By Corin Cook
Framingham State University has gained recognition as the 17 most eco-friendly and affordable school in the nation – a product of the University’s sustainability efforts over the past few years, and a motivation to pursue further eco-friendly efforts while getting students involved.
The recognition, published on Best Choice Schools website, a site of lists designed to help prospective college students select schools, considered over 300 schools, according to the website’s editor Reese Bradley, but only the most a9ordable schools were considered in the final list of 50.
This is not the first award FSU has received for sustainability e9orts. “In the last four years we have been listed in Princeton Review’s list of 200 green colleges in the country, and we were also awarded a Leading by Example Award from the state in 2012,” said Carl Hakansson, University Sustainability Coordinator.
“We have accomplished an extraordinary amount in a relatively short time compared to most other schools,” said Warren Fairbanks, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning.
FSU President F. Javier Cevallos said, “I am extremely proud of being part of a university that makes taking care of our environment a priority. There is an old Native American saying, ‘We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ I think that is what we are trying to accomplish.”
FSU’s improvements were yielded from the University’s Climate Action Plan, initiated in 2010 by the Sustainability Committee. The plan, originally written by previous FSU President Timothy Flanagan, has been updated every year, and through these persistent efforts FSU has made great strides in sustainability.
Since the initiation of the Climate Action Plan, “FSU has met a number of significant Climate Action Plan goals, most significant being the upgrades to the central steam boiler plant and the conversion from Number-6 fuel oil to natural gas in the plant,” said Fairbanks.
Additionally, FSU has installed solar panels on the roof of the campus center, created composting and recycling projects and a vegetable garden. The cafeteria has implemented water-saving practices by eliminating lunch trays and investing in water-conserving dishwashers. The University has even changed class schedules so that commuters could to travel to campus less, which reduces emissions.
Several students have noticed the improvements the campus is making in sustainability.
“Almost everywhere that there is a trash can, you are able to find a recycling bin,” said senior Patrick Merrill. “We are also a smoke-free campus. This reduces litter and air pollution. Our school also just got two Zipcars that are eco-friendly and help cut down on kids using taxis and busses that pollute the air more. I believe it is important to be an eco-friendly campus because it helps form long-lasting habits for our students, which will then help society when they graduate.”
According to bestchoiceschools.com, 75 percent of FSU’s campus buildings have undergone energy-efficient renovations. North Hall, which opened in fall 2011, is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified residence hall, the second highest ranking below platinum by the grading system used by the U.S Green Building Council. Fifteen percent of FSU’s buildings are LEED certified.
There is no specific portion of FSU’s budget allocated to sustainability e9orts on campus, but Fairbanks said the money invested is worth it because “we save money by burning less fuel in the boiler plant and by using less electricity on campus.”
The project to switch to natural gas from oil has reduced emissions by 33 percent and is expected to save FSU $15 million over 20 years, according to an FSU press release regarding the ranking.
“It is a win/win for a student to choose a school that was affordable while still supporting his or her concerns regarding the future of the environment,” Hakansson said.
Senior Brianna Tarantino said it is impressive that FSU is able to be eco-friendly while still maintaining a9ordability, because often times, eco-friendly translates to expensive.
She said, “I know a lot of things that are eco-friendly or organic, or stu9 like that are usually higher priced.”
While this may be true, FSU is finding ways to invest in practical resources.
“Until recently, the cost of alternative sources of clean energy were prohibitively expensive, however, due to recent technological advancements almost every family can now afford to install at least one solar panel on their roof,” said senior Zack Thomas. “A truly eco-friendly school would be self-sustainable which, in theory, should eliminate the institution’s energy costs. This reduction in costs should be passed along to the students in the form of lower tuition and fees, resulting in an institution which is more affordable for the average American student.”
Senior Eamon Pac added, “I relate the terms ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘a9ordability’ to cost e9ectiveness. Most buildings seem well-insulated, and I assume the reduction in energy spending translates as cost savings to students.”
Despite its accomplishments, FSU still hopes to make greater advances in sustainability efforts.
This year’s Climate Action Plan includes goals to increase the use of renewable resources, recycling, computer and building energy efficiency, while decreasing water use and reducing paper and toner use, among other goals.
Fairbanks suggested that, “The next sustainable effort on campus is to develop student interest in climate action and sustainability. Not many university students are presently active in sustainability actions on campus. The students are capable of effecting change on campus if they organize and vocalize their desire for the campus to increase sustainable practices and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative needs to come from the students, not the administration.”
Senior Trevor Gorman said, “If I had a voice in the matter, I’d like to see the school seriously look into solar power. If FSU has the proper position, solar power could be a huge boon for the school. Solar power would cut the schools costs and possibly be a source of revenue down the line.”
He added, “It is important to be eco-friendly on campus because it’s economically and environmentally the right thing to do.”
Students who have passion for environment and conservation can get involved by joining the Green Team, the on-campus student organization with goals to promote sustainable practices across the campus.