Skip to Main Content

Commonwealth Honors UMass Lowell as Environmental Leader

University’s Sustainable Energy Initiatives Win Praise for Depth and Scope


Contacts:  Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or   

                  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or


Commonwealth Honors UMass Lowell as Environmental Leader
 University’s Sustainable Energy Initiatives Win Praise for Depth and Scope  


LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell’s commitment to improving the environment is leading by example.

The university’s clean-energy initiatives have won praise from Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who recently honored the university with a state 2012 Leading by Example Award. UMass Lowell was the only public university to receive the honor this year.

UMass Lowell’s energy-efficiency efforts include increasing its recycling rate by more than 376 percent, from 97 tons in 2008 to 462 tons in 2011; converting its boiler from oil to natural gas; reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 56 percent per square foot since 2004; and cutting overall energy consumption per square foot by 16 percent over the same period.

The university’s ongoing building boom calls for five new buildings to attain at least a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council. This includes the new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, which is seeking a LEED gold certification. UMass Lowell also uses GreenGuard cleaning agents that are LEED-certified and enhance indoor air quality by reducing exposure to pollutants.

These efforts and more are guided by the university’s Climate Action Plan, which regularly brings together leaders from UMass Lowell’s academic, student life, administration and finance, energy, sustainability and transportation departments to review the progress made on clean-energy initiatives across campus. The plan, signed by Chancellor Marty Meehan in January, commits the university to carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Leading by Example is a prestigious award that recognizes our multifaceted energy conservation program. It is a great example for our students, who will be the green leaders of tomorrow,” said Thomas Dreyer, UMass Lowell’s associate vice chancellor for facilities management.

“The university is committed to a very environmentally conscious program that will help keep the Earth a sustainable planet. Ecology, sustainability and energy conservation are important issues to students,” said Paul Piraino, UMass Lowell’s Facilities and Operations Services Department’s energy and sustainability manager.

Beyond its commitment to the Climate Action Plan, UMass Lowell offers students master’s and doctoral degrees in energy engineering; bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environment, earth and atmospheric science; and a bachelor’s degree in ecology, among other academic programs focused on the environment.

“The breadth of our work across the university is exactly why we received this award,” said environmental biology Prof. Juliette Rooney-Varga, director of the university’s Climate Change Initiative, a student and faculty group that provides education, research and solutions to help people adopt more sustainable environmental practices. “In a remarkably short amount of time, we have been able to pull together a tremendously diverse group of people around a common cause: to achieve climate neutrality and implement academic programs to address climate change.”

University officials accepted the award during a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House, which also honored state agencies, municipalities, a public community college and individuals who share this commitment to the environment. UMass Lowell officials attending the ceremony along with Rooney-Varga, Dreyer and Piraino were Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Joanne Yestramski; Executive Director of Business Administrative Services Robert Barnett; Environmental and Emergency Management Director Richard Lemoine; Donald Lampron, director of maintenance and trades in the Facilities and Operations Department; and Robert Gamache, a professor in the Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Science, who also serves as the dean of the University of Massachusetts School of Marine Sciences.

Presiding over the awards ceremony were Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia, Division of Capital Asset Management Commissioner Carole Cornelison and Operational Services Division Director of Strategic Sourcing Kathy Ryan.

“Gov. Patrick has set some of the most ambitious energy-efficiency and renewable energy targets in the nation and our state and local governments are setting the pace when it comes to reaching those targets,” Sullivan said. “This year’s winners are really walking the walk and taking steps that will continue to yield long-term environmental and economic dividends for years to come.”

The Leading by Example Program – which encourages public-sector use of technologies and strategies that save energy and water resources to help expand users’ renewable-energy footprint – is having a national impact. Last month, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Massachusetts as No. 1 in its annual state-by-state energy-efficiency scorecard. Massachusetts topped the nation for the second straight year, thanks to the Commonwealth’s clean energy policies, including the Leading by Example program and the Green Communities Act of 2008. The program was created by an April 2007 executive order.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 16,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.