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FSU named one of the most environmentally responsible universities


By Andrea O’Brien 

Staff Writer


Framingham State University is included in a list of 522 “Green Colleges” chosen by The Princeton Review, as part of “The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges: 2024 Edition,” released in October 2023. 


This is the 12th time that Framingham State has been included in this list.

FSU’s Climate Action Plan, which guides the University’s approach to sustainability, was originally written in 2007 and is updated every year by FSU’s Campus Sustainability Coordinator, Megan Mayer.


“The climate action plan is really a document that helps to guide the University. It has goals and action items that we are trying to work on to improve our sustainability efforts,” said Mayer.


Although the plan has not been rewritten since 2007, the plan is updated each year with information about what has been done in the past year to help meet the initial action steps put in place in the original climate action plan, according to Mayer.


Mayer worked on a campus-wide needs assessment to gather data through surveys and focus groups to try to understand what the University is currently doing and what people would like to see to complete a total revision of the climate action plan.


“It really takes involvement from a lot of different parts of campus to decide what our University goals are going to be for the next 5, 10, 15 years,” she said.


Maureen Fowler, director of environmental health and safety, contributed to the 2022 Climate Action Plan.


Fowler worked on obtaining FSU’s greenhouse gas inventory using a climate calculator.

“I put in the amount of fuel that is used on campus by our vehicles, our heating and cooling, our travel, and that kind of information. I used an online calculator to put that information in,” said Fowler.


According to the 2022 Climate Action Plan, the three most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions at FSU were commuting by faculty, staff, and students; on-campus steam generation; and purchased electricity.


Solar panels have been on the roofs of the Athletic Center and the McCarthy Center for many years, according to Ann Martin, capital project management director.


However, there are two new solar projects in progress, said Martin.


The first project is the installation of solar panels on Larned Hall, she said.


Construction of solar panels on the Larned Hall roof is in the “final stages of being completed,” according to Biology professor Aviva Leibert, who served as the interim sustainability coordinator last fall.


According to The Eco Experts website, solar panels are able to generate electricity within seconds of sunlight hitting them once they are fully operational.


The second solar project that is up-and-coming is a solar canopy project that is going to be located in the Salem End Parking Lot, said Martin.


Lawrence McKenna, chair of the department of environment, society & sustainability, said the advantage of canopies is that they take up unused space.


“For a close-to-campus example of a canopy, go look at the Massachusetts State Police barracks on Route 9 or the REI store on Route 30,” said McKenna.


Martin said the lifespan of the solar panels on campus is about 25 years.


Sophomore Olivia Cuccia said, “I feel like a solar canopy is a cool resource to add to FSU because I’ve seen them on a few other college campuses, and it seems like they will become more common in the coming years.”


In addition to the solar canopy project, four EV [electric vehicle] charging stations will be installed, Martin said.


FSU also made improvements to the dining hall to help promote sustainability and reduce waste.


These improvements include eliminating trays in the dining hall to conserve water, installing water-saving dishwashers, and planting a University vegetable garden, according to Framingham State’s website.


“The dining hall has a really strong emphasis on sustainability that dining services have been working on for a while now,” said Leibert.


According to a Gatepost article published on Feb 9, the University’s dining service, Sodexo, has partnered with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to decrease food waste by collecting “frozen food, shelf-stable items, produce, and prepared food that has not been served.” 


Grounds-related efforts on campus include a community garden and two spaces that are pollinator garden habitats, said Leibert.


“These are to try to help the campus itself be more integrated with the natural environment. That’s an area that I’m particularly involved with,” she said.


FSU is currently working on the “Bee Campus USA Certification,” which is a certification process that is meant to promote habitats on campus for pollinators, said Mayer.


“It’s not something where we’ll be having beehives or making honey, but the idea is that we’re actually supporting native bee species who feed off of certain kinds of flowers and native plants that are designed to grow in this region of the country,” said Mayer.


The idea is the University would be both adding to and protecting spaces we already have on campus that attract those native pollinators, Mayer added.


She said signs will be added to the pollinator garden on campus that is located behind O’Connor Hall to help promote these “Bee Campus USA Certification” efforts. There are also some native plants in the community garden next to the McCarthy Center, said Mayer.


There is a committee that is meant to guide the work of this initiative on campus, and if any members of the University are interested in joining the committee, they can reach out to Mayer.


Additionally, the University hosts regular clean-ups with a community group in Framingham called “Keep Framingham Beautiful.”


“Members volunteer their time picking up all the trash that often is generated by our campus - not on the campus itself, but on the streets bordering it,” said Leibert.


Students can participate in on-campus sustainability efforts, specifically during Earth Week, where there will be a campus community garden and neighborhood cleanup on the Friday of Earth Week.


“I’d love to hear more from students in particular about what you’d like to see on campus and how to get people involved in the events. If there are ideas or activities that we’re not thinking of that students would really be interested in, I would love to hear more about that,” said Mayer.


The student club called the “Green Initiative” tries to get students to help join in. A lot of the efforts of the group are ones that students can be directly involved in, she added.


Junior environment, society & sustainability major and president of Green Initiative, Ainslee Caton, said the goal of the club is “to try to encourage and promote sustainability on campus through documentaries and learning activities.


“We do a lot of events of cleaning up and working with the community garden to promote more sustainable agriculture,” she said.


Campus clean-ups are held at least once a semester, sometimes twice, in collaboration with the sustainability coordinator, said Caton.


There is also a storage tank in the back of Miles Bibb Hall under the patio that collects rainfall and is used to supply water to plants and landscapes on campus, Caton said.


“The campus does a good amount to promote sustainability, specifically the dining hall. They do a lot of composting, and they have no trays, so it lessens food waste and water waste,” she added.


Also located behind Miles Bibb is a clothing and textile drop-off box that was added to the campus in February 2023, according to Mayer.


Mayer worked with facilities to put this box into place, and it is run by a group called “Bay State Textiles.”


“They [Bay State Textiles] take the material, and kind of divide it up into pieces that could be reused and sold, and pieces that would need to be recycled,” said Mayer.


Sophomore Emily Crossin said, “I’m happy that the textile drop-box exists for students to put their old garments rather than putting them in the trash - considering how much clothing ends up in landfills each year. I know clothes can be donated to the Rams Resource Center, too.”


Kyle Taylor, a senior environmental studies major, said he thinks FSU has a good environmental department, especially with their clubs such as Green Initiative and the Wildlife Club, of which he is a member. 


“I think FSU could improve by having more partnerships with environmental organizations to help students get a job related to their major straight out of college,” said Taylor.


McKenna said the COVID-19 pandemic switched everybody into “pivot mode” including everyone involved in the sustainability initiative. 


“We have a lot of good ideas going on around campus. I would argue that we don’t have enough, and we are not moving as fast as we should in this regard,” said McKenna.


He said the sustainability focus must become removing the University’s dependence on fossil fuels to heat and cool its buildings and transport students, faculty, and staff in and out of campus.


McKenna said, “How do we decarbonize the amazing number of cars that come to campus every day? What is the University doing to lead that decarbonization of faculty, students, and staff? These are the kinds of sustainability questions that should be at the forefront of campus discussions on sustainability.


“How we involve students in this is important because commuting students and faculty are our primary emission sources for carbon dioxide,” he added.


McKenna teaches“Climate Change is Now: An Introduction to Earth Systems.” He said that is the foundational climate change course in the curriculum.


When teaching a course about climate change, the most important takeaway that McKenna wants students to have by the end of the course is that they can change the future.


McKenna said, “It’s up to students, who have agency and power, to change our future. The longer we wait, the more changes we are going to have to make.”

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