Sustainability at Wheelock
Sustainability is vital to preserve our environment for future generations
At Wheelock College, we strive to maintain a sustainable campus. We have two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings: the Campus Center and Riverway House. Through innovative design features such as light-absorbing windows, local materials, sensor operated lighting, and low flow fixtures, these buildings reduce the College's energy costs while conserving natural resources and helping the environment. To learn more LEED attributes as well facts about the daily energy and water consumption of the building, take a minute to either look online or visit the Building Dashboard at the Campus Center.
Recycling, LEED certified buildings, Energy efficiency, all some of the biggest components of Campus and world Sustainability. But there is one thing most people don't think about on a day to day basis—food consumption. Every day, Americans waste unbelievable amounts of food, and every day just as many people go without. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
- More than 36 million tons of food waste was generated in 2011, 96 percent of which was thrown away into landfills or incinerators.
- 14.9 percent of households in the U.S. were food insecure in 2011, meaning they did not know where their next meal would come from.
Trayless dining is one way Wheelock has attempted to minimize food waste in our cafeteria. Our food vendor, Sodexo, has also made sustainability one of its main priorities. Sodexo obtains food from as many local sources as possible, sources certified fair-trade products, and has campaigned for STOP Hunger in an effort to fight against hunger and malnutrition. So what can you do? Try filling one plate at a time; you can always go back for more, but you can't put back what you've already taken. Look for seasonal fruits and vegetables—those will most likely be local. And when you can, pack whatever you don't eat for a snack later instead of throwing it away!
The student-run Whee-SEA club (Students for Environmental Action) runs a number of sustainability awareness programs on campus. In 2014, the club, along with partner Investigating Green Energy, won an Earl Innovation grant to establish a bee colony on the rooftop of Wheelock's Activities West building. The colony allows students to learn to care for the bees and gather the fruits of their labor. Students collaborate with similar efforts at other COF (Colleges of the Fenway) members; Mass College of Art, Simmons College, and Fenway High School also have bee hives. The Colony Collapse Disorder of bees has decimated the bee population nationwide. One third of all American crops are fertilized by bees. Interestingly, urban bees appear to be doing much better that their rural and suburban cousins. Noah Wilson-Rich has received his PhD from Tufts and is conducting a longitudinal study on urban bees and Wheelock is part of this study.
Recycling at Wheelock
Over the past two years, Wheelock's recycling efforts just from paper and magazines have generated 50 tons of recycling and saved approximately 1,250 trees. While this is commendable, we feel we can do much more and have launched a campaign to increase both the volume and variety of items recycled on campus. Wheelock's average annual carbon footprint produced from waste is 200 tons, which is equivalent to using 3,544 gallons of gasoline—or four times the amount of our recycling. If we boost our recycling by just 10 percent, we can reduce our carbon footprint from waste by 2.8 tons.
What Items Can I Recycle?
You can probably recycle a lot more items than you think. Wheelock's vendor, Waste Management, provides single-stream recycling, which means that there is no time-consuming sorting of different types of items. You simply put everything—including magazines, catalogs, empty soda cans, glass bottles, plastic containers, and more—into one receptacle. The materials go into one truck and are separated at a sorting center. Most items require minimum preparation for recycling: simply rinse drink and food containers and fold cardboard so it fits neatly into the collection bin. Items that have been contaminated with food (such as greasy pizza boxes) generally cannot be recycled.
Click here for complete Single Stream Recycling Guidelines (PDF), including a list of recyclables and excluded items.
What Happens to My Recyclables?
Wheelock's recycling is picked up by Waste Management, brought to a center in Avon and is processed through a system of conveyor belts that separate the various grades of material. The cardboard is baled and shipped to Asia (usually ending up back in the U.S. as a new box). Paper is shipped to paper manufacturers and remade into items like toilet paper, legal pad backings, and cereal boxes. Plastic is broken down into resins and is made into toys, plastic lumber for benches and decks, and tennis balls.