Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tufts earns spot on Sierra Club list of environmentally friendly universities

For the second year in a row, Sierra Magazine recognized Tufts as one of the nation's most environmentally friendly colleges and universities, placing the university on its "10 That Get It" list in its September and October issue.

Tufts also ranked in Kaplan's top 25 environmentally responsible colleges this year.

"We think it's deserved that we're among those people that are working hard on these issues," said Sarah Hammond Creighton, program director at Tufts' Office of Sustainability. "[The magazine's rankings] indicate that these issues are mainstream."

Sarah Ullman, a junior interning at the Office of Sustainability, was encouraged by the recognition.

"It's a great accomplishment for Tufts," she said. "It's showing all the work that we've been putting in."

The Sierra Magazine, published by the environmental organization the Sierra Club, began ranking colleges and universities according to their green practices last November.

The magazine attributed Tufts' 10th-place rank to investments in green causes and a commitment to overall sustainability, noting that Tufts was the first university in the country to develop its own environmental policy.

Corporations, not schools, have historically implemented environmental policies, Creighton said. Tufts set a new precedent in 1990 by becoming the first university to enact its own environmental policy statement, the Talloires Declaration. It is a plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental understanding in the school's teaching, research and administrative activities. Today, over 300 schools have signed the declaration.

Creighton pointed to members of the Operations Division and the Institute of the Environment (TIE) as "the people that make it happen," noting that these two departments are responsible for many of Tufts' environmental initiatives. According to Creighton, these programs often go unnoticed by students.

"There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes," she said.

The Operations Division is responsible for energy management on campus. Its energy-saving résumé includes implementing high-efficiency boilers and LED lighting systems.

Creighton said hydroelectricity and natural gas account for 100 percent of Tufts' energy on all three campuses.

"One of the important things about Tufts [is that] we have been doing this for almost 20 years here," she said.

Crieghton noted that Tufts recycles metal, yard waste and light bulbs. About 44 percent of Tufts' waste is either recycled or composted, and the school has a good compliance record for regulatory waste, Creighton said. 

Project Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability Tina Woolston said that this year's Matriculation luncheon was essentially a zero-waste event.

"There was very, very little trash," Woolston said, explaining that the mere five bags of trash remaining after the event were constituted mostly of packaging from cases of bottled water and of outside garbage not offered at the luncheon.

Sixty bags of recyclables were collected at the event, Woolston said. 

TIE has reformed its "Get Clean! Power It Green!" program, which attracted 385 participants when TIE first implemented it two years ago. The new initiative, now known as "Clean Energy Choice-On Campus," allows members of the Tufts community to purchase renewable energy credits.

These $15 credits spur matching grants that are used to finance renewable energy projects in Medford, at Tufts and in low-income communities across the state.

Currently, students can purchase these credits at TIE in the basement of Miller Hall with cash or JumboCash.

The program is a way for students, staff, faculty and the administration to take charge of their own energy usage, Ullman said.

She explained that if 1,000 people were to buy credits, the result would provide $10,000 of renewable energy funding for Tufts.

"Fifteen dollars really goes a long way," she said.

Although Sierra Magazine commended Tufts for its programs, it "dinged [Tufts] for not having enough public transportation incentives," Woolston said. She said the claim was "not true."

According to Woolston, there are several opportunities that encourage Tufts students to use public transportation. Students can receive 11-percent discounts on Charlie Cards for the T, use the Joey as a means of getting to the T or participate in carpools organized by MassRides.

Electronic Zipcars are also available for students over 21.

While she is happy with Tufts' position in the rankings, Creighton said, "There's a danger in ranking things on a qualitative list of criteria." Creighton claimed that Sierra Magazine's focus on rankings and checklists is less productive than asking broader questions, such as assessing whether schools are reducing their emissions.

Creighton noted that Tufts is effective in utilizing symbolic measures such as solar energy while also maintaining a low carbon footprint. "The absence of a solar panel doesn't mean that a school isn't green," she said.

Creighton said the Office of Sustainability has "big initiatives" planned for the future, but declined to specify what they were.

"It's nice to get recognized, but there's still a lot to do," Ullman added.

 Sierra Magazine's 10 greenest schools

The following are the "10 That Get It," according to Sierra Magazine's ranking of environmentally friendly colleges and universities:

1. Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt.; 2,350 students
2. University of Colorado, Boulder; 29,000 students
3. University of Vermont, Burlington; 10,750 students
4. Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C.; 850 students
5. Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.; 4,400 students
6. Arizona State University, Tempe; 51,500 students
7. University of Florida, Gainesville; 50,000 students
8. Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio; 2,200 students
9. University of Washington, Seattle; 39,250 students
10. Tufts University in Medford, Mass.; 8,500 students

Information compiled from