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Taking Action on Climate

With the ambitious long-term goal of net-zero climate impact, the development of UMass Chan Medical School’s new Climate Action and Sustainability Plan is moving forward, while adapting to the limitation of certain activities during the COVID-19 campus restrictions.

On February 20, before on-campus activities were curtailed, the UMass Chan Climate Action Planning Committee held its launch meeting. The committee includes facilities management staff, students and faculty, who together will play a leadership role what is expected to be a 10-month planning process.

The medical school’s plan will address ten specific areas in support of  the University of Massachusetts five campus sustainability policy. These areas are:

  1. Sustainability Planning
  2. Clean Energy
  3. Climate Resilience and Preparedness
  4. Green Building Design and Sustainable Operations
  5. Sustainable Transportation
  6. Waste Reduction and Recycling
  7. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
  8. Sustainable Food Services
  9. Sustainable Water Systems
  10. Academic/Research Programing and Community Engagement

During its first session, the committee reviewed current campus operations and organized into working groups to lead development of the plan. The working groups are transportation and grounds management; material resource management; climate and energy; and community outreach/partnerships. In the morning, those groups split out into work sessions; brainstorming and setting goals for their efforts.

“I thought the day went really well,” said Emily Gentile, a third-year medical student who is a member of the planning committee. “It was really amazing to see so many people engage in this process, talk about what’s happening on campus and offer new ideas.”

Earlier this year, Gentile organized a new student group called the UMass Chan Coalition for Climate Action. The group plans to work with the planning committee to promote specific climate actions on campus, and add climate change topics to the medical school’s curriculum. “If we are going to be good doctors, we have to know more about climate change and how it will affect our patients,” she said.

After the morning session, the committee invited members of the campus community to review materials, ask questions and add their ideas. More than 30 people participated in the afternoon open session.

“We got off to a good start,” said Suzanne Wood, associate director for sustainability and campus services. “Like everything on campus, we have to adapt because of the pandemic, but we will move forward.”

Another public meeting on the climate action plan was scheduled for the Earth Day celebration on campus in April. When non-essential campus activities were cancelled, Earth Day morphed into a virtual Earth Week series of Zoom meetings and webinars across the university, covering many aspects relevant to the UMass Chan climate action plan.

To guide the planning process, UMass Chan is working with GreenerU, a consulting group with a mission to help higher education and health care organizations mitigate the impacts of climate change. GreenerU supports institutions in the development and implementation of climate action plans that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is great to see so many people at UMass Chan Medical School really concerned about these issues and interested in participating,” Lisa Bjerke, senior program manager for change management at GreenerU. “People want to learn more, and do more, to have an impact on the climate.”

Moving forward, the UMass Chan working groups will meet monthly to continue development of the plan. Additional community outreach programs are being planned for the fall.

The medical school’s climate action planning process began last fall with a survey to establish a baseline of the community’s awareness and concerns about climate change.

The entire University of Massachusetts system is guided by a comprehensive policy adopted by the University’s Board of Trustees.

Read the most recent system-wide sustainability report.

For more information, or to volunteer to participate in the medical school’s planning process, email us at

1) John Baker, associate vice chancellor for facilities management, speaks at the planning meeting on Feb. 20

2) Campus community members add their ideas to the climate planning materials.