Wesleyan’s campus is home to 89 acres of natural areas. These meadow areas are only mowed once a year and are home to wildflowers, native grasses and provide food and homes for wildlife. As part of the Wesleyan Sustainability Grounds Initiatives, the university is in the process of expanding no-mow areas across campus.
Tag Archive for sustainability
by Olivia Drake •
Spring is in the air this April. Buds and blooms are making appearances throughout campus.
by Olivia Drake •
by Olivia Drake •
This month, Wesleyan is celebrating its progress toward a sustainable campus and is about to embark on an exciting new project – the creation of a solar farm that will supply 1.2 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable energy each year and expand the university’s use of solar energy by six-fold.
“The solar farm will be a highly visible sign of our progress, but our commitment to sustainability is embedded in everything we do,” said Jennifer Kleindienst, sustainability director at Wesleyan.
Energy use has the greatest impact on Wesleyan’s carbon footprint, and efficiency and conservation programs, as well as expansion of renewable energy sources are all a part of the university’s strategy. Preparations for construction of a solar photovoltaic (PV) “farm” will begin in May, and it is expected to be operational by the fall. The solar farm will be located on the south end of Wesleyan’s Long Lane property near the rugby field.
The new solar farm, which will be owned and operated by the local company Greenskies, will produce about 5 percent of Wesleyan’s annual electric consumption, complementing the three existing solar arrays on campus at the Office of Admission, the Freeman Athletic Center, and 19 Fountain Avenue. When the array becomes operational, Wesleyan will be generating 92 percent of its power needs through natural gas co-generation and solar.
Wesleyan received its first solar panels in October 2008. Thirty-two solar panels were installed on the rooftop of a new senior house on Fountain Avenue. The entire house is Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR certified.
In September 2009 John Nordeman ’99 and Matthew Rudey ’99, co-owners of renewable energy company Just Energy (JE), installed panels on the Office of Admission. Wesleyan has a contract with JE to purchase all the electricity the system produces for the next 10 years. The Admissions building uses about 110,000 kWh annually. The panels create electricity at a maximum output of 3 kW and will produce about 3,000 kW hours annually towards that annual usage.
The solar roof mounted array at Freeman Athletic Center consists of 330 panels, each capable of making 280 watts of electrical energy. In sum, the arrays are expected to make approximately 200,000 kilo-watt hours (kWh) of electricity annually, or about 7 million kWh over their 35 year life span.
by Bill Holder •
During Earth Month Wesleyan is celebrating its progress toward a sustainable campus.
“From planning to composting, from university-wide utilities to low-flow showerheads, we are reducing our carbon footprint and creating a culture of sustainability,” said Jennifer Kleindienst, sustainability director at Wesleyan.
With leadership from Kleindienst, Wesleyan has developed a Sustainability Action Plan – a broad commitment to sustainability that is the result of more than a year of effort from over 130 students, faculty and staff. The plan is intended to guide the university’s efforts in this area over the next five years.
“Wesleyan as a whole can contribute to a sustainable world not just by doing what it does so well – teaching and research – but also by being a model of sustainability itself,” said President Michael Roth. “We now have a comprehensive plan and strategies to move Wesleyan toward carbon neutrality and create a more environmentally and socially sustainable campus.”
Energy use has the greatest impact on Wesleyan’s carbon footprint, and efficiency and conservation programs, as well as expansion of renewable energy sources are all a part of the university’s strategy. Preparations for construction of a new solar photovoltaic (PV) “farm” on the university’s Long Lane property will begin in May, and it is expected to be operational by the fall.
Wesleyan’s sustainability achievements also include:
• Sustainable Buildings: Boger Hall (formerly 41 Wyllys Avenue) has the highest possible Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification (Platinum). Among the building’s sustainability highlights are a green roof that provides water filtration and a reduction of the heat island effect; mechanical and lighting systems that sense occupancy, low-flow water fixtures, individual control over lighting and heat, and much more here.
• Water: Usage has declined by over 50 percent (more than 13 million gallons, or the equivalent of nearly 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools) since 2011 due to installation of low-flow fixtures.
• Composting and waste reduction: Over a three-year period, Wesleyan has increased composting from 12 tons to 42 tons, while generation of trash declined from 703 tons to 604 tons.
• Long Lane Farm: Since 2004, the student-run Long Lane Farm has produced food for dining halls and the broader Middletown community. The Community Food Project connects families with children on free or reduced-price lunches to the farm, where they get an opportunity to help out, receive free produce, and have fun.
• Grounds: In 2013, facilities staff planted a wildflower meadow on eight acres off Long Lane. More than 80 acres of Wesleyan’s campus are no-mow, low-mow, or wooded. Since 2012, the student group Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan (WILD Wes) has brought permaculture principles to campus. The group now manages two garden locations.
• Green Fund: In 2010 the student-managed Green Fund was established through a $15 per semester opt-out fee, and 87 percent of students voluntarily participate in the fund. Over the past five years, the Fund has awarded over $365,000 to more than 40 different projects.
“I’m so encouraged by our progress to date,” Kleindienst said, “and having a detailed, comprehensive plan with specific actions and metrics will enable us to do much more. Sustainability is an ongoing process, not an end goal, and we are fortunate to have a campus where sustainability is widely embraced.”
by Olivia Drake •
As soon as the last winter storm smelted away, students involved with Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm were already planting seeds, weeding, tilling fields, staking plots and harvesting winter-hardy herbs, wild garlic and fresh chicken eggs.
The student-run organic farm is devoted to allowing students a place to experiment and learn about sustainable agriculture. In addition to weekly meetings, students run public work days every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which are open to Wesleyan students and community members.
The produce grown on Long Lane is sold at the Holden Farmer’s Market, donated to Amazing Grace Food Pantry, or served to students in Usdan. About 10 students maintain the farm every summer and prepare for the fall harvest. This program has been funded by the College of the Environment, Bon Appetite and the Green Fund.
Pictured below are photos of Long Lane Farm activity on April 14: (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Olivia Drake •
During the academic year, Wesleyan’s Green Team is researching, communicating and implementing effective strategies that increase sustainability within their own departments and the university.
Since 2014, the team has started sharing a “Green Minute” at Administrative Assistant meetings; purchased utensils to distribute to staff at annual meetings; installed a water cooler in Woodhead Lounge; encourages staff to bring their own cup or mug to meetings; received funding to install cabinets to house dishes in Woodhead Lounge to be used for key events; and encouraged the placement of houseplants in office spaces.
They’re currently focusing their efforts on managing waste sustainability, making sustainable purchases, reducing energy in their departments and encouraging colleagues to shift the culture of their areas and be sustainable.
“I truly enjoy working with my peers to raise awareness of the sustainability efforts on campus,” said Green Team member Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for the College of the Environment. “I especially like working on projects with practical solutions that result in reducing waste and saving money to make the University a better place.”
The Green Team shares their efforts, goals and ideas with Provost Joyce Jacobsen and the Office of Academic Affairs. Academic Affairs has been supportive of the Green Team since its beginning in 2014.
The Green Team is always open to new members. For more information on the Green Team, e-mail Anika Dane or Blanche Meslin. Also, visit the Green Team’s Green Tips page for ideas on how to make your office more sustainable!
by Lauren Rubenstein •
“There is no single ‘right way’ to be an environmentalist.”
This is the philosophy of the Wesleyan Green Fund, which since 2010 has provided financial support to a wide range of sustainability projects on campus. Overseen by six to eight students, and advised by Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst, the Green Fund has received 50 proposals for grants from over 30 organizations and individuals this year alone, and distributed close to $100,000 in funding.
The money distributed by the Green Fund comes from a $15 per semester opt-out fee paid by students along with tuition. About 90 percent of students participate, and on average, the Green Fund gets about $85,000 per year. The Green Fund accepts proposals from students, faculty and staff.
According to Green Fund Chair Zacko Brint ’16, at its founding, the organization’s original goals were to “decrease the carbon footprint of the University, decrease waste, increase the University’s use of renewable energy sources, and increase the visibility of environmentally responsible practices on campus.” Its focus was mainly on funding larger projects, such as WILD Wes, several capital projects at Long Lane Farm, and the first three years of salary for the sustainability coordinator. (See more examples here.)
In recent years, while the funding of large projects has continued, the Green Fund “has made significant efforts to expand the communities that we serve, and broaden the definition of sustainability,” said Brint. The 50 applications received this year range from the Sailing Club to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day symposium to a student-run papermaking club. Some proposals are to fund small sustainability-focused parts of a larger project, such as a student group wishing to print on sustainably sourced paper, which costs more than virgin paper.
“The Green Fund has supported so many projects that would not otherwise be possible on campus,” Kleindienst said. “It’s been exciting this year to see so many funded projects related to the intersection of environmental issues and social justice, including a zine on climate justice, a panel discussion on environmental justice, and a lobbying training workshop for students, which was brought back to campus to train other Wesleyan students.”
View all Green Fund projects online here.
Brint noted that because the Green Fund is not always able to fully fund all projects that apply for grants, one of their goals is to understand all funding sources on campus and build coalitions.
“We have established working relationships with many different offices and funding sources on campus, and if we have a project that we need help funding, we can call and help expedite the process,” he explained. “In a lot of ways, we act as a liaison for projects.
Members of the Green Fund also actively pursue projects of their own. Currently, this includes an initiative to start an Environmental Justice student forum next fall, as well as working with the administration to hire a faculty member to teach a similar course. Members of the Green Fund are also working on purchasing an electric vehicle that will serve in the Department of Transportation’s fleet.
In the future, Brint expects the Green Fund to continue expanding what it means to be sustainable and, in doing so, to reach new communities. He credits Kleindienst with helping the entire Wesleyan community shift towards thinking about sustainability. One such initiative involves getting more professors to incorporate sustainability modules into their syllabi. The Green Fund has provided financial backing to run a seminar for professors at Wesleyan and other Connecticut college on how they can incorporate sustainability into their courses.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In a story about the spread of microgrids in Connecticut, The Hartford Courant points to Wesleyan as a leader. Wesleyan’s microgrid was the first project to come online under the inaugural round of Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation statewide microgrid pilot program.
According to the Courant, the $23 million state program to create a network of mini power generation plants across Connecticut was prompted by Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread power outages, flooding and other problems. In the case of a widespread power outage, microgrids can continue providing power to water treatment plants, emergency shelters, hospitals, police and fire stations.
The Courant interviewed Alan Rubacha, director of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant, who said these mini-power plants offer advantages that go beyond providing power in emergencies. He said the university’s microgrid, which went on line in 2014, is producing enough electricity and steam to save Wesleyan an estimated $300,000 a year in energy costs.
Not only does the university’s natural gas engine produce electricity “as efficiently as a utility,” according to Rubacha, “the big thing is we use all the heat off the back end” as steam to heat the Freeman Athletic Center.
Wesleyan’s plant was one of the first Connecticut microgrids and the overall cost amounted to $4.1 million, including a $603,836 state grant. The combination of university and state funding paid for a 676 kilowatt natural gas engine that operates continuously to power the athletic center.
The center is also a designated emergency center for the area and a distribution point for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Wesleyan’s microgrid includes some solar power as well, and Rubacha said university officials calculate that the system will pay back the entire investment in a little over a decade.
by Olivia Drake •
On April 12, the Purchasing Office organized a Green Vendor Show to showcase ecologically-minded businesses and promote new sustainable products and services awareness.
Representatives visited from WB Mason, 3M, Proshred Security, Gateway Limo, Ricoh, Sun Services, Raymour & Flanigan, Polar Beverages, KIND Snack Bars and more.
“Members of the Wesleyan community were welcome to stop by and learn about new products and services and ways they might save money for their departments,” said organizer Olga Bookas, director of purchasing.
Participants left with many free samples and raffle prizes.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
More than 60 students gathered in Beckham Hall for the College for East Asian Studies Student Conference, “Environment in Asia,” co-sponsored with the Center for Global Studies and the Center for Pedagogical Innovation on March 25.
Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad, Associate Professor of Music Su Zheng, and Associate Professor of Film Studies Lisa Dombrowski offered their discipline as a lens through which to view environmental concerns in the region— from using political action to regulate pollution, to music videos that call attention to smog concerns, to films that highlight the surreal aspects of man-made structures that change the landscape.
Following the talks, students adjourned small discussion groups. The conference was unique in offering conversation in each of four languages, noted Haddad, who is also chair of the College for East Asian Studies and professor of East Asian studies and professor of environment studies.
“At Wesleyan, we have enough language competency for students to engage in meaningful, intellectually rigorous discussions in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean,” said Haddad. “We have enough diversity on campus that any given session will likely have no fewer that four nationalities represented.”
After the sessions, the students and professors then convened to bring their observations back to the group—and to plan similar events.
Haddad was pleased with the conference, calling it “an extraordinary event that highlighted everything that is so special about Wesleyan.” She said, “Students from around the globe interacted in multiple languages discussing one of the most important issues of our time. Faculty from different disciplines illuminated and discovered new insights as we discussed our work in the interdisciplinary panel.
She also noted that student identity groups were the primary organizers of the event, “generating the ideas and the energy underneath everything. It was one of those moments in which everything comes together.”
Haddad also places the event in context of growth: “The CEAS received two large institutional grants this year. One was from the Japan Foundation to hire a new tenure track faculty member in traditional Japanese literature. The other was from the Korea Foundation to hire a new tenure track faculty member in Korean political economy. Although neither of the grants had funds for student conferences, and thus were not direct funders of the events, some of the inspiration for the event came from our wish to celebrate the growth and vibrancy of our new College.”
See additional photos of the conference below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst spoke in January at the Connecticut Recyclers Coalition conference about Wesleyan’s experience with composting (also called organics recycling).
Wesleyan’s composting efforts began intermittently in 2010 through student initiative. Beginning in 2012-13, Kleindienst, her interns, Physical Plant staff, and Bon Appetit led regular residential and dining pre- and post-consumer collection. The vast majority of composed material comes from Usdan, but other participants include approximately150 wood frame, program houses, and apartment residences, seven of nine dorms, and a handful of offices. Finished compost is sent to Long Lane Farm. Wesleyan’s trash, recycling and composting data can be seen below:
Kleindienst announced that Wesleyan is expanding its efforts with a pilot program at Alpha Delt this semester, as well as trying new waste reduction strategies in Usdan. She is also working with the city of Middletown to make composting more cost effective for Wesleyan, Middletown and Middlesex Community College, as well as advocating for state laws to make composting economically desirable.
A photo of Kleindienst and her presentation can be viewed here.