By Naidelly Coelho
Interim Asst. News Editor
Framingham State has been recognized for the 11th year by The Princeton Review for its sustainability efforts and Climate Action Plan.
In a press release on the FSU website, Rob Frene, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review, said, “Framingham State demonstrates an exemplary commitment to sustainability and to green practices - and it offers excellent academic programs.”
President Nancy Niemi said she is very proud of the University for being recognized by The Princeton Review.
“The Plan and its 15 actions are very important to me as part of our work as an institution of higher education that is committed to the elimination of carbon emissions from higher education campuses and infusion of sustainability into the curriculum and operation of the campus,” she said.
Megan Mayer, campus sustainability coordinator and professor of nutrition and health studies, said, “The Princeton Review looks at what the school is doing in the Dining Commons to make our dining operations more sustainable, and what kinds of research faculty are doing on campus that focus on sustainability.”
She said The Princeton Review uses this information and additional criteria to determine if the school earns a spot in the list.
Framingham State’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) is updated every year by a sustainability coordinator who comes up with ways to better the campus and the community, according to FSU’s website.
Mayer said the CAP was developed to make changes in certain aspects of the campus community in order to support sustainability and environmental conservation, educate members of the campus community about these issues, and promote climate justice.
This year’s Climate Action Plan was written by Mayer.
“We approach such problems - including the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, changes in land system use, and rising social inequality and conflict - through the natural and social sciences as well as considerations of justice and ethics,” according to the FSU website.
Carl Hakansson, environment, society & sustainability professor and a former University sustainability coordinator, said the CAP consists of different components, including the physical changes the University can make, policy, and curriculum.
The CAP also emphasizes reducing carbon dioxide emissions and energy use as well as new policies intended to create a sustainable and healthy environment for the campus community.
Hakansson said the CAP ensures policies are being put in place, such as “finding or at least trying to find ways to decrease the number of trips to the University for commuters to save on gas, or to find ways to save on water use, and to find ways to run food services more efficiently and more eco-friendly.”
The CAP ensures that changes such as adding solar panels are made, he added.
Mayer said, “Every year, we just sort of continue to work toward achieving those goals that are written in the current Climate Action Plan that's posted online.”
She said a report about the progress the school has made over the last year can be found on the FSU website.
Mayer said that there are definitely “bigger initiatives,” but there is no funding for them.
“This year’s action plan has been focused more on educational opportunities for students and trying to build community and have discussion around these issues - to encourage people to practice smart, sustainable behaviors,” she said.
Hakansson said he wrote the first Climate Action Plan back in 2010 and updated it for 10 years.
“Back in the day, it was with the input of both faculty and administrators, and staff and students as well,” he said.
“Somewhere early on in the process, we were recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the most environmentally friendly schools in the country, and it has been ever since,” Hakansson said.
This year, one of the CAP goals is to continue maintaining the natural gas power plant and to explore additional energy savings projects.
“These policies and interventions might include converting the campus fleet to electric vehicles or to more efficient vehicles … and exploring ways to reduce emissions/support offsets for study abroad travel. Additional class scheduling and commuting solutions will be considered,” according to the CAP.
Mayer has been trying to get feedback from students through the sustainability survey, she said.
“We're reaching out to a number of clubs that we think might have an interest in this topic to help us come up with new ideas,'' Mayer said.
She is investigating how much students know and care about sustainability on campus.
“The Green Initiative Club is our sustainability focused club on campus that is a great place to get more involved and is one of the natural groups of students that I connect with when I have questions,” she said.
Ainslee Caton, president of the Green initiative Club, said, “The students on campus do have input in the Climate Action Plan. There was a survey sent out a couple of weeks ago on things to add to it.”
She added, “Students' voices are heard in some cases of adding to the plan, but less in finding sustainable changes on campus.”
Caton said Sodexo and the company that collects and disposes of waste on campus “are separate entities, so it is harder to make a difference such as composting on campus since we have to put in a lot of work to try to make something happen that might not even get seen in your time at FSU.”
Maddison Behringer, treasurer and social media manager of the Green Initiative Club, said the goal of the club is to promote sustainability both on and off campus.
She said, “We do this through educational events like the ‘Need To Grow’ documentary screening we had Dec. 2 and the garden clean-up on Oct. 20.”
The garden clean-up prepared the community garden beside The McCarthy Center for the winter, she said.
Behringer said the group has been working closely with Mayer to provide a student perspective on sustainability.
She said students can get involved with campus sustainability by joining the Green Initiative Club through RamLink.
“Our goals for the future are to grow our club and get FSU students more involved in sustainability both in habit and in ways to improve our environment on a larger scale,” Behringer said.
She said their mission statement is “to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on our world, and to encourage students to get involved in making our futures as bright as possible. We empower students to get involved, become advocates within the community, and to think big to create meaningful and impactful changes. We are committed to making sustainable choices both on and off campus.”
Niemi said, “Our work toward achieving the kinds of sustainability is ongoing, and so in many senses we are never done. … I am impressed that so many people at FSU are part of the plan.”
She said the best way for students to get involved is by reading the CAP itself and connecting with the Department of Environment, Society & Sustainability.
Niemi said, “I know it’s a cliché, but it does take all of us working together toward our goals to reach them.”
[Editor's Note: Maddison Behringer is Design and Photo Editor for The Gatepost ]