From Climate Strike to Climate Actions

At the Climate Strike rallies last week, many Wesleyan students signed petitions with proposals very much on point. At the Board of Trustees retreat, we were briefed on some of the work that has recently been accomplished on campus to reduce our carbon footprint. Our comprehensive energy systems upgrades, for example, will offset 747 tons of carbon emissions.

Our energy improvements are a step in the right direction, but we are facing a climate emergency and need to do more. Many at the rally urged that Wesleyan reach carbon neutrality by the date of its bicentennial, 2031. This is an excellent idea but also an ambitious one. (Until now our goal has been to accomplish this by 2050.) I am asking our Sustainability Office and Physical Plant to propose practical steps that would enable the University to reach carbon neutrality by its bicentennial while preserving its educational mission. We will need input from across the University to reach this ambitious goal.

Students have also asked that the university divest from fossil fuel investments by 2031 and that we use environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations in determining any new investments. I am confident that we are well on our way to doing this.

There are other things students, staff and faculty have asked that we do, such as changing how we care for campus grounds, encouraging our community to eat a more plant-based diet, reducing the number of vehicles on campus, and increasing the produce we grow here at Wes. I look forward to working together on all of these issues.

I also look forward to supporting the efforts of the College of the Environment and other groups to promote national and international policies that would reduce the release of carbon and increase the use of renewables. This includes pricing carbon generating products more appropriately and supporting the development of technologies that would reduce the price of renewables. We are a small university, but we can and will join with others to create policies to mitigate the damaging effects of this climate emergency while forcefully addressing its causes.

The climate emergency requires local action, to be sure, and it also requires national and international coalition building. Wesleyan will do its part.

Wesleyan Environmental Start-Up Needs Workers

You may have seen the very cool “wishing wells” designed to provide water at campus events so that we can eliminate bottled water from campus. One of the creators of the water wells, Wesleyan senior Brent Packer, recently sent me the following message:

Wishing Wells is a budding environmental start-up born from a Wesleyan design competition. We’re expanding quickly & are looking for ambitious students to join our team.

Plastic waste is a serious issue. There is currently 100 million tons of plastic disintegrating in our oceans causing tremendous harm to marine life. The energy used to create the annual American demand for plastic water bottles uses enough energy to fuel 1.3 million cars for 1 year.

Universities across North America are stepping up to the challenge to eliminate plastic water bottle waste. Many, including Wesleyan, have banned bottled water from campus; however, they still have trouble hydrating guests at large campus events such as Reunion & Commencement, football games, music festivals, etc. Their only options were to rent/ purchase a high cost hydration structure or to break their commitment by purchasing thousands of water bottles… until now.

Wishing Wells provide chilled, filtered water requiring nothing more than ice and a hose connection. From just a handful of Wesleyan events, these lost-cost structures have already saved over 10,500 water bottles. With backing from a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship seed grant, we’re looking to spread this technology as effectively as possible. With ambitious plans to open-source publish our designs online, partner with Middletown manufacturers, and tour to neighboring Universities/ organizations, we need other students with the same entrepreneurial drive to make this happen.

Apply online @ by November 1

Brent tells me that three “sleep-deprived seniors” have been getting the organization ready for the next level. They want to have impact far beyond Wesleyan, which will include: “open-source publishing our design plans online, partnering with a Middletown manufacturer to begin selling prefabricated Wishing Wells, and performing extensive outreach to other Universities/ organizations.”