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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee meets in full for the first time

The week before Spring Break, the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee, which is devoted to “facilitating the integration of Sustainable UMass Boston initiatives across the campus,” had its first full meeting. [1] Last December, UMass Boston achieved a silver medal from STARS, a program which grades and ranks institutions based on their commitment to environmental sustainability. The committee is split into several task forces based on the different STARS ranking categories.  

The operations category is severely lacking, as discussed at the committee’s March 7 meeting. However, some of this low score stems from a lack of data; the infrastructure, in some cases, is already there, just difficult to report on. To raise this score, the operations task force examined the economic viability of many different on-campus advancements, such as switching campus kitchens from gas to electric power. 

One major project that was discussed involved a seawater pump that UMass Boston already uses for cooling. A report commissioned by the university revealed that, while difficult, the pump could also be used for heating as part of an ongoing decarbonization effort.  

David Timmons, the chair of the Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee, also said, “Traditionally, most committees have been focused on recycling, and that’s not what we want to do.” Research has shown that recycling is among the lowest-priority climate actions that institutions can take, according to an article published in the Atlantic; [2] instead, the committee wants to focus on waste reduction and other methods of carbon reduction.

Another task force focused on community engagement also presented a handful of ideas for improvement. The task force’s first goal is to create co-curricular opportunities for students that would allow them to engage with sustainability actions outside of the classroom. This includes working with the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement on a program which lets students participate directly in creating future programs and workshops. These collective brainstorming sessions will be hosted March 25 and April 9—students can RVSP for these programs on UMBeInvolved. [3]

Other plans from the community engagement task force include a variety of Earth Day programs, which are on April 22. The task force plans to utilize the new quad for these events, which could include an energy tour showing students the various sustainability facilities on campus. The School for the Environment is also hosting an Earth Day symposium from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 22. [4]

The academics category scored higher than the other two, but some changes are still on the way. For example, the committee may revive some certification programs in several colleges, including the College of Business and Management as well as the College of Science and Mathematics. The task force also suggested a multidisciplinary, year-long course covering sustainability efforts, which would include a winter break trip demonstrating hands-on sustainability research.  

In conjunction with several other task forces, the Living Lab task force is working on several long-term projects, including a potential greenhouse on campus. The STARS criteria for a Living Lab requires that the university “is utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability.” This includes “substantive work,” such as class projects, thesis projects, published papers and formal learning internships that “involves active and experiential student learning.”

Various members of the committee suggested other ideas for improving sustainability on campus. One issue the committee faces is a lack of transparency and communication with the student body. Many students on campus are simply unaware of the existing decarbonization efforts and sustainable infrastructure, and part of the committee’s long-term goals include improving outreach and communication efforts.

The committee is already enacting its short-term plans, and expects to see results from these plans around May.  

 

SOURCES: 

[1] https://www.umb.edu/campus-planning/sustainability/  

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/01/recycling-wont-solve-climate-change/617851/  

[3] https://umb.campuslabs.com/engage/event/10020633  

[4] https://umb.edu/events/events/sfe-earth-day-symposium-on-april-22-2024.php  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor