spring and summer to decrease mowing frequency and fuel expenditure.
  • The third floor of North College completed the Green Office Certification and earned a silver certificate.
  • The Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES) developed a mission statement and gained 15 new members.
  • Food rescue and composting efforts helped divert 111 tons of food waste through donations and composting.
  • A sustainability priority statement was included as a core competency for all staff job postings.
  • Grounds began designing a plan to pilot 100 percent organic lawn care practices in recreationally used fields.
  • A building sustainability policy was developed to reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint.
  • Compost interns ran waste and composting intervention events in campus dining areas.
  • Veg Out Tuesdays occur every other Tuesday and reduce meat consumption.
  • More than 250 trees have been planted (since 2014)
  • A newly-installed solar photovoltaic system, or solar farm, reduces reliance on natural gas.
  • A Freecycle listserv gained 52 members in 2018 and continues to grow. More than 50 percent of trades are successful.
  • The Sustainability Office held two Clean Plate Challenges in Usdan in February and April of 2018 aimed at reducing food waste and conducted food waste audits.
  • Flu shots, screenings, and fitness classes were offered to Wesleyan employees with over 800 participants.

Kleindienst points out that sustainability is not an end goal, but an ongoing process.

“We wouldn’t be here without the hard work of Wesleyan staff, faculty, and students who have taken innumerable steps to get us to this point,” Kleindienst said. “I’m excited for the next three years and beyond!”

View the entire report online here. More information on sustainability at Wesleyan is online here.

Wesleyan, Eversource Begin 3-Year Strategic Partnership

Eversource Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Morton and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 seal the deal on a partnership between Eversource Energy and the University.

Wesleyan recently kicked off a strategic partnership with Eversource Energy that will support the University’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth and Eversource Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Morton signed an agreement on Oct. 30 before receiving a tour of the Freeman Athletic Center’s recent energy efficiency upgrades.

The new strategic partnership supports a three-year energy efficiency plan that will save an additional 3.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Fall Harvest, Music, Gatherings at 2018 Pumpkin Fest

The campus and local community celebrated the fall season during the College of the Environment’s annual Pumpkin Fest on Oct. 13.

Held at the student-run, Long Lane Organic Farm, participants enjoyed farm tours, farm produce and baked good sales, crafts, face painting, local vendors, free veggie burgers and apple cider, a pie eating contest, prizes from Wesleyan University Press, and musical performances.

Wesleyan performers included Brien Bradley ’19, Phie Towle ’20, Rebecca Roff ’20, Dreamboat (May Klug ’19), Slavei, Long Lane Gourdchestra, and Anna Marie Rosenlieb [’20] Collective Dance Improv.

In addition, the student groups Veg Out, Outing Club, Climate Action, Bee Club, and Wesleyan Sustainability had tables at the festival.

(Photos by Alexa Jablonski ’22)

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR“Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, explains why Democrats are “laser-focused on health care” this election season. Fowler also recently was quoted on advertising in the midterm elections in The Washington Post and USA Today, and interviewed on NPRMarketplace, and The Takeaway.

3. Religion & Politics“Russia’s Journey from Orthodoxy to Atheism, and Back Again”

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s “engaging book is full of striking analysis and counterintuitive insights,” according to this review. The book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, was also recently reviewed in Foreign Affairs, while Smolkin, who is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies, was quoted in The Washington Post.

4. AnthroBites: “Queer Anthropology”

Margot Weiss, associate professor and chair of anthropology, speaks about the study of queer anthropology in this podcast interview. Weiss is also associate professor, feminist, gender and sexuality studies; associate professor of American studies; and coordinator, queer studies.

5. The Hill: “The Memo: Trump Remark Sparks Debate Over Nationalism”

Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought Peter Rutland, who has taught courses on nationalism for 30 years, says it was “surprising” that Trump called himself a nationalist. “The words ‘nationalist’ and ‘nationalism’ are not part of the normal American political vocabulary. It has got very negative connotations.” Rutland is also professor, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; professor of government; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

6. WNYC’s Soundcheck“Composer and Drummer Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11] Explores Time”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey performed live, in-studio with his newly formed ensemble that incorporates turntablism, electronics, and spontaneous composition. Sorey is also assistant professor, African American studies.

Recent Alumni News

1. Forbes: This New $100 Million VC Fund Is Looking to Help Crypto Startups Bridge China and Silicon Valley

Alexander Pack ’14 and his new $100 million venture capital fund, Dragonfly Capital Partners, are profiled. With his partner, Bo Feng, Pack will “look to invest in a mix of crypto-first funds, protocols, and applications, as well as tech startups building infrastructure for crypto-driven economies.” The company is also featured in Venturebeat.

2. UMass Med Now: UMMS Alum Raghu Kiran Appasani [’12Addresses UN General Assembly on Global Mental Health

Raghu Kiran Appasani ’12 helped launch the United for Global Mental Health campaign with an event at the United Nations General Assembly cohosted by Appasani, United for Global Health campaign CEO Elisha London, and Cynthia Germanotta of the Born This Way Foundation.

3. XO Necole: “4 Gems ‘Women In Media’ Can Learn From Angela Yee [’97]”

Entrepreneur and radio host Angela Yee ’97 was recently honored by Women In Media during their annual conference. XO Necole celebrates Yee’s “hustle hard” mentality and breaks down 4 “top-notch takeaways” from Yee’s motivational speech.

4. Coronado Eagle & Journal: Documentarian Matt Tyrnauer [’91] To Be Honored With Coronado Film Festival Director Award

Producer/director Matt Tyrnauer ’91 will receive Best Director honors at the Coronado Island Film Festival (Nov. 9-12). His prolific career as a writer and filmmaker is discussed, as is his latest film, Studio 54, which is generating industry-wide Oscar buzz.

5. MariaShriver.com: “Where There Is Anger There Is Hope

Shriver highlights the book by Dr. Helen Riess ’87,The Empathy Effect: 7 Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, Connect Across Differences, as well as The Good Men Project, founded by Tom Matlack ’86, MALS ’87, P’16.

 

 

Eck ’19 Helping City of Middletown Earn Sustainability Certification

Ingrid Eck ’19, pictured here in the West College Courtyard on Sept. 12, is working to certify the City of Middletown by Sustainable CT. Sustainable CT recognizes thriving and resilient Connecticut municipalities. An independently funded, grassroots, municipal effort, Sustainable CT provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices. Municipalities choose Sustainable CT actions, implement them, and earn points toward certification. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Since arriving on campus freshman year, Ingrid Eck ’19 has fully immersed herself in all Wesleyan has to offer: working on the Wesleyan Green Fund; founding Veg Out, a student group dedicated to food justice; and joining—and currently serving as president of—Wesleyan’s only sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi. She is also working toward not one, but three majors: government, environmental studies, and French studies. More recently, she’s felt a desire to get involved in the broader Middletown community and “truly get to know the city in which I have been living.”

This summer, Eck had a unique opportunity to become intimately familiar with the City of Middletown as she prepared and submitted the city’s application to Sustainable CT for certification.

According to Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director (for whom Eck interns), the Sustainable CT certification is similar to the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) sustainability rating for colleges and universities. Wesleyan received a silver rating by STARS, a program of The Association of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, in 2013, and was re-certified in 2016. Like STARS, Sustainable CT encourages municipalities to become more sustainable in many different realms—such as environmental, social, and economic.

Walking Paths Help Employees Avoid Sedentary Lifestyles at Work

A new Wesleyan University Fitness Trails map shows where employees can walk in a 1-, 3- or 5-mile loop.

A new Wesleyan University Fitness Trails map shows where employees can walk in a 1-, 3- or 5-mile loop.

(By Alessio Gallarotti ’15)

This summer, the Sustainability Office, in conjunction with Human Resources, is encouraging Wesleyan employees to get out and walk.

In 2016, with the approval of President Roth and his cabinet, as well as with strong grassroots support, the Sustainability Office began implementation of a five-year sustainability action plan (SAP), which included approximately 160 initiatives to promote holistic sustainability on campus. The term “sustainability,” while typically used to refer to topics like recycling, resource efficiency, and emissions, is a much broader concept, including social and economic components. Promoting walking promotes well-being and appreciation for place, both of which have the potential to increase holistic sustainability.

One of the many initiative objectives of the Sustainability Action Plan is to promote exercise and outdoor access, which the Sustainability Office hopes will increase the use of walking paths around campus and physical fitness.

Helping to promote this more active lifestyle is a newly launched Wesleyan University Fitness Trails map showing 1-, 3-, and 5-mile walking loops beginning at Wyllys Avenue near Usdan and Boger Hall. In addition, individuals looking for alternate options can follow the cross-country teams’ courses published on the University Athletics website.

Getting employees exercising regularly is an important part of promoting social sustainability at the University. By providing routes to follow, it makes it easier for people to be active, drive less, exercise more, and connect with the world around them.

“It is a cultural change. Many employees live somewhere else and don’t really know Middletown very well, especially on foot,” says Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst. “They drive to work, park their car, walk to their office, work all day, walk back to their car, and drive home. Getting out of the office for walking meetings and lunchtime strolls has the potential to make the workday more pleasurable and promote health.”

Along with the new walking map, the Sustainability Office will work with Human Resources to develop more communication and tools to help people become more sustainable in their personal lives and get in touch with their natural surroundings.