Over 100 students and faculty gathered in Tishman Commons last Wednesday for the Sustainability Ideafest, a forum for the discussion of promoting environmental sustainability for the College. The IdeaFest, hosted by the Office of Sustainability, was the beginning of the development of a larger Sustainability Plan for the College.
There were several tables, each labeled with a different sign, a couple of facts about the specific sector and one to three moderators at each table. The sectors were “Food and Dining Services,” “Campus Water Supply,” “Transportation,” “Purchasing and Waste Management,” “Energy and Climate Action,” “Campus Landscape and Watershed,” “Buildings” and “Academic Integration and Co-Curricular.” Attendees were encouraged to move around each of the tables and offer ideas to promote sustainability in each sector. Whoever wrote down an idea was given a raffle ticket to receive cash gift cards of various amounts with prizes including a $100 gift card.
Around 266 ideas were submitted to the Sustainability committee at the IdeaFest. Sophia Garcia ’15 challenged the idea of unlimited food at Wellesley. She suggested setting more parameters surrounding dining in order to collect data for a more sustainable dining hall that wastes less food.
“[The dining halls] cannot make any changes because they don’t know when [students] eat, what they eat, how much they eat and how much they throw away,” Garcia said.
One student suggested that Wellesley College give students free or discounted commuter rail passes, just as colleges and universities like Boston University give students loaded Charlie Cards to encourage use of public transportation.
“If I had the commuter rail as a free option, I would totally make the walk,” Carolyn Banks ’15 said.
These are just some of the ideas brought up at IdeaFest. The event was a kickstarter to promote ideas that would hopefully be implemented in a larger college-wide sustainability plan. The sustainability plan will be developed by the Advisory Committee on Sustainability. Academic Council, the governing body of faculty and administrators of the college, created the committee two years ago and consists of faculty, staff, administrators and students.
“I was thrilled with the IdeaFest,” Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Chair of the Advisory Committee Jay Turner said. “There were three goals for the IdeaFest. One was to kick off the sustainability planning process, another was to get ideas from the College community and the third goal was to identify people who want to have a continuing role in this process. In terms of all three of those things, it was a really good success.”
The sustainability plan will be part of an ongoing effort to make the college more environmentally sustainable in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote overall efficiency. The different tables at the event represented the different sectors of the possible plan.
“There is a lot of interest in sustainability at Wellesley and since 2008 we have had a stated goal of integrating sustainability into all of our College decision making, but we have not actually had a way to do that. The Sustainability plan is meant to give us a way to act on that interest and on that commitment to sustainability,” Turner said.
The committee hopes to have a draft for the sustainability plan by the end of the semester and then revise and finalize it next semester.
“Right now we are just in the idea gathering phase. We got ideas from the community at the Idea Fest, and we are going to get ideas from the people who work in these different sectors next. We are also going to get ideas from other institutions,” Turner said. “Then it is going to be a collaborative, iterative process of taking those ideas and narrowing them down and figuring out what fits into the plan.”
The IdeaFest might have been the beginning of the implementation of the Sustainability Plan, but there is still a long way to go.
“The Sustainability Plan will succeed if we have involvement from the community as a whole,” Turner said. “The ideafest was a really good first step and we are looking forward to more collaboration and input from the College community as we move forward.”
Photos courtesy of Office of Sustainability
Cynthia Chen ’18 is a staff writer for the News and Arts section who wants to be a journalist, and is pursuing a major in Political Science. She likes to converse about soy wasabi almonds and praying mantis’.