By Ed Brennen
The university has been recognized as a top performer in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index, ranking fifth in the area of waste reduction among more than 650 higher education institutions around the world.
A publication from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Campus Index recognizes top-performing sustainable colleges and universities overall and in 17 impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
UML achieved top performer status by earning a fifth-place score of 78.1 percent for its waste reduction efforts. The university climbed five spots from the previous year, when it ranked 10th at 73.7 percent.
“This ranking is a result of the important work being done not only by the Office of Sustainability, but also by our students, faculty and staff, to minimize waste on campus,” says Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance, Operations and Strategic Planning Joanne Yestramski. “Recycling and composting materials, rather than having it hauled away to landfills, is good for the environment, as well as for the university’s bottom line.”
The university has several initiatives in place to minimize waste across campus, including a zero-sort recycling program, composting of food waste from dining halls and drop-off bins for batteries and small electronics. Sustainable Move Out Donation Drives, meanwhile, have diverted more than 32 tons of items destined for landfills since 2014.
The university’s Urban Agriculture Program was also one of 30 “innovative and high-impact” initiatives highlighted in the Sustainable Campus Index.
A partnership between the Office of Sustainability and local food justice organization Mill City Grows, the program provides a hands-on learning environment for campus and community members to come together on issues related to urban food production and sustainability.
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan recently visited the Urban Agriculture Greenhouse on East Campus as part of a districtwide farm tour. Sustainability Director Ruairi O’Mahony and Mill City Grows co-founders Francey Slater and Lydia Sisson showed Trahan the crops and seedlings being grown at the greenhouse site, while students told the congresswoman about the university’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm share program.
“This type of partnership between UMass Lowell and Mill City Grows makes the city so much richer,” said Trahan, a Lowell native. “The role that the university plays now, vis-a-vis 30 years ago, is like night and day. And it’s inspiring the community.”
Earlier this year, the university received a STARS Gold score of 77.56, making UML the highest-rated campus in Massachusetts.
“We are happy to recognize UMass Lowell for its leadership in advancing sustainability,” says AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “I’m grateful for the work being done by the institution to help move society toward a more equitable and sustainable future.”