For over 10 years, Worcester State University has been taking the initiative to create an environmentally sustainable campus and reduce its carbon footprint in the midst of a climate crisis.
“Even though the campus square footage has increased 75 percent since 2004, our emissions per square foot has gone down 43 percent. We are doing great compared to our sister institutions,” says Sustainability Coordinator Steven Bandarra.
Educating the community about the global climate crisis is an essential role of the Office of Sustainability, he adds.
“We are really trying to bring a spotlight to the climate emergency because the data says that we only have about a decade left to make major changes,” he says. “We need people to be knowledgeable about what has to be done.”
One of the upcoming efforts by the Office of Sustainability to educate the community is the annual Sustainability/Food Day Fair, which is taking place October 16 and 17 at the Student Center.
“To bring a spotlight to the climate emergency, for the first time ever there is a theme for the Sustainability/Food Day Fair,” says Bandarra. “The theme is ‘Climate Emergency: Learn and Act.’ There will be many lectures about the climate crisis so there will be opportunities for people to learn.”
The Sustainability/Food Day Fair will provide students with the opportunity to learn more and get involved with organizations geared toward environmental sustainability. At the fair, students can also try local barbecue, hike, listen to lectures, watch films, test drive electric vehicles, and watch documentaries. The Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery will be joining the green initiative with the environmentally themed “Crossroads: Four Perspectives” exhibit this fall.
Again this year, students can also register to vote at the fair.
“Whatever you believe in terms of the climate crisis, voting is a great way to express yourself,” says Bandarra.
The Sustainability/Food Day Fair is not the only action taken by the Office of Sustainability to create a green campus. The office hosts numerous events throughout the year, and sustainability initiatives are being put into practice on campus on a regular basis in order to reduce Worcester State’s carbon footprint.
About 16 tons of waste is recycled each month. Roughly 19 percent of residence hall waste is collected and diverted from landfills each year through “Ditch the Dumpster,” a yearly drive that allows students to donate items they no longer have use for at the end of the academic year. There are also two annual neighborhood cleanups that students can get involved in, and the annual e-waste and shredding event provides students, staff, and faculty the opportunity to recycle their electronic waste in a safe and environmentally responsible way.
There are solar EV panels on the top of two buildings and solar hot water panels on top of the Wellness Center. Also on the roof of the Wellness Center is a rainwater collection system, which can divert up to 20,000 gallons of water into an underground tank that is used for campus landscaping needs. The Office of Sustainability and the Facilities department are also working to make campus buildings more energy efficient by installing an enormous amount of LED lighting, Bandarra explains. The Ghosh Science and Technology Center has completely converted to LED lighting.
Other on-campus sustainability initiatives include two dual-head electric vehicle charging stations that are available free of charge for use by students, faculty, staff, and the general public; a bike share program, sponsored by the Worcester State Foundation, where bikes are available for the WSU community to borrow; 26 hydration stations to reduce plastic water bottle waste; hydroponic lettuce and herbs grown in a shipping container next to Sheehan Hall; and paper straws in all dining areas.
In an effort to further educate students about sustainability, Environmental and Sustainability Studies has been added as a new academic concentration.
“This concentration is very important for students who want to learn more about sustainability,” says Bandarra. “Every industry needs to be more green and needs employees who understand what needs to be done. Every business is going in the green direction and [looks] for people who have this knowledge.”
Written by Julia Konow, Marketing and Communications Intern
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