DRAFT Sustainability Strategic Plan

The below Sustainability Strategic Plan (SSP) draft was finalized in October 2020.  Your feedback is welcomed through Friday, November 6 via this quick comment form.

Preface

The global climate crisis is an emergency, impacting communities worldwide in the most devastating manner. Not only is climate change a worldwide concern, it impacts people in uneven ways. Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, as well as low-income communities have borne the brunt of fossil fuel extraction, climate change, and environmental hazards, including air, water, and land pollution.
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    The global climate crisis is an emergency, impacting communities worldwide in the most devastating manner. Not only is climate change a worldwide concern, it impacts people in uneven ways. Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, as well as low-income communities have borne the brunt of fossil fuel extraction, climate change, and environmental hazards, including air, water, and land pollution. 

    The global Paris Climate Agreement calls for “limiting the global average temperature rise in this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.” In 2018, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) released a special report, projecting that limiting warming to the 1.5°C target this century will require an unprecedented transformation of every sector of the global economy between now and 2030. 

    As part of a country that has contributed disproportionately to the climate crisis, Wesleyan has a moral imperative to do everything in its power to combat the climate crisis. Responding with appropriate, drastic action can help to make it possible for all humans and living beings to enjoy long, healthy, satisfying, and productive lives, free of conflict, fear, and shortages. In the face of the climate crisis, there is hope in taking action. We seek to be an institution on the forefront of sustainable change, one that promotes environmental and social sustainability in everything we do. Sustainability will always be an ongoing process, and this strategic plan envisions the most urgent steps in that process. 

    Now is the time to develop systemic long-term solutions - our lives depend on a healthy planet with fully functioning social, political, and economic systems. COVID-19 has increased existing inequalities, which in turn have exacerbated the pandemic’s effects. COVID-19 and climate change operate on different time scales, but both have global reach. It is essential that Wesleyan’s COVID-19 recovery addresses our planet’s climate change trajectory and promotes environmentally and socially just outcomes. We have an unprecedented opportunity to rethink nearly every aspect of how Wesleyan does business - resource use, building ventilation, course offerings, purchases, fossil fuel use, and community partnerships, just to name a few - and every action we take should demonstrate that we intend to build back better. Sustainability-minded actions and policies going forward can build a more resilient future for Wesleyan and the planet. If we do this work together, we can maintain a livable planet, reduce our environmental impact, and protect human health, all while building a just world.

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    Wesleyan recognized the climate crisis in 2007 when it committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.  A decade later, Wesleyan reaffirmed that commitment through We Are Still In, joining colleges, universities, states, local governments, and companies in pledging to uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement via institutional actions.  This commitment was deepened in 2018 with the introduction of a sustainability addendum to the Beyond 2020 University strategic plan.

    Wesleyan established its first Sustainability Action Plan in 2016, including broad goals and objectives, as well as specific strategies, timelines, metrics, and identifying responsible parties.  This structure was ambitious and served Wesleyan well over the first two years of the plan; implementation was constrained in years three through five, as strategies became obsolete or unable to be completed.  

    Given these drawbacks, Wesleyan’s new Sustainability Strategic Plan instead builds a roadmap toward a sustainable future by establishing guideposts and benchmarks over the next three decades. This plan sets overarching goals and objectives, as well as a framework for establishing and implementing specific strategies.  Within each section, this strategic plan connects to Beyond 2020 as well as external guidelines or commitments, including United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) targets.

    For each of the three goal areas, carbon, curriculum, and culture, a working group of students, faculty, staff, and/or community members will be established to carry out the visions laid out in this plan. 

Carbon

Goal 1: Wesleyan shall achieve carbon neutrality for all greenhouse gas emissions before 2035.

Wesleyan committed to a 2050 carbon neutrality date in 2007 and now will accelerate its response to the global and local climate emergency in response to a 2018 United Nations report, which found that global carbon dioxide emissions need to fall 45 percent by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. By moving towards carbon neutrality as rapidly as possible through limiting and eventually eliminating fossil fuel emissions, Wesleyan will do its part to mitigate the impact of climate disasters on its campus, its students, and its community. The minimum cost for such a transition is $100 million.  

The following objectives move Wesleyan in the direction of a campus that emits zero carbon.  

  • To Date

    Wesleyan has made multiple strides in this area, including:

    • Achieving a 20% greenhouse gas reduction from a 2008 baseline (Summer 2020),
    • Commissioning a carbon neutrality plan for campus buildings (Summer 2019),
    • Beginning the conversion of heat transfer system from steam to hot water (Phase 1 of 9 completed Summer 2020), and
    • Launching the first phase of an air travel offsets program for the President’s Office (2019-2020).

Objective 1.1: Eliminate fossil fuel usage from all campus buildings by 2050.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    To achieve zero fossil fuel use, Wesleyan must electrify new and existing building heating systems and transition to renewable electric sources for all building energy use (heating, cooling, and electricity). In constructing and renovating buildings, Wesleyan has the opportunity to dramatically increase energy efficiency and conservation by following rigorous sustainability standards in building renovation and new construction.  To maximize energy efficiency, perform envelope improvements, including insulation and window replacements, and reevaluate space usage. 

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
      • SDG 13: Climate Action
    • STARS 
      • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Net zero carbon emissions (current: 20% reduction)
      • Building Energy Efficiency: Reduce energy consumption 90% below minimum performance threshold, reduce energy consumption 50% from baseline (current: 30% below threshold and 8% below baseline)
      • Clean and Renewable Energy: 100% renewable energy (current; 4%)
      • Building Design and Construction: 100% of new construction is LEED Platinum and/or Certified Living Building (current: 0% of buildings in past 5 years have achieved certification, though past and future planned buildings work toward this criteria)
      • Building Operations and Maintenance: 100% of existing buildings is LEED Platinum or similar certified (current: no building certifications, partial points for energy conservation policy)

    The following are targets that Wesleyan has explicitly committed to:

    • Second Nature Carbon Commitment: 100% carbon neutrality by 2050 (current: 20% emissions reduction)
    • We Are Still In: Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement target of limiting warming to well below 2°C by bringing greenhouse gas emissions to zero within the second half of the 21st century  (current: 20% emissions reduction)
    • Beyond 2020: Get as close as feasible to net zero energy certification, incorporating additional principles of the Living Building Challenge (current: exploring ways to reduce energy use significantly in planned new science building)

Objective 1.2: Offset emissions from all Wesleyan employee business and study abroad air travel by 2022.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Transportation, including air travel, commuter, and ground travel, is Wesleyan’s second largest emissions source. Purchasing offsets for these emissions is an effective way to ensure that carbon emitted into the atmosphere will be offset by a carbon sink, such as through forest preservation and tree planting. Wesleyan must reduce its air travel as much as possible, while recognizing that not all air travel can be eliminated. Through a 5% fee added to all University air travel purchases, Wesleyan shall purchase locally-generated carbon offsets generated primarily from preserving forested land and planting trees.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

Objective 1.3: Reduce employee business air travel by 25% from FY 2019 by 2025.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Airplanes are one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas pollution, and Wesleyan’s business air travel must be drastically reduced in favor of virtual and ground transportation alternatives. While the reduction of air travel is important, it is also important that Wesleyan continues to welcome international students, encourage study abroad, and promote faculty and staff scholarship. 

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

Objective 1.4: Increase use of shared and energy efficient vehicles while decreasing use of fossil-fuel-powered and single-occupancy vehicles.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Much Wesleyan employee and student travel is also currently done in fossil-fuel-powered, single-occupancy automobiles. Over 80 percent of employees drive alone to work each day. Many students have cars on campus, which are not only used to travel home and to nearby locations, but also to travel within campus.  These emissions must be reduced drastically by transitioning to a 100% electric Wesleyan fleet, normalizing working from home, promoting and encouraging improvements in public transportation, facilitating alternative commuting strategies, encouraging walking and biking, and discouraging intra-campus car travel.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

Objective 1.5: Divest from fossil fuels by 2030.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    In March 2020, the Board of Trustees approved a resolution to restrict the endowment from future direct investments in fossil fuels effective immediately. Wesleyan believes that this shift will align its investment strategy with the University’s values and vision to support sustainable practices affecting people and the planet.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

Objective 1.6: Offset all remaining greenhouse gas emissions before 2035.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    This greenhouse gas emissions target is in line with the United Nations’ goal of 50% global reduction by 2030. Wesleyan shall eliminate as much of its greenhouse gas emissions as possible through physical means. To address emissions from ground travel, commuting, freestanding building energy use, and other unavoidable sources, Wesleyan will need to purchase offsets annually concurrent with reduction initiatives.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

     

    The following are targets that Wesleyan has explicitly committed to:

Curriculum

Goal 2: Wesleyan’s curriculum will equip students with the necessary education and skills to become environmental and social leaders.

Wesleyan has the potential to graduate environmental and social leaders. A primary way to achieve this is to integrate intersectional sustainability into as many academic courses as possible. Wesleyan has the opportunity to respond to global and local demands to address systemic injustices by offering courses that specifically focus on environmental justice, as well as integrating environmental justice into existing courses. Outside of the classroom, Wesleyan must strengthen and augment programming to ensure that all students have a sustainability literacy. Through all of this, Wesleyan must include the perspectives of marginalized groups, including those of students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students, in developing, teaching, and executing programming.

The following objectives move Wesleyan in the direction of a campus that educates environmental and social leaders. 

  • To Date

    Wesleyan has made multiple strides in this area, including:

    • Five percent of courses offered in the past three years have included sustainability,
    • Seventy-seven percent of departments currently offer at least one course including sustainability, 
    • Since 2016, the Sustainability & Environmental Justice Pedagogical Initiative has amended 17 courses to include sustainability and/or environmental justice content, with another 17 courses planned for the 2020-2021 academic year, and 
    • Wesleyan has committed to introducing three new first year seminars including sustainability by Fall 2022.

Objective 2.1: Increase support to integrate sustainability and environmental justice into faculty and student interdisciplinary research, 10% of courses by 2025, and 20% of courses by 2030.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Sustainability should and can be discussed in relation to every discipline that is taught at Wesleyan. For this to be feasible, faculty must have support including training on sustainability and environmental justice and meetings within and between departments to discuss best practices in course integration. Sustainability and environmental justice should be integrated holistically in the way that makes the most sense for each course. We must acknowledge that current and historic barriers tend to exclude people of marginalized identities and have made the sustainability movement predominantly a movement of white people. Courses must also center the experiences of students of color, first generation, and low-income students. Wesleyan should encourage interdisciplinary faculty research on sustainability and environmental justice to further understanding of the vast intersectional nature of these topics.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDG 4: Quality Education
    • STARS: 
      • Academic Courses: 20% of classes in 90% of departments include sustainability. (current: 5% of classes in 77% of departments)
      • Incentives for Developing Courses: Offer faculty incentives to increase student sustainability learning (current: Sustainability & Environmental Justice Program)
      • Research and Scholarship: 15%+ faculty do sustainability research in 75%+ of departments (current: 9% of faculty in 59% of departments)
      • Support for Sustainability Research: Offer programs to encourage student and faculty research, recognize interdisciplinary research, and library support (current: all but interdisciplinary research supported)
      • Sustainability Literacy Assessment: 100% of student knowledge assessed (current: none)

    The following are targets that Wesleyan has explicitly committed to:

    • Beyond 2020:
      • At least five courses every year with integrated sustainability content through the launch of an annual process to solicit new courses, including at least three annual First-Year Seminars by 2022 (current: in academic year 2020-21, 17 courses are planned, none are currently First-Year Seminars) 
      • Develop a strategy for assessing Wesleyan students’ sustainability literacy, both to document what students are learning about sustainability and to determine how much their learning is shaped by their engagement with Wesleyan’s sustainability-related coursework, programming, and activities (current: not started)

Objective 2.2: Introduce a new environmental justice-focused course by 2022 and hire one faculty member who is a noted scholar in the field of environmental justice by 2025.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    While multiple courses have included environmental justice themes, and students have taught a forum repeatedly on this topic, there is no regularly-offered environmental justice course. The creation of one or more courses would introduce students to the historical and present social contexts of climate change and broader environmental issues. These courses should be offered to all Wesleyan students.  It is essential to hire a full-time, permanent faculty member so that environmental education can be consistently taught. 

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 4: Quality Education
      • SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Objective 2.3: Increase and strengthen extracurricular sustainability and environmental justice education.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Currently on campus, a mix of events, workshops, and existing extracurricular activities are held every semester. Increasing the presence of sustainability in these extracurricular activities and learning environments will increase students’ opportunities to gain important sustainability knowledge outside the classroom. By infusing sustainability and environmental justice throughout existing activities, sustainability will reach a wider audience of students and increase access for those historically marginalized from sustainability.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
      • SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
      • SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
    • STARS
      • Student Life: Have sustainability programs in 8+ extracurricular areas (current: 8)
      • Student Orientation: 100% of students have access to sustainability in Orientation (current: 100%, but not mandatory)
      • Student Educators Program: 100% of undergrad and grad students have access to peer sustainability outreach programs (current: undergrad only)

     

    The following are targets that Wesleyan has explicitly committed to:

    • Beyond 2020: Integrate sustainability education into the Residential Life curriculum (current: Sustainability Office Interns and Residential Life student staff have some communication which is continually being improved)

Culture

Goal 3: Sustainability is an integral part of Wesleyan’s culture, expressed through University practices as well as the individual and collective actions of students, faculty, and staff.

A sustainable institution must change more than its carbon footprint and classroom education. Wesleyan’s environmental and social impact includes its purchases, waste practices, students’ daily actions, and its interactions with the community. By choosing intentionally to pursue individual, collective, and institutional choices that have positive environmental and social impacts, Wesleyan shall create a culture that values the future, by which we mean one that values sustainability and social justice. 

The following objectives move Wesleyan in the direction of a sustainability-centered campus culture.

  • To Date

    Wesleyan has made multiple strides in this area, including:

    • In 2019, Wesleyan diverted nearly 66 percent of its waste from the incinerator through recycling, composting, and reuse, compared to 42 percent in 2013, 
    • Wesleyan purchases 25 percent of food served in campus dining from sustainable sources and 26 percent from plant-based sources (categories overlap),
    • Wesleyan’s sustainability partnerships in the Middletown community include Long Lane Farm community outreach, intern support for the Sustainable Middletown initiative, food donations to Eddy Shelter, science outreach to local schools, service-learning courses, and volunteering with G.R.O. Dreamville community gardens, 
    • A Success@Wes sustainability education program for faculty and staff launched in 2019, and 
    • Establishment of the Eco Facilitators program in 2015, which educates 16 students annually to serve as sustainability-focused peer advisors in campus dorms and across Wesleyan’s campus.

Objective 3.1: Wesleyan publicizes, educates, and advocates for sustainable practices and behaviors so that sustainability is attainable for the entire Wesleyan community.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Wesleyan’s faculty, staff, and students are a community with differing education and experience regarding sustainability. White privilege and income inequality are strongly integrated with traditional access (or lack thereof) to sustainability knowledge and practices. It is therefore important that Wesleyan facilitates an even playing field of sustainability knowledge through continual education and outreach. We must also provide space for marginalized members of the Wesleyan community to share their stories about sustainability and what impact the climate crisis and environmental injustices have on their lives. Wesleyan also has the opportunity to share its education and advocacy with the Middletown community and beyond.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
      • SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Objective 3.2: Wesleyan shall institute practices in the physical areas of waste, dining, grounds, and procurement consistent with our shared value of sustainability.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Wesleyan shall improve sustainability in the four areas listed below. 

    3.3.1 Waste

    Wesleyan shall continue past efforts to reduce waste and increase waste diversion. Working groups shall find ways to functionally improve access to waste diversion and address waste generation across the entire campus.  Wesleyan will move toward a zero waste model by the year 2050 such that all waste will either be recycled or composted. 

    3.3.2 Dining

    Wesleyan shall increase the amount of food sourced locally and shall scale back purchasing from the animal agriculture industry.  These actions will reduce an important component of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

    3.3.3 Grounds

    Wesleyan maintains extensive monoculture with lawns. The increase of perennial, low-mow, and no-mow plantings shall reduce the resource inputs needed to maintain lawns, as well as enhance biodiversity in the campus ecosystem. Introducing organic and fossil-fuel free grounds management practices will further reduce emissions and promote ecological health.  

    3.3.4 Procurement

    Wesleyan shall increase the transparency and sustainability of product sourcing (merchandise, office supplies, etc.). Working groups shall establish sustainable purchasing guidelines, baselines, and goals that will include environmental and social components.   

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
      • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
      • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
      • SDG 15: Life on Land
    • STARS
      • Sustainable Procurement: Have institution-wide, written policies, guidelines, or directives that use Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) for all purchases and seek to support sustainable purchasing across 8 categories (current: no University-wide policy, use LCCA for some purchases, have criteria for 7 categories)
      • Electronics Purchasing: Purchase only EPEAT Gold electronics (current: mix of uncertified and EPEAT Bronze, Silver, and Gold purchases)
      • Cleaning and Janitorial Purchasing: Use 100% green cleaning products (current: 87%)
      • Office Paper Purchasing: Use paper that is 100% post-consumer recycled and/or FSC highest rating (current: <50% spend on these papers)
      • Waste Minimization and Diversion: Reduce waste by 50% from baseline, divert 100% of waste (current: waste increased from baseline, 65% diversion)
      • Construction and Demolition Waste Diversion: Divert 100% of construction waste (current: 83% diversion)
      • Food and Beverage Purchasing: 100% purchased from ethical/sustainable and/or plant-based sources (current: 25% sustainable, 26% plant-based with overlap)
      • Sustainable Dining: 5+ sustainable dining initiatives and 8+ programs to reduce food waste (current: 5 initiatives and 9 programs, respectively)
      • Biodiversity: Biodiversity importance analysis (current: no analysis)
      • Landscape Management: 100% organic grounds management (current: 5.5% organic management)
      • Rainwater Management: Comprehensive rainwater management policy mandating low-impact development and using stormwater as resource (current: no policy or practices)

Objective 3.3: Wesleyan is a partner to the Middletown community on sustainability issues and city-wide projects.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    The Wesleyan and Middletown communities should collaborate to reach collective sustainability and environmental justice goals, building a resilient community. Wesleyan shall provide physical and intellectual resources to support sustainability for local government, nonprofits, schools, advocacy groups, and individuals across the community. Some of the groundwork for this partnership has been laid through service learning courses, student groups working in the community, and active volunteer programs, as well as other programs offered by the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships. There is much work to be done, and many as-yet-untapped opportunities for Wesleyan to be a support system and partner for Middletown, one that is mutually beneficial, genuine, and long-lasting.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
      • SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
    • STARS
      • Community Partnerships: Provide multi-year, sustainability-focused financial or material support to community organizations
      • Community Service: 100% of students engage in 20 hours or more of community service each year (current: 14% of students engaged, hours not tracked, no employee volunteering program)
      • Participation in Public Policy: Wesleyan advocates for public policies at local, state, national, and international levels (current: have engaged in all 4 areas)

Objective 3.4: Students and employees cultivate an ethic and practice of sustainability that prioritizes the voices of marginalized people.

  • Vision and Benchmarks

    Vision

    Changing the behaviors and mindsets of students, faculty, and staff allows the impact of sustainability to go beyond the Wesleyan and Middletown community. Wesleyan shall work to expand students’ civic engagement on sustainability in the context of equity and justice, moving beyond individual actions and towards collective ones. Wesleyan’s employees and students have the potential to introduce sustainability and environmental justice into their workplaces, communities, and through civic engagement. By instilling sustainability as a lifelong value of our interregional, international community, Wesleyan will thus expand its sustainable impact globally.

    Benchmarks

    The following are external targets that Wesleyan is measured against but has not explicitly committed to:

    • SDGs
      • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
      • SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
    • STARS
      • Inclusive and Participatory Governance: Student, staff, and faculty governance bodies with Board of Trustees representation, 20% of Board is women (current: student and faculty governance bodies, Board is 41% women)
      • Diversity and Equity Coordination: Have diversity and equity office/officer, 100% participation in cultural competence trainings (current: have office/officer, not all of community has participated in trainings)
      • Support for Underrepresented Groups: non-discrimination statement, discrimination response protocol, recruitment programs, supports, and preparing underrepresented students for academic careers (current: have all programs except discrimination response protocol)
      • Affordability and Access: 100% of students meet 3 of 4 or 75% meet 4 of 4: (1) need met, (2) graduation without loans, (3) % low-income students, (4) low-income graduation rate (current: (1) 100%, (2) 64%, (3) 17%, (4) 90%)
      • Assessing Sustainability Cutture: 100% of student behavior/culture assessed longitudinally (current: only in senior survey)
      • Employee Educators Program: Employee peer educator program for all employees and employees spend 1+ hour annually on this work (current: no program)
      • Employee Orientation: Offer sustainability topics to all new employees (current: in faculty and staff orientations)
      • Staff Professional Development and Training: Annual sustainability professional development with 75%+ employee participation (current: <25% participation)
      • Student Life: Have sustainability programs in 8+ extracurricular areas (current: 8)
      • Student Orientation: 100% of students have access to sustainability in Orientation (current: 100%, but not mandatory)
      • Student Educators Program: 100% of undergrad and grad students have access to peer sustainability outreach programs (current: undergrad only)

     

    The following are targets that Wesleyan has explicitly committed to:

    • Beyond 2020: Integrate sustainability education into the Residential Life curriculum (current: Sustainability Office Interns and Residential Life student staff have some communication which is continually being improved)