Sustainability for universities is about their very survival as institutions. The most difficult thing for any institution to do is to adapt its operations from the way the world was to the way it is becoming. When Tufts was founded as a small school 150 years ago, the population of the country was only one-fifth of what it is today, resources were abundant and fuel was cheap. How large an impact could we make on the environment and its fixed stock of resources?
Tufts University has long been a pioneer in campus sustainability. In 1990 Tufts developed the first university environmental policy and launched the international Talloires Declaration, now endorsed by 433 university leaders worldwide.
More than twenty years later, campus sustainability is now part of the fabric of university life: water use is down 10% since 1990; students can rent hybrid vehicles as part of a shared vehicle program; dining services offers organic and local foods and buys high efficiency appliances; renewable energy helps power Sophia Gordon Hall the LEED Gold residence hall topped with photovoltaic and solar hot water systems; the library hosts a green roof PhD project; recycling is a part of everyday life; and student learning is integrated into these many initiatives through undergraduate and graduate student research, class projects, and internships.
Tufts leadership continues with bold commitments to regional (New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan) and international (Kyoto Protocol) goals to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases.
A combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and a new electricity contract has reduced Tufts’ emissions close to 1990 levels. In 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency awarded the prestigious Climate Protection Award to Tufts for its efforts.