Sustainability Plan

Wellesley’s comprehensive Sustainability Plan serves as our compass as we pursue a carbon neutral future on campus.

Since February 2015, the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability has solicited ideas from the college community (at an IdeaFest held in February), worked closely with key stakeholders across campus, and researched relevant sustainability initiatives and policies at peer institutions. The result of this work is a sustainability plan that is organized into eight sectors: Academic & Co-curricular, Buildings & Water, Climate & Energy, Food & Dining, Landscape & Watershed, Purchasing & Waste and Transportation. Each sector outlines what Wellesley has accomplished in the past and explains strategies and targets for advancing sustainability at Wellesley over the next ten years. The strategic summary was approved by the Board of Trustees in April, 2016.

strategic summary complete plan


Sectors of the Plan


Short Summary

The academic and co-curricular integration section proposes strategies to support the incorporation of sustainability in the curriculum and to promote sustainable practices in both the classroom and in research. These strategies will aid interested faculty in developing and incorporating sustainability-related material into their classes, especially taking advantage of Wellesley’s campus and buildings. As part of the plan, we propose the implementation of a Sustainability Year to engage the entire college community in the discussion of sustainability at Wellesley. On the student learning side, we have proposed strategies that will encourage more student involvement in sustainability-related opportunities on- and off-campus. In addition, we recognize the need for early exposure to sustainable practices, and have developed plans to provide the first-year students with more information about sustainability at Wellesley and how each student can live more sustainably during their four years at the college. Finally, we currently have no information about student awareness of sustainability, so this plan recommends steps that assess the level of awareness and engagement in sustainability among both incoming and graduating students as well as alums.

What We've Done

Academic Integration
20+ sustainability-related courses offered by 18 depts; Environmental Studies; The Sustainability Certificate Program

Co-curricular Integration
Sustainability-related internships; Edible Ecosystem Teaching Garden; Sustainable Office Certification and Sustainable Living Certification Programs

First-Year Experience
Sustainability-related events during first-year orientation

Sustainability website, newsletter, facebook & twitter

Future Goals

Academic Integration
Goal: Provide support for faculty in integrating sustainability across the curriculum

Co-curricular Integration
Goal: Increase hands-on learning and research opportunities in sustainability

First-Year Experience
Goal: Expose incoming students to Sustainability at Wellesley

Goal: Assess and increase sustainability awareness among the Wellesley community


Short Summary

Many of the college’s recent and current building projects have met high standards for environmental sustainability, including Alumnae Hall (LEED Gold) and Whitin Observatory (LEED Silver). The Pendleton West renovation is on track to earn LEED Gold. The college adopted Green Building Standards in 2014 which recommend LEED Gold (minimum) for future building projects. Improving the sustainability of buildings not included in the current Campus Renewal plan will be challenging. These buildings share two critical issues: a lack of individual building metering and a large backlog of deferred maintenance. Without metering it is difficult to track energy and water consumption. Without strongly addressing the deferred maintenance backlog, the college struggles to catch up on maintenance at the same time as it attempts to keep buildings functioning. The result is a costly waste of energy, time, and personnel power. The crucial challenge is to balance catching up on the maintenance of its buildings and their infrastructure with keeping up with predictable repairs to building systems.

What We've Done

2025 Campus Renewal
The 2025 Plan, based on a comprehensive overview of the college’s anticipated needs for future academic and residential programs, is a major, multiyear project of renovation of Wellesley’s iconic campus structures.

Green Building Standards
Wellesley adopted Green Building Standards in 2014. The Trustees committed to meeting LEED Gold standards for future building projects.

Increased Energy Efficiency
The college-funded Green Revolving Fund provides $500,000 in capital for ongoing projects that enhance energy efficiency such as improved lights and insulation.

Future Goals

Planned Maintenance
Goal: By addressing the deferred maintenance backlog of buildings and their supporting infrastructure, the college can move from the constant need to catch up on repairs to predictable and proactive future repairs.

Building Expectations
Goal: For each campus building, establish protocols of how the building can best be managed through proper maintenance and scheduling of its use for maximum energy efficiency.

Education & Awareness
Goal: Each building’s occupants should be educated in how they can contribute to its conservation of energy and water. The goal is to have good building behavior become habit in the college culture.

Short Summary

One of the most pressing global challenges that Wellesley students will face in the twenty-first century is global climate change. Wellesley College has and will contribute to efforts to address climate change through its activities as an educational institution: the courses and programs we offer, our faculty’s research, and the work of our students and alumnae will be our most important contributions to addressing climate change. The college also aims to align its institutional practices with these efforts. Building on Wellesley College’s long-standing commitment to global leadership, energy efficiency, environmental responsibility, and financial stewardship, this plan proposes that the college adopt goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2026 and 44% by 2036 from a 2010 baseline. These targets should be re-assessed at least every five years, and long-term planning for achieving carbon neutrality should be pursued.

What We've Done

Central Energy Plant
In 1994, Wellesley built a $7.5 million on-campus co-generation facility that operates at 85+% efficiency by capturing waste energy for heating and cooling.

Emissions Reductions and Cost Savings
The co-generation facility has reduced Wellesley’s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 25% and saved $37 million in utility costs since its commissioning.

Energy Conservation
Between 2003 and 2014, the college reduced electricity consumption by 19%.

Green Energy
Since 2012, the college has purchased 5% of its electricity from renewable sources through the municipal light district.

Future Goals

Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Goal: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2026 and 44% by 2036 from a 2010 baseline.

Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Goal: Update Wellesley’s comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory during the 2015-16 academic year.

Renewable Energy
Goal: Install solar arrays on campus that can supply 5% of the college’s electricity demand over the course of a year.

Goal: Meter 80% of building space on campus for electricity and other utilities and make that information available for management, decision-making, and research.


Short Summary

Our vision for sustainable dining is to maximize the percentage of food purchases from sustainable sources, so that we are able to serve nutritious and tasty meals with low energy and water footprints; and to produce little to no food and non-food waste. Toward that vision, we have set four general goals: 1) create a system for data collection; 2) increase the sustainability of food and utensil purchases, 3) decrease overall purchases and waste generation, and 4) create a Food Committee to implement strategies and monitor progress. We have established criteria and gathered data to evaluate how sustainable our current practices are (e.g., a majority of seafood purchased is sustainably harvested), and we are setting goals for the future (e.g. using environmentally friendly detergents for all food services). Sustainable food is often more expensive, but decreases in waste production and eating patterns may somewhat offset increased purchasing costs.

What We've Done

Current Policies & Practices
We have identified information necessary to understand current food and dining policies and practices.

Data Collection
We have gathered raw data in collaboration with Wellesley Fresh and begun analyzing purchase and waste disposal costs within specific categories.

Sustainability Analysis
We created a definition for types of food that can be considered sustainable, based on transportation costs, farming practices and Fair Labor considerations.

Wellesley composts pre- and post-consumer food waste, biodegradable and greenware products.

Future Goals

Sustainable Dining
Goal: Create a multi-stakeholder Dining Services Committee to implement the aims of the Sustainability Plan

Data Collection
Goal: Create a better system for collecting more food related data and information

Sustainable Purchasing
Goal: Increase sustainable food and utensil purchases

Waste Reduction
Goal: Decrease food and utensil purchases and food waste


Short Summary

Wellesley College’s beautiful landscape at the edge of Lake Waban is a resource as precious as any financial asset we own. To achieve landscape and watershed sustainability, we must intensify past efforts to make the campus a more sustainable landscape, promote sustainable and educational human interaction with the landscape, and improve our management of water resources. The College should aim to establish an ecologically sustainable campus landscape through both design and maintenance, building on the 1998 Campus Master Plan and updates. The outdoor campus environment can and should become a living laboratory by incorporating the upcoming Global Flora project; increasing academic research carried out on the soils, water, flora, and fauna the landscape contains; and improving signage in keeping with campus aesthetics to showcase the treasures it offers. Watershed management can be enhanced through improved monitoring; finding an alternative to potable water for the Silver Thread and Paramecium Pond; modifying management of snow, ice, and stormwater; and updating irrigation systems.

What We've Done

Pavement removal
5.7 acres of pavement and parking restored to landscape

8 acres of wetlands restored at Paint Shop Pond and Alumnae Valley

60 acres of campus intensively renovated or restored

Over 7,000 trees, 25,000 shrubs and hundreds of thousands of herbaceous perennials planted in renovated areas

Future Goals

Regenerative Landscape
Goal: Make the campus a fully regenerative landscape

People & Campus
Goal: Promote sustainable and educational human interaction with the landscape

Water Management
Goal: Improve sustainability of water management, including stormwater runoff

Goal: Increase metering, measurement and environmental testing where applicable


Wellesley has a lower recycling rate than that of its peers and the town

Short Summary

Our vision for improving the sustainability of purchasing at Wellesley focuses on reducing high-volume purchases, such as paper products toner, and other office products, encourage re-use where possible, and establishing goals for the purchase of environmentally preferable products. For instance, in ten years we aim for 90% of office paper at the college to have at least 30% recycled content. A new Sustainable Office certification program rewards such activities. Such strategies may result in increased costs, but by reducing consumption will make those increases manageable. Waste disposal represents both a significant expense and opportunity for sustainability at the college. The first step toward this goal is carefully monitoring the college’s waste stream. In addition to smaller steps, like phasing out plastic bags and certifying zero-waste events, a comprehensive review of waste management practices will lead to long-term goals for waste diversion and recycling (which currently lag peer institutions).

What We've Done

Waste Diversion
The Sustainable Move-Out Collection and Sustainable Move-In Sale diverted more than 8 tons of goods back to students and local non-profits in 2014.

The college recycles all organic landscaping materials (clippings, leaves, and woody debris) to produce ~ $75,000 worth of mulch annually.

The college has refurbished more than 100 retired computers for use by local and overseas non-profits.

All dining halls on campus compost pre- and post-consumer waste.

Future Goals

Goal: 90% of the office paper purchased by the college will have at least 30% post consumer-recycled content.

Waste Management
To undertake a systematic review of waste management on campus and report monthly statistics on volumes of waste and recycling.

Plastic Bags
Goal: Phase-out plastic bags at campus retail operations.

Sustainable Office
Goal: Increase the number of administrative offices participating in the Sustainable Office challenge.


The bulk of Wellesley's transportation emissions come from student air travel and faculty/staff travel

Short Summary

Transportation accounts for one third of all of Wellesley's carbon emissions. The largest contributing factor, by far, is student travel to and from campus. As the College values our culturally and geographically diverse student body, student travel will remain a dominant emissions factor. The other significant emissions factors are college-funded academic travel, the college-owned fleet of ~100 vehicles, and faculty/staff commuting. We envision a three-pronged approach to reduce emissions: increasing campus awareness of transportation emissions, maximizing the efficiency of campus vehicles, and introducing systematic tracking of college-funded travel. Widespread emissions awareness facilitates alternative transportation options (e.g. carpooling to work or travel by rail to a conference). Tracking college-funded travel allows us to measure our progress over time. These strategies will align the campus community on a long-term path toward continually reducing transportation's role in Wellesley's carbon emissions.

What We've Done

Commuting Survey
We surveyed 500+ faculty & staff commuters to better understand how people get to work.

Bike Share Program
Twenty-five bicycles are available at two different campus locations for free 24-hour rentals.

Charging Stations
There are currently two charging stations for electric cars on campus, free for the Wellesley college community.

Motor Pool
Fleet size has decreased by 20% and 16% of the vehicles use biodiesel fuel.

Future Goals

Student Travel
Goal: Increase awareness among students of air travel emissions.

Daily Commute
Goal: Reduce single-occupant personal vehicle use for commuting from 80% to 60% of trips by 2020.

Faculty/Staff Travel
Goal: Introduce systematic tracking of college-funded travel type (air, rail, auto).

Motor Pool
Goal: Increase the efficiency of the Wellesley Motor Pool fleet with new purchases and replacements.


Short Summary

The college’s wells, the source of our potable water, are located within the Charles River Basin, a highly stressed environment. The trend is for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to reduce the college’s withdrawal volume. Since 1999, the college has achieved a 39% reduction of potable water consumption. Several measures will further reduce water consumption: Installing a recirculating feed system for Paramecium Pond will constitute an additional 8% reduction in potable water reduction from the 1999 baseline. Metering all campus buildings for water will aid the implementation of water conservation measures; currently 44 out of 65 buildings are not metered. Implementing conservation measures in the campus infrastructure, such as the proper maintenance of steam traps in the heating system and low-phosphate additives in the water supply system, will also reduce consumption. A concomitant water issue is the phase-out of bottled water purchases on campus as more hydration stations that filter water and facilitate the use of refillable water bottles appear across campus. Water conservation is also an important educational issue — many students call home places where water is more scarce.

What We've Done

Irrigation Systems
Our campus landscape is watered almost completely by non-potable water from Lake Waban and the Nehoiden Golf Course well, water that is then reabsorbed through the ground and back into the aquifer.

Water Savings
Between 1999 and 2014, the college achieved a 39% reduction in the consumption of potable water.

Hydration Stations
Ten hydration stations have replaced water fountains since 2013, reducing bottled water use on campus. These stations are now the college standard for future installations.

Future Goals

More Water Savings
Goal: Reduce potable water consumption to 50% below the 1999 baseline by 2026.

Water Data
Goal: Implement campus-wide metering of potable water consumption to provide data for strategies to reduce even further the waste of potable water.

Water Taste
Goal: Pursue improvements to the campus’ already high quality water supply, including the upgrade of the college’s existing water supply infrastructure, the source of taste complaints about campus water.

Bottled Water
Goal: Phase out the purchase of bottled water across campus.