The Tufts University Office of Sustainability recently released its Campus Sustainability Progress Report for the 2016 fiscal year.
The report details a slight decrease in both water and energy use since FY2014 on all Tufts campuses. Tufts had largely failed to achieve its 2013 goal, as detailed in the Campus Sustainability Council Report to decrease waste produced by three percent each year. However, Tina Woolston, program director of the Office of Sustainability, told the Daily in an email that Tufts did manage to reduce its waste production by three percent during fiscal year 2017.
The Office of Sustainability partially attributes the aforementioned difficulties to the growing undergraduate population and construction on campus, according to Celia Bottger, programs intern at the Office of Sustainability.
Much of the report focused on the recent changes made by Tufts Dining Services to promote sustainable practices, specifically in reducing food waste. Director of Dining and Business services Patti Klos attributed this focus to the large portion of water and energy that dining consumes in its food preparation, creation and cleanup.
The report says that 16 percent of the Medford/Somerville campus’ waste is composted, although Klos explained that the ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of waste that is produced to zero.
“Even if the number of people we’re serving grows, how do we reduce the amount of food that gets composted? Because that’s not your first choice; your first choice is to not prepare it, to have the food more closely match the demand,” Klos said. “When that’s not possible, then you try to find ways to repurpose it.”
To reduce waste from the dining halls, Dining Services has begun to rely more on student-based efforts like Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative, which packages leftover food from Carmichael Dining Center and Dewick-Macphie Dining Center to be sent to Food for Free, a local nonprofit organization, according to the Tufts Environmental Studies Program website. Additionally, during fiscal year 2016, Tufts Dining hosted its inaugural Waste Less Dinner; the event was repeated this fall, and using data from the dinner, it was calculated that the average diner wastes 1.2 ounces of food per meal, according to Klos. She stressed the importance of events like Waste Less Dinner in raising consciousness among students and encouraging them to think critically about the waste they produce.
The Campus Sustainability Progress Report details the progress of the Eco-Reps Program. The program focuses on peer-to-peer education by stationing student sustainability advocates in dorms and through hosting sustainability-centered events, Tufts Eco-Reps Coordinator Isabael Falls said.
The Campus Sustainability Progress Report writes that 690 students have been taught about sustainability issues through eco-rep events. The number of eco-reps is at a record high this year, Falls said, with 25 total representatives ranging across the Medford/Somerville, School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Health Science campuses. Additionally, though the report recognizes 44 students as having received Green Dorm Room Certifications, Falls said that number has increased to over 300 students this year.
Falls, a junior, said the program spreads awareness about sustainability throughout campus.
“Not only does it help students educate other students, but the program itself helps the eco-reps educate themselves,” Falls said. “Then, while we want them to reach out to their residents of their particular dorm, and most of them do, they’re also going to have influence over their own friends.”
Still, Falls said Tufts students could be better informed about sustainability.
“Tufts, as a student body, could do a lot better with sustainability initiatives,” Falls said. “There’s so much more to do and so many people still don’t know how to do basic environmental sustainability practices. Continuing the conversation about it is really important.”
Moving forward, the Office of Sustainability plans to increase its focus on reducing carbon emissions and increasing student involvement and awareness, Bottger said. Specifically, it will focus on the goals of the Second Nature Climate Commitment, signed by University President Anthony Monaco in spring 2016, according to Bottger. The commitment moves Tufts towards carbon neutrality.
“The Office of Sustainability will support the university in creating a climate action plan by spring 2019 that outlines how Tufts will become carbon neutral and uphold this commitment,” Bottger said. “The [Office of Sustainability] hopes to aid the university in reaching this goal by steadily increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings, investing in renewable energy and decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels.”
The Office of Sustainability also hopes to increase the prominence of sustainability literacy programs on campus, including the Eco-Reps, Waste Less Dinners and Eco-Ambassador Program for offices on campuses, Bottger said.
Klos said that making this campus more sustainable is an ongoing challenge.
“We’re going to be at this forever because it’s important and there’s always more to do, but we’re making strides,” Klos said.