Putting sustainability at the bow of Williams-Mystic

This semester, I am creating a Sustainability Action Plan for the Williams-Mystic Program (W-M). This plan will incorporate the values and perspectives of the program’s stakeholders, including current and former W-M students, W-M faculty and staff, and representatives from the Mystic Seaport Museum. Using their input, I will develop a set of goals, metrics, and action items to guide Williams-Mystic’s sustainability endeavors for the next few years. My experience as a Sustainability Coordinator at Mystic last semester inspired me to develop a way to ensure that student-led sustainability initiatives are carried over from semester to semester. My past experience as a Sustainability in Strategic Planning Intern with the Zilkha Center also inspired me to develop a plan that would align Williams-Mystic’s sustainability efforts with the College’s own Strategic Plan and Climate Action Plan. 

My goal for this project is to create a list of ambitious yet feasible actions that the program can take to increase its sustainability in operations and governance, and to highlight sustainability as a key takeaway for students in life after Mystic. The Sustainability Action Plan will define goals and action items relating to education and research, facilities, responsible consumption or resources, travel, and local partnerships to ensure that program leadership incorporates sustainability into every aspect of life at Williams-Mystic. By inviting stakeholders to participate in the plan development process, we hope to achieve greater levels of buy-in and ultimate success of our goals. The resulting plan will hopefully be one that Williams-Mystic and its affiliated organizations are excited to implement, leading to measurable and meaningful progress in the program’s sustainability. 

Carefully tracking my progress in this project helps me to stay on task and work toward creating a successful Sustainability Action Plan by the end of the semester. So far, I have completed background research on Williams’ sustainability plans and initiatives, and those of other higher education institutions. I also researched the process of creating a sustainability action plan and some widely-used sustainability reporting systems like LEED and AASHE STARS. Using that research I created a detailed SAP development plan which helps me outline the scope, philosophy, and timeline of the final plan. Moving forward, I will interview stakeholders and use their insights to drive the development of the final written plan. 

As someone who is interested in sustainability consulting, the opportunity to create Williams-Mystic’s first-ever Sustainability Action Plan gives me meaningful experience in the field. In the process of gaining applicable industry knowledge, I am excited to give back to the Williams-Mystic Program that taught me so much. I look forward to seeing how my work will not only help the planet, but also contribute to Williams-Mystic’s curriculum and inspire new generations of sustainability-minded individuals. 

Written by Lucia Wiggers, Zilkha Center intern