About the Zilkha Center

Vision

The Zilkha Center aims to be a leader and catalyst for minimizing the environmental footprint of Williams College in ways that go beyond incremental improvements. It serves as a model, knowledge hub, and testing ground for sustainability practices and learning that embody the principles of environmental justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Mission

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The Zilkha Center advances sustainability at Williams College in collaboration with departments and individuals on campus and further afield. We facilitate connections among stakeholders to design and advocate for operational change; we inform the College’s efforts to set ambitious and achievable goals and monitor and report on progress; we provide inspiration and support to campus community members implementing sustainable projects and practices; we research, implement and share best practices; we incorporate education, knowledge sharing and opportunities for action in everything we do; we embed our work in the broader local, regional and global contexts; we collaborate with peer institutions and partners to magnify our impact; and we continually review our efforts through internal reflection and external feedback.

Our work is informed by our core values of:

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity: We maintain an open and safe work environment that is welcoming to everyone.
  • Systems Thinking: Our work is informed and guided by the fragile interdependence of human and natural systems.
  • Responsibility: We recognize the individual and collective responsibility to protect, care for and enhance the environment for the benefit of all.
  • Proclivity towards Nature: We believe that nature can be a source of wonder, inspiration, personal growth, and building community.

History

In the late fall of 2005, President Schapiro received a petition signed by nearly 1500 faculty, staff and students asking Williams to set greenhouse gas emissions goals. In 2006, he created the Climate Action Committee and charged it “to recommend by the end of this calendar year a goal for the reduction of College greenhouse gas emissions and ways to attain it.” The CAC recommended setting a target of 10% below 1990-1991 levels by 2020, and recommended that Williams hire a director of sustainability responsible for developing and coordinating the implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan for emissions reductions and other issues related to sustainability. In January of 2007, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt goal of reducing Williams’ emissions to 10% below 1990 by 2020*, and to establish sustainability as an institutional priority.

As a result of the goal, in the fall of 2007, the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives was established with a generous donation from Selim Zilkha, Class of 1946. The Zilkha family, whose donation helped establish the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, owns a business in the biomass industry. This fact does not affect any Center initiatives or programming.

* This goal has since been changed to further reduce the college’s emissions.


Video created for First Days by intern Chris Stefanik ’16 during the summer of 2015.