Fischer renews campus sustainability efforts

Photo/Mike Lovett

Mary Fischer

Brandeis may be a small community, but its potential to have a positive impact on the environment is great, according to Mary Fischer, the new manager for sustainability programs.
Fischer arrived at Brandeis in July from Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt manufacturer, where she was the life-cycle sustainability manager. She reports to Jim Gray, vice president for campus operations, and Bob Avalle, the executive director of facilities, and her role will be to focus on what steps the university can take to become more sustainable.
“I’ve been here just about two months, but am already so impressed with the outpouring of support for sustainability from all levels of Brandeis,” said Fischer. “There’s a strong group of students, high level administrators and, most importantly, the president, who prioritize sustainability.”
Though Brandeis has always advocated for taking care of the environment, previous actions to improve sustainability have not made enough progress. However, the university is committed to turning the tide.
After Brandeis signed the American Colleges and Universities Climate Commitment in 2007, it created its own climate action plan to improve sustainability in 2009. Interim President Lisa M. Lynch wants an updated plan this year. In addition, Brandeis recently launched “Turn it Off” initiative to reduce electricity use and costs this summer, while the rooftop farm atop the Shapiro science center has yielded homegrown crops for community supported agriculture. Fischer’s arrival at Brandeis is just the latest re-affirmation of the university’s support for sustainability.
To begin the process of improving Brandeis’ performance in the area of carbon emission reduction, Gray and Fischer have also been tasked with establishing the president’s task force on campus sustainability. The task force, which was announced at the staff town hall meeting on Sept. 16, will focus on engaging the campus community in a single, coordinated and multi-faceted effort to define and steer Brandeis’ approach to sustainability.
“Improving sustainability at Brandeis will be a journey,” said Fischer. “The first step will be to improve upon the practices that we as a university have done for years, especially in making Brandeis more competitive with our peer institutions on energy usage and recycling rates. Beyond that, we need to create a short- and long-term sustainability vision and plan that speaks to the needs of our campus, the mission of the university, and the goals of the community.”
To facilitate that effort, Fischer will be calling upon her experience at Stonyfield Farm and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
“In Washington and at Stonyfield, I was involved in strategic planning and policy development,” said Fischer. “In these types of processes, multiple stakeholders collaborate to set goals, define opportunities and set priorities.”
She believes exploring ways to work toward new goals will help create a new culture of sustainability at Brandeis.
“I am thrilled by the hunger for better performance as it relates to sustainability at Brandeis,” Fischer said. “This is the type of passion and desire I can harness to jump-start a new era on campus, where the sustainable choice is the default, not the alternative.”

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