Sustainability at Williams
The goal of creating a sustainable campus is something every student, faculty and staff member plays a part in. Whether its students turning off their lights, taking shorter showers, or unplugging their appliances; the groundskeepers using minimal chemical pesticides; student-run Goodrich Coffee Bar encouraging people to use reusable coffee cups; professors weaving in concepts of sustainability to their classes; or the changes being made to the hockey rink to cut energy usage – everyone can contribute to Williams reducing our carbon footprint and working to ensure that we can meet today’s needs without sacrificing the needs of future generations of students.
Sustainability is not just about one department. Sustainability is everyone on campus thinking and taking action to make an impact and move the dial. Williams is a small college, but what we do here ripples forth.
This website is an attempt to collect examples of sustainability across campus, to share best practices, and to be a space to see what is being done so can see what isn’t being done and to ask for it. Dig into this website in the area(s) of campus sustainability in which you are most interested. Check out the Participate pages and the Campus Resource Use pages. Check out what is already going on by looking at the Student Organizations page and the Committees that you can be involved in. Check out courses offered by the Center for Environmental Studies and others that relate to sustainability. Do a project for a class that furthers sustainability on campus – and let us know about it! Come by to chat with our staff and to check out the Environmental Center. Help us to make Williams a leader in higher education sustainability!
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is difficult to define. Definitions often include something like Sustainability is meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow. Or meeting the needs of future generations. Definitions sometimes include the metaphorical three-legged chair to illustrate the three dimensions of sustainability that it takes to create a high quality of life – environmental, economic, and social/cultural. When one of those dimensions – or legs – is absent or weak, it is not sustainable and society is unstable.
For their STARS report (which is the basis for most green college rating systems), the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) outlines the following questions that they use for their rating system that we like to utilize to think about sustainability in broad and powerful terms.
To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to positive environmental, economic and social impacts?
a. To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to human and ecological health and mitigate negative environmental impacts?
b. To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to secure livelihoods, a sustainable economy and other positive financial impacts?
c. To what extent does achievement of the credit contribute to social justice, equity, diversity, cooperation, democracy and other positive social impacts?
When one thinks about sustainability through the lens of these terms, one can see that everyone is, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” and can understand the importance of advocating and striving for sustainability.
For more information about the breadth of sustainability that STARS measures and that Williams measures itself against when completing that report, check out the STARS table of credits.
The Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment in which we learn, work, and live. We research, investigate, support, promote and implement sustainability programs and educational initiatives. We work with faculty, staff and students, and local and national organizations to deepen our understanding of our impact on the earth’s resources and our responsibilities for developing a sustainable future. In working towards that future, we aim to support the global effort to advance environmental sustainability. To succeed, we must balance environmental, social and economical considerations in all of our decisions and actions. At the core of our approach is the belief that sustainability means meeting the needs of our current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Click here to learn more about the Zilka Center, its history, mission, and the work it does.
Read the Williams College sustainability principles and an overview on the various areas we focus on.
Sustainability Assessment – STARS
Williams participates in STARS – sustainability tracking assessment and rating system – designed by Association for the Advancement in Higher Education (AASHE) This self-rating system allows Williams to evaluate progress toward its sustainability goals as well as benchmark against peer institutions. For more information, visit the STARS website. In 2011 and 2016, we were awarded silver ratings. To see the published reports, visit the Williams College page on the STARS website.