Students advocate for sustainability in Wellesley 2025
Sustainability campaign takes hold
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 15:09
A growing group of Wellesley College students has organized an initiative to promote sustainability in Wellesley 2025: A Plan for Campus Renewal, calling on members of the Wellesley 2025 Steering Committee and contracted architects to declare sustainability a central theme in the campus-wide renovation project.
Members of the Steering Committee have responded positively to student concerns, highlighting steps that the committee has taken to ensure that sustainability remains a guiding theme in the project. Participants in the movement, known as Sustainable 2025, are hopeful that their concerns have been met but are calling for greater transparency in the Wellesley 2025 planning process. Sustainable 2025, with the help of College Government (CG), has organized a town hall meeting on Oct. 4 in the Library Lecture Room to open up conversation between students, faculty, staff and administrators.
“Although the long-term sustainability choices made in these renovations are being casually mentioned in the planning process, the students have seen no clear, concrete effort on the part of architects, the Steering Committee or the administration to make sustainability a cornerstone of the 2025 building plan in a way that is necessary for Wellesley to be a leader of sustainability in the world of 2025,” Mackenzie Klema ’14, one of the original members of the Sustainable 2025 initiative, stated in a public message to members of the Sustainable 2025 Google Group.
Wellesley 2025 was first announced by President Kim Bottomly in the spring of 2010, following several years of planning as well as a 10-year-long data collection process to identify areas on campus in need of maintenance or renovation. Projects include renovating several residence halls, the Science Center and the Keohane Sports Center, among other facilities on campus.
Ellen Bechtel ’14, a primary organizer of Sustainable 2025, emphasized the importance of student advocacy at a time when fundamental planning for Wellesley 2025 is still underway.
“The timing is perfect,” she stated. “The architects and planning committee are designing the details now, and that’s where a lot of choices can be made that improve the sustainability of the final construction. For example, if the conceptual plans include redoing an academic building... [we can] draw the designs to utilize natural light and solar heating by arranging windows...to catch the power of the winter sun.”
Bechtel also stressed the need to think beyond small steps to improve sustainability and instead focus on building a more sustainable infrastructure.
“What we hope most of all is that the planning committee and architects don’t settle for small-bore greenwashing solutions, like the installation of low-flow toilets and automatic light switches in all buildings,” she said. “While committing to those things is great...Wellesley has the chance to start from the ground-up with this project, and it would be disappointing to come to year 2026 and realize that we spent the money on the low-hanging fruit, when we had the opportunity to address fundamental problems.”
In response to student inquiries, the Wellesley 2025 Steering Committee ensured its commitment to environmentally sustainable practices. Director of Sustainability and member of the Wellesley 2025 Steering Committee Patrick Willoughby noted the importance that the committee has placed on maintaining sustainability as a central theme in the project. Willoughby stressed that the input of students throughout the years has been instrumental in the direction of Wellesley 2025.
“The Wellesley 2025 Steering Committee is committed to ensuring that sustainable practices are integral to the design, construction, and operations of these buildings,” Willoughby said. “Students, staff and faculty have for many years now been working together through the Sustainability Advisory Committee to outline the sustainability goals and aspirations of the College, and the recommendations of that group are framing the current thinking of the steering committee.”
The Wellesley Sustainability Mission Statement says, “the College will consider sustainability as a factor in all institutional decisions.” President Kim Bottomly, in her 2008 Convention address, stated that all colleges and universities “must and will play a crucial role” in addressing environmental challenges. Additionally, the College hired Venturi Scott Brown and Associates (VSBA), a firm with a strong history of commitment to sustainability, to help plan the Wellesley 2025 renovations. VSBA is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, and demonstrates a commitment to integrating energy efficiency in planning and design, reducing waste and pollution and diverting waste from landfills.
In order to uphold the College’s commitment to sustainability, the Sustainability Advisory Committee developed a document that outlines the key sustainability measures to be included in Wellesley 2025 projects.
“That document will guide the decision making of the Steering Committee. It addresses, among other things, prioritizing energy efficiency, minimizing the consumption of non-renewable materials and utilizing renewable energy sources as appropriate and articulates specific strategies to pursue in each of these areas,” the committee stated in an email responding to the student inquiries.
In light of the newly released information, students have shifted their goals toward promoting greater communication between the Wellesley 2025 Steering Committee and working groups and the student body. A Town Hall is schedule to take place on Thursday Oct. 4 in the Library Lecture Room from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Participants hope that by increasing the transparency of the Wellesley 2025 planning process, the upcoming meeting will generate productive conversation about the future of sustainability on Wellesley campus.