Fossil Fuel Use

Partner with students, faculty, staff and the community to reduce fossil fuel use

Students cutting apples in an industrial kitchen.

Climate change is a cross-cutting issue that invites engagement throughout the college and its community, whether in the curriculum, co-curricular and experiential learning, or through operations, planning, finance and investment. Many campus sustainability initiatives address key domains aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, embodied carbon and waste reduction. Notable efforts include increasing sustainable food purchasing in dining services, reducing food waste and increasing its diversion from landfills to composting facilities, eliminating plastic water bottles through campus catering and partnering with communities to support home weatherization, renewable energy sourcing and other climate beneficial projects. 

A student standing in front of a pin board.One specific example of student, faculty and staff engagement was the 2016 Williams Wedge Project. Launched by the Center for Environmental Studies, the project involved a group of professors, students and administrators in a campus-wide conversation about the kind of ‘wedges’ the college should pursue to reach its 35% greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. The highly collaborative, multi-step process involved intensive data collection and analysis and culminated in an interactive game, the Williams Wedge, that community members could use to brainstorm strategies for meeting the goal. Over the course of the 2016-17 academic year, the Wedge team used the game in courses and other conversations about what the Williams community is or is not willing to give up to fight climate change. The Williams Wedge project culminated in April 2017 with an all-campus workshop intended to give a broader swath of the community a forum to discuss the college’s climate future.

A screenshot from the interactive Williams Wedge Project game.
An interactive projected emissions reduction chart was part of the Williams Wedge Project.

Another successful activity is Winter Blitz, a one-day community service event that trains students to provide basic home weatherization services and sends them into nearby communities to help seal up houses to make them warmer and decrease winter energy costs for residents. Students are also working with the Zilkha Center to advance zero-waste strategy by reducing food waste, increasing collection of compostables and recyclables, and supporting policies that promote reduce and reuse in the college’s procurement of hard goods.

Students posing for a photo as part of the Winter Blitz home weatherization day.