A “Green” Progress Report

Usually progress reports come deeper into the semester, but here’s one for the start of a new academic year. From an expanded focus on recycling and whole-building energy audits, to electric bikes on campus, green efforts during the past 12 months have reached nearly every corner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 

“It’s been an exciting year,” said Melissa Lucas, who came to UMMS last September in the newly-created position of sustainability and energy manager. “It’s been great to work with the members of the sustainability committee as we continue to get the message out that making the campus more efficient and sustainable is everyone’s responsibility.” 

Lucas said some of the biggest green strides on campus over the past year were in the areas of energy efficiency and community outreach. For example, a comprehensive energy audit of the Lazare Research Building was conducted this summer. The assessment of the facility’s mechanical systems and laboratory operations “gives us a road map of what needs to be done to make the building significantly more energy efficient,” Lucas explained. The school’s main academic building is slated for a similar energy audit in September. 

In April, the Medical School’s 2010 Earth Day Celebration was the most successful to date, with record numbers of campus community members participating and learning about green products and activities. A highlight of the event was the opportunity to test ride a Pietzo electric bicycle, and as a result, two of the pedal-assist bikes were purchased for the campus parking and police departments to cut their use of gasoline-powered vehicles when patrolling the university campus. 

According to Lucas, another important milestone achieved over the past year was the filing of the UMMS Climate Action Plan as part of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. “The Climate Action Plan is important because it thoroughly documents the Medical School’s emission-reduction goals and shows the greater higher education community that we are fully committed to reducing our carbon footprint,” she said. 

Looking ahead to the 2010-2011 academic year, Lucas said expanding recycling will remain a priority to help the school approach its goal of reducing its waste stream by 50 percent. “We’ve established a new recycling committee, with plans to evaluate where all the collection bins are now located and to add bins in high-profile areas,” Lucas said. “We are also looking for new opportunities to recycle additional items, such as old furniture and electronics.” 

Lucas also plans to implement the STARS (Sustainability Tracking and Rating System) at the Medical School this year. Accredited by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, STARS is a self-assessment and rating system that allows institutions to benchmark their sustainability programs and compare them with others. “It’s important that we measure what we do, so we can continue to make progress,” Lucas said. 

 

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