In an effort to increase sustainability efforts on campus, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) has undertaken a benchmarking project to compare Boston College’s environmentalism to other schools across the nation.
Meredith McCaffrey, the executive vice president of UGBC and MCAS ’17, and Anxhela Mile, the chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee in the Student Assembly and MCAS ’17, have been spearheading the project, which is still in its preliminary stages.
The project’s goal of comparing the University’s environmental policies to other college campuses is meant to give insight into BC’s ecological footprint and possible methods for improvement.
In part, the project compares whether other universities have divested from fossil fuels. Climate Justice at Boston College, an environmental group separate from UGBC, has been calling on the University to divest since its creation four years ago. Most recently, the group held a rally last Friday. By looking at other schools’ endowments and where their funds lie, UGBC can have a better idea of how BC compares in its assets.
UGBC also plans to look at where university campuses are getting their energy. BC currently uses natural gas, which, according to Mile, is a clean energy source.
Another component of the benchmarking project is to look at the research being done at different universities regarding environmental studies. Mile noted that Columbia University, for example, has the Earth Institute, a research institute that hones in on issues facing the planet and sustainability.
Mile, who has been focused on environmental work since her freshman year, noticed that there were a number of environmental groups on campus, but they were not working together. She began working as a sustainability coordinator in UGBC, and has been working to connect groups’ projects since.
“The big idea behind this project is that with climate change, Boston will be affected by the rising sea levels, so it’s interesting to see in the BC community how can we learn from other schools.”
— Anxhela Mile, the chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee in the Student Assembly and MCAS ’17
“I started thinking about it because benchmarking is a great tool to look at BC’s competitors and seeing what great things BC has done, and how we stand in relation to other schools,” Mile said.
The process they’re using for this project can also be used to benchmark other BC policies in the future, Mile said.
McCaffrey was inspired to help with the project because UGBC has only had an environmental caucus on the Student Assembly for one year. According to McCaffrey, sustainability is not something UGBC has been as active on in the past, and it is something that needs a more proactive stance.
The project is in its preliminary stage and its logistics are still being worked out. Mile and McCaffrey hope to start a precedent for future classes that allows them to work further on sustainability issues. By comparing BC to other universities, BC can consider what can be done to improve.
“This will be one of the biggest benchmarking projects we’ve done since being in UGBC,” McCaffrey said.
The project is being conducted entirely by students, but director of sustainability Bob Pion has been supportive of the project, McCaffrey and Mile said.
“[He has been] very supportive of anything green on this campus,” Mile said. “We won’t have a sense of other administrator responses until the final document, but the goal is to have research done as thoroughly as possible so that it is well received.”
McCaffrey explained that there is so much to learn from others and the policies which they have implemented in the past. This is a great opportunity for BC to take other policies into consideration and to pinpoint ways to better its own ecological footprint.
With a benchmarking system that may seem so meticulous, it is imperative that the big picture of why this project is so important is kept in mind.
“The big idea behind this project is that with climate change, Boston will be affected by the rising sea levels, so it’s interesting to see in the BC community how can we learn from other schools,” Mile said.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor