I am only one, But still I am one. I cannot do everything, But still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Edward Everet Hale, American author
Massachusetts State Sustainability Program: Public Leadership, Stewardship, Commitment

The quote above provides a powerful viewpoint which relates to the work we must all undertake to promote an environmentally sustainable society. Fitchburg State is making efforts to curb our climate causing emissions and are striving to meet the sustainability goals outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order No. 484 which charges state universities and agencies to lessen their environmental impact and to educate the public through the Leading-By-Example program, for which the university was awarded in December 2020 in the higher education category. We look forward to continuing to the meet the charge set forth by the state as we draft our own vision for sustainability at Fitchburg State. Our sustainability goals:

  1. A campus culture which values and takes pride in sustainable practices. This means that sustainability initiatives are publicized, included in the curriculum, and upheld in the core values of the University.  Educational materials are available to students, staff, and faculty who seek to develop habits which reduce waste, conserve natural resources, and promote sustainability.
  2. Increase the proportion of waste that is recycled on campus to exceed the national average of approximately 33%.
  3. Install systems and building appliances which conserve electricity, energy, and water. This means that everything from a building’s HVAC system to the refrigerator in the staff break room should be energy/fuel/water efficient.
  4. Address greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuter vehicles by promoting and improving access to mass transit, installing electrical vehicle charging stations, in addition to other initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of commuters.  
  5. A carbon-neutral campus in which all electricity and heating fuels are derived from sustainable (non-fossil fuel) sources.  Necessary emissions would be offset through contributions toward carbon offsets (Renewable Energy Credits, for example).

Achieving sustainability cannot be done solely through building projects and renovations, but requires active participation from all members of our campus community. Fitchburg State is taking charge with: renovations designed to improve energy efficiency, greener construction projects, and spreading the word with student and staff involvement. Please see our events page and links (below) for ways to engage. If you have an interest in sustainability, and have a suggestion or comment, we value input and would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Our Carbon Footprint

Sustainability Carbon Footprint updated 2020

The CO2 emitted by the university in fiscal year 2019 totaled 17,640 metric tons and the major contributions to this total are shown in the pie chart. The university’s total emissions have decreased slightly (by about 5%) since tracking began in 2007 despite increases of about 12% in both building square footage and in the population of people using the campus. Thus, the campus is becoming more carbon efficient thanks to building modernization efforts as well as carbon reductions in electricity generation.

We will reach our sustainability goals and bring down carbon emissions by addressing the major emission sources in this pie chart as discussed below.


The lion’s share of emissions from campus comes from energy used to heat buildings. Did you know that the iconic smokestack on our campus is for a series of boilers which burn natural gas to provide heat for campus? The heated water produces steam which is sent to campus buildings through underground pipes to be used as a heating source during our months (and months) of cold weather.

In September of 2018, the university switched from fuel oil-burning boilers to ones that use natural gas. This switch allows the campus to avoid burning some 80,000 gallons of fuel oil and will reduce our carbon footprint by roughly 500 tons of CO2/yr. While an important milestone, fully sustainable fuels, such as biogas from anaerobic digesters should be sought after to replace fossil sourced natural gas. Alternatively, switching to electric heat pumps could help in realizing our fully sustainable vision.

Fitchburg State already utilizes alternative, renewable sources of building heat. For example, the Exercise and Sports Science Building is temperature controlled by a geothermal heat pump which makes use of the stable temperatures underground to cool the building in the summer and heat it in the winter. Expanding the use of such systems while conserving heat with better insulated building envelopes will play an important role in meeting our emissions reduction targets.


The university relies mostly on state and regional efforts to “green the grid” in order to reduce our carbon footprint associated with electricity use. Fortunately, New England ranks among the most carbon efficient regions of the grid in the U.S., but we look toward a continuation of carbon reductions as more renewable electricity generation comes online. Reducing the amount of electricity we consume (or waste) is a priority at Fitchburg State and we are implementing a host of projects aimed at just that:

  • Two buildings have wiring upgrades to reduce waste from AC to DC conversions
  • Campus-wide building efficiency upgrades (HVAC, lighting, envelope/window upgrades)
  • Real-time smart metering
  • Two LEED certified silver buildings in 2016 and 2017
Solar PV array

As far as onsite renewable energy generation goes, Fitchburg State took early strides by installing rooftop photovoltaic panels (PVs) with a combined 89kW capacity in 2011.  Although these panels have a modest output (0.5% of the University’s electricity consumption), they are a step in the right direction. The Fitchburg Sustainability Vision Plan calls for an increase of onsite electricity generation and we look to expand our investment in solar on both rooftops and parking canopies.  


EV Charging Station at Conlon Hall

As a 50% commuter campus, the university is faced with a challenge in addressing emissions from vehicles.  The vast majority of faculty, staff, and students commute alone based on a 2018 survey. We encourage the community to check out carpools, mass transit, or a carbon-free means of getting to campus. Use of carpools and mass transit has and will continue to help reduce emissions and traffic to campus

In order to promote reduced carbon commuting, the campus installed two EV charging stations and two carpool parking spots behind the Conlon Fine Arts Building in 2020


Did you know that a bag of garbage bound for a landfill costs the University three times more to dispose of than a bag of recyclables? The value of the raw materials in recyclables are a resource for recycling facilities meaning that they charge less to haul it away. So do you know what is recyclable and what is not? Here’s the single-stream recycling guide. Data show that the percentage of campus waste that is recycled is chronically low (less than 10% of waste is recycled!).  

The university diverts many other forms of waste into the recyclable market: electronics, lightbulbs, batteries, refrigerators, metal waste, and mattresses (200 per year). However, recycling collected from campus bins is notoriously contaminated by food waste or other trash that contaminates an entire recycling bin. The university is beginning to address the low recycling rate for traditional materials by improving signage, increasing the number of bins in both facilities, residence halls, and in outdoor areas with the goal of increasing the traditional recycling rate from 10 to 30%.

Remember: plastic bags and containers with food waste cannot be recycled.  Please make sure plastic and metal containers are empty of food or drink before putting them in the recycling bin!

On the bright side, Fitchburg State has a commendable record of composting both landscaping waste and food scraps from the dining hall (which are taken to a local pig farm). Composting diverts more than one quarter of the university’s waste out of landfills.

Water Use

Dish return system at Holmes

When you add up the water that each individual on campus uses, it adds up to a lot.  The cost also adds up – leaving the university with an annual water bill of over $150,000. Please be conscious of your water use by limiting the length of your showers, sink use, etc. The campus is installing lots of low-flow fixtures and re-fillable water bottle stations on campus to aid in the effort. Please make use of the refillable water bottle stations because it reduces waste and environmental costs associated with bottled water. Bottled water use on campus has gone down by 50% based on data from vending machines thanks to this effort.

Updated plumbing work (replacing faucets, toilets, etc.) in the summer of 2019 made a huge impact on water conservation – saving 3 million gallons between 2017 and 2019. In 2017, most students began using trayless dining, saving on water use. This upgrade allows dishes to be washed without trays (see picture, above) which reduces the volume of items washed while saving on food waste generated from instances of "eyes bigger than your stomach" that comes with using trays. .

Where You Come In

We need you to join our efforts! In a 2018 campus survey, 82% of respondents stated that it was important or very important for Fitchburg State to reduce its carbon footprint. It will take a collective will and collective action to meet our sustainability goals. So let us know what you’d like to see done on campus!

Sustainability on Campus

Single Stream Recycling at Fitchburg State University began in January 2008. Since the start of the program, more than 689 tons of post-consumer waste has been diverted from landfills! This is about 25% of campus trash output. This effort helps reduce our carbon footprint.

Single stream recycling is truly recycling made simple. All types of recyclable material can be deposited into a single blue bin. These bins are placed all around campus. Every classroom, office, and lounge now has a smaller blue recycling bin and a trash receptacle. Residence halls received their bins in the fall of 2008. Different style event barrels for recycling are used at outside events.

To encourage use, informative posters are placed at strategic locations around campus to remind people what is recyclable (Single Stream Recycling guide (PDF)). Many materials are recyclable but some, including Styrofoam and any containers with food waste, are not.

Once the mixed materials are in the can, university maintainers dump the contents of the entire small bin into larger hauling totes. These totes are emptied by a lifting truck into a large compactor.

The campus carbon footprint and trash disposal expense are reduced through this process. Fewer trucks need to come on campus to haul waste away. Until December 2007, dumpsters at each building were emptied daily. Now, with recycling and trash compacting, a truck empties the centralized trash compactors weekly and the recycling compactor once every two weeks.

Big Belly Solar Trash Compactor

The pilot installation of a Big Belly Solar Trash Compactor was completed in Summer 2009. The compactor is located on North Street outside the Bistro. The Big Belly is a trash bin with a solar-powered compactor. The 32-gallon Big Belly holds 150 to 200 gallons of trash and automatically compacts the trash when the bin is full. There is also an attached unit for collection of recyclables (including cans, bottles, paper, and plastic). The introduction of the Big Belly helps Fitchburg State make a small step toward reducing its carbon footprint by requiring fewer trash pick-ups by the Grounds Staff, reducing visits from several times daily to once or twice a week and resulting in less gasoline emissions. Staff attention has also been redirected to other critical activities!

As the University continues to improve campus facilities and infrastructure, the renovations being made include strategies that improve energy efficiency and sustainability. Sustainable solutions are incorporated into the improvements occurring all around campus. From simple solutions, such as switching to:

  • Low flow automatic faucets
  • Dual flush toilets
  • Occupancy sensors for lighting major improvements, such as:

  • Replacing 30 year old heating
  • Ventilation
  • Air conditioning
  • Controls systems
  • Comprehensive approaches that include LEED certifications

Condike Science Addition and Renovation

This project is currently underway. The goal is to update a science building that is more than 40 years old, providing students and faculty with a new state-of-the-art facility for teaching and research. The approach to the design and construction of the addition and renovation incorporates a comprehensive set of sustainable practices, designed so that the building may achieve LEED certification.

LEED is a rating system used to evaluate the design, construction and operation of buildings. The system sets minimum performance requirements and allows facilities to document approaches to developing green buildings that exemplify energy efficiency and provide healthy environments for occupants.

The science addition and renovation checklist (PDF) identifies the strategies being employed with the goal of achieving a silver certification.

Hammond Hall

The first phases of renovation in Hammond Hall were completed in August 2012. This major renovation will also be submitted for LEED certification. The checklist for Hammond Hall (Excel) identifies some of the major strategies being employed that make this a greener building, including:

  • Reuse of more than 30% of the furnishings, lighting controls and occupancy sensors
  • New HVAC with occupant controls and comfort monitoring systems
  • Water efficient landscaping

Mara Village 8, completed in 2009, was the first LEED Certified building on the Fitchburg State University campus. Several factors contributed to the Silver Certified rating, including:

  • Natural and energy efficient lighting
  • Low flow fixtures in all bathrooms
  • Water efficient landscaping
  • High-efficiency heating systems
  • Low VOC-emitting materials in finishes (such as paints and carpets)

Renewable Energy

Solar panels on the roof of the Sanders Administration Building and Anthony Student Center

The first renewable energy installation was completed in 2011 with the addition of solar panels at the Sanders Administration and Anthony Student Service Buildings. The systems combine to produce clean power for the buildings and include a monitoring system that allows members of the campus community to view ongoing performance and energy production. 348 panels were used for a combined 89kw system, generating more than 109,000kwh annually… or enough to power 10 homes for year!

In addition to the solar energy system, the University also installed a geo-thermal heating and cooling system at 155 North Street, which is home to the Exercise and Sports Science department. The system relies on a stable ground temperature, drawn into the building through water circulated through a 1000-foot deep well. The system uses equipment that can take advantage of the difference between the water and outside air temperatures. This process produces heating and cooling without the need to burn fossil fuels.

Energy Use Monitoring

Targeting State facilities, more than $10 million was invested by the State through the use of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds. This investment was intended to help facilities, including the Fitchburg State University campus, monitor energy use. The goal is to identify opportunities for conservation and improved energy efficiency. This system provides near real-time information on energy use by each building on campus to managers on the campus. The information is used to identify short-term issues with equipment performance and operation, as well as provide data necessary to prioritize efficiency projects. Completed in 2011, the system monitors electric, natural gas, and steam use in 40 buildings on campus.

Energy Efficient Lighting

Starting with a pilot project that converted 200 fixtures to LED lighting at Hammond Hall, the University is making the transition to one of the most energy efficient lighting options available. LED lights are longer lasting (up to 5 years) and more energy efficient than both incandescent and fluorescent. LED light is whiter and brighter, resulting in better visibility. Other light fixtures around campus are being converted to LED fixtures, such as the exterior wall-pack lights at Aubuchon Hall and the under-canopy lights at Sanders Administration.

This Changes Everything

Movie poster for "This Changes Everything"

The Sustainability Advisory Committee organized a showing of This Changes Everything, a movie inspired by Naomi Klein’s recent book by the same title. All are welcome, and please invite students from courses that address the environment, economics, and/or social justice.

The film portrays communities on the front lines of climate change, from Canadian tar sands to southern India, Beijing, and beyond. This is not simply another film that tries to scare the audience with the effects of global warming. Rather, it aims to empower by showing communities that are organizing and resisting the economic forces disrupting their lives.

More background can be found on the film's official site. 

2013 Energy Race

The goal of the contest was for the occupants of each campus building to reduce their electricity consumption during the month of March. Progress was monitored at each building and compared to the amount of electricity used in February of 2012. And, it is a tie (among residence halls, at least). Townhouse 7 and Mara 6 each saved more than 15 percent in electricity compared to February 2012, with the contest too close to call within the margin of error. Its residents enjoyed an ice cream party to celebrate the occasion. Congratulations! Also noteworthy was Russell Towers, which saw a smaller decrease in electricity use from last year (just over 2 percent), but residents actually saved as much energy as the residents of Townhouse 7 and Mara 6. But the contest was decided on percent reduction over the prior year, so Townhouse 7 and Mara 6 take the prize.

Among the academic buildings, Percival Hall won the contest with an impressive reduction in electricity use of 17.4 percent. Miller Hall came in second with a net reduction of 12.2 percent. Conlon Hall came in third, cutting electricity use by 7.6 percent, but because of its size actually saved more energy than any other campus building.

While all these accomplishments are remarkable, it is disappointing that we ended the month of February with a net increase in electricity use over the prior year. The University will be crunching the numbers and analyzing the data to figure out why there were several significant spikes in certain locations across campus during the month, with the goal being to find a way to build on successful strategies and control our energy footprint.

Just because the race is over doesn't mean our good habits should stop now...remember these energy-savings tips all year long, and keep in mind that several small gestures can combine to yield great results.

  • Shut off unneeded lights (esp. lobbies, classrooms, offices, bathrooms, closets, etc.).
  • Shut off projectors when not needed for lecture.
  • Unplug battery packs to laptops, cell phones, etc. when not charging. Those chargers draw current even when disconnected from a device.
  • Unplug anything that uses a remote control (TV, DVD, DVR, etc.). They consume a significant amount, even in the "off" mode.
  • Turn off your computer, printer, etc. at night.
  • Talk to coworkers and students to spread the word
  • Look around and use your head. For example, many lobby lights are a waste during the day, but are really handy after dark!

2013 Food Waste Challenge

The Sustainability Advisory Committee's food waste challenge was issued and the campus responded! As part of the campus' Earth Week observances, Chartwells weighed food waste generated each day at the dining hall during the week of April 21st. The 775-pound total logged Monday counted only food that people put on their plates but decided not to eat (kitchen scraps are sent to a local pig farm, but these "post-consumer" scraps go into the trash).

With Chartwells' support, posters were set up in the Holmes Dining Commons all week urging visitors to take what they eat, and eat what they take. The message was heard. There was a net reduction of 233 pounds of food waste entered into the trash stream, so Chartwells will be donating 233 pounds of food to Our Father's Table, a local food pantry. Thank you to the campus community for meeting this challenge. This is a sustainable effort in which we can all participate, day in and day out.


The Sustainability Advisory Committee is charged with creating institutional structures to guide and develop Fitchburg State University's plan to achieve climate neutrality. Members include students, staff, and faculty.

Massachusetts State Sustainability Program: Public Leadership, Stewardship, Commitment

In 2007, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick challenged state agencies to become leaders in reducing energy use and greenhouse emissions. Executive Order No. 484 charges state universities and universities to lessen their environmental impact and to educate the public through the Leading-By-Example program.

Fitchburg State University is leading the charge: spreading the word with student and staff involvement, greener construction projects, and renovations designed to improve energy efficiency. Fitchburg State University provides yearly reports on its progress.

Governor Deval Patrick signed Executive Order No. 515 on October 27, 2009, that establishes an Environmental Purchasing Policy for all Commonwealth Executive Departments, which will help to conserve natural resources, reduce waste, protect public health and the environment, and promote the use of clean technologies, recycled materials, and less toxic products. The policy requires that all Commonwealth Executive Departments must reduce their impact on the environment if it does not meet the green standards, and to enhance public health by obtaining Environmentally Preferable Products and services (EPPs) whenever those such products are gladly available, perform to satisfactory standards, represent the best value to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

If you have an interest in sustainability, please don’t hesitate to contact the Sustainability Advisory Committee by email at We value input from the campus community.