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NewsAug 10, 2021

Lesley reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent

Building upgrades, green-energy partnerships keep carbon footprint low, even during university’s expansion

Exterior of the Lunder Arts Center at night
The LEED Gold-certified Lunder Arts Center has been recognized for its innovative and energy-efficient design.

Despite more than a decade of unprecedented growth in campus size, the university has dramatically reduced its impact on greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90 percent since we began tracking the data in 2006.

The trend started long before the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw negligible use of university buildings as we observed an almost exclusively remote learning model.

Though some reductions were realized by the “mothballing” of university buildings and the curtailment of travel, much of the key to reducing our carbon footprint came from energy-efficient renovations and a new contract, beginning in 2018, to purchase electricity entirely from sustainable power suppliers.

“There was a slight premium for Lesley to purchase 100 percent green electricity,” says Mike McGarry, director of procurement for the university. “However, working with our partners Poweroptions and Constellation NewEnergy, we were able to find pricing that allowed us to purchase this green supply with very minimal impact to our operating budget.”

chart showing Lesley's greenhouse gas emissions reductions
This graphic shows the university's dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, when we began tracking the data.

Though we don’t yet produce our own electricity, McGarry says the university continues to investigate investments in small solar arrays and/or buying into off-site solar generation providers, with an eye toward the day when such partnerships become more financially feasible.

The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by migrating away from reliance on fossil fuels has long been self-evident. But a recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issuing a “code red for humanity,” underscores the urgency of immediate action worldwide.

Lesley goes green

Our greenhouse gas steadily declined even as our building footprint has increased since 2008, when we began our acquisition of former Episcopal Divinity Center properties for our South Campus, then built and, in 2015, opened our LEED Gold-certified Lunder Arts Center.

bar graphs of Lesley's greenhouse gas emissions
This graphic tracks the university's greenhouse gas emissions since 2017, the year before we entered into a contract with suppliers of 100 percent renewable-resource-generated electricity. Scope 1 is transport fuels (gasoline and diesel) as well as natural gas used to heat buildings; Scope 2 is electricity; Scope 3 tracks greenhouse gases emitted from vehicles used by students and employees commuting to campus.

“We’ve continued to reduce every year despite our growth,” says Campus Planner and Sustainability Coordinator Sara Wolons. Since 2006, through building upgrades, switches to energy-efficient lighting and other conservation measures — including the sale of old, energy-wasting buildings that housed the former Art Institute of Boston in Kenmore Square — we have continually reduced our carbon footprint.

At the same time, she adds, the university has achieved dramatic reductions in food waste while encouraging more sustainable means of accessing campus through public transportation and bicycling. With our electricity entirely sourced from “green” suppliers, the next area for growth is in the realm of “transport fuels, Wolons says. The university is exploring the replacement of gasoline-powered university shuttle buses and diesel-powered maintenance equipment with electric-powered vehicles.