Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson scores high sustainable success for 2023 index

Rachel Choi
Illustration by Rachel Choi

The Sustainable Campus Index has been released for 2023, with Emerson ranking third for productive energy consumption and eighth in water usage, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability and Higher Education (ASHEE). 

The Sustainable Campus Index is a report that encompasses all the colleges and universities that chose to submit information about different components of their campus, from bus transportation to waste management to other elements that can be harmful to conservation efforts. 

Along with the 17 categories for schools to submit information, there is a section dedicated to innovation or strides in sustainability. This could include dissociation from large fossil fuel companies to the implementation of solar panels that the school uses.

ASHEE uses a rating system known as STARS (sustainability, tracking, assessment, and rating system). The ranking goes from the coveted platinum rank to gold, silver, bronze, and reporter status. Emerson has earned a spot in the gold rank, placing in the two water and energy usage categories. 

Although Emerson might have placed among some of the top schools in energy and water usage, there are 17 categories on the Sustainable Campus Index. With Emerson only placing in two categories, Associate Director of Sustainability at Emerson, Jennifer Lamy, said it is clear there is still work that needs to be done. 

“The challenge I saw at the beginning, still our most significant relative to our peers, is waste diversion. Much of the waste we create ends up in the trash and not in the recycling, compost, or donated,” Lamy said, adding that the college has hired full-time staff and other student employees to work on waste reduction.

Lamy attributed Emerson’s ranking in energy usage to the college’s advantage of being in the middle of Boston. 

“Part of it, especially for energy, is just that we’re fortunate we are located [in] an urban college in the middle of Boston, in a state like Massachusetts, [who] is doing a really good job greening our electric grid,” Lamy said. 

Usually, the most energy-attentive spaces tend to be lab or research focused, which Emerson does not have. However, due to the performing arts majors, the theaters take the place of labs, being energy-attentive in their own right.

Emerson earned the maximum STARS credits in the report’s water category for its water use and rainwater management.

“We have a really cool system in place on several of our buildings where we are capturing rainwater,” she said. “Instead of that water flooding those areas, [it] is used for toilets instead of using the municipal water supply.” 

The Sustainable Campus Index allows schools to see what strides their peers are taking and the new ways other schools are approaching their sustainable future. ASHEE’s sustainability index and innovations especially allow a form of competition between schools towards sustainability. 

“That report also includes a lot of case studies showing some stuff that campuses are doing that is cool or innovative and successful in the last year,” Lamy said. “It’s helpful for people in roles like mine to read and see where the bar is being raised since we’re constantly evolving as a field.” 

Lamy has held her position at Emerson for a year and a half and has experience in a variety of positions in the non-profit space surrounding conservation and sustainability, she has always felt an obligation towards fighting climate change.

“What drew me in was understanding the sort of social justice implications of climate change and learning that some communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change, and they haven’t been the ones to contribute in the same way as particularly wealthier nations did,” Lamy said. 

Applying to be on the Sustainable Campus Index is a vast undertaking, Lamy said, stressing the cooperation and communication among departments to acquire all the information ASHEE needs. An extensive back and forth between Emerson and ASHEE confirms and corrects any data that is incorrect. 

“We spend probably a couple of months pulling all that data together, going through it, making sure it’s accurate and up to date,” Lamy said. 

Lamy said there will be no signs of slowing down in the future of sustainability at Emerson.

“Even though we’re showing up as one of the top schools, there’s always more work to do,” Lamy said.

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