In 2015, President Adam Falk and the Board of Trustees issued a statement addressing the college’s responsibility and commitment to address climate change and defined five goals for doing so by the end of calendar year 2020. These goals transformed the college’s efforts around sustainability and led to key investments in renewable energy projects, high-performance buildings, carbon neutrality, impact investing and academic programming. They represent a milestone, not an endpoint—successes, failures and lessons learned have and will continue to inform our next generation of goals.
Read a summary of the goals and outcomes below, or visit each goal page for more details.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 35% below 1990 levels
Lowering energy use, new construction efficiency standards, generating and purchasing electricity from renewable sources and carbon offsets all contributed to this goal. Although the college fell short of the 35% reduction, a solar photovoltaic project in Farmington, Maine, scheduled to come online in fall 2021, will eliminate 80-90% of annual emissions from purchased electricity and greatly help in closing the gap.
Purchase sufficient carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2020
After careful deliberation regarding its approach to purchasing offsets, the college purchased a small set of trial-run offsets in September 2019 and another batch in late 2020 to cover the remaining carbon emissions for fiscal year 2020. The ultimate goal is to reduce these offset purchases over time as the college implements its new climate action goals and further lower its emissions.
Fossil Fuel Use
Partner with students, faculty, staff and the community to reduce fossil fuel use
Notable efforts include increasing sustainable food purchasing and reducing food waste, eliminating plastic water bottles from all catered campus events, conducting the Williams Wedge Project and partnering with local communities to support home weatherization and renewable energy sourcing.
Invest endowment funds in projects that benefit the environment
To date, Williams has committed $30 million to four funds managed by two impact investment firms operating in the U.S. renewable energy industry. In addition, the college has set up funds for donors and employees to make contributions to low carbon investments and retirement plans.
Make new investments in our educational mission
The college added and filled two additional tenure track lines in environmental studies. Laura Martin is an assistant professor of Environmental Studies and faculty affiliate in History who investigates the ways in which humans intentionally and unintentionally shape the distribution and diversity of other species. Alice Bradley is an assistant professor of Geosciences whose research focuses on Arctic sea ice and the impact of strong storms on the environment.