Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Since 1992 BioRegional Development Group, a sustainability-focused organization, has focused on helping communities live in a “planet neutral” manner or in other words, a manner which would require only one planet to sustain if everyone on earth lived the same lifestyle. This lifestyle is a large improvement of the average American or European, whose lifestyles would require five and three planets respectively if everyone on the earth lived a similar lifestyle to their average citizens. This planet neutral lifestyle is accomplished through the implementation of the framework of the global initiative One Planet Living (OPL) developed by BioRegional. It was the goal of this Interactive Qualifying Project to bring the One Planet Living framework to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

BioRegional partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to develop this One Planet Living framework. One Planet Living consists of ten wide-ranging principles which go farther than simply trying to reduce the environmental impact of the community. The framework provided by the principles ensures that the community also focuses on the economic, cultural, and social aspect of sustainability. A set of Common International Targets (CITs) defines when each of these principles has been achieved. When the targets are met and the principles achieved, the community has reached the target One Planet Living lifestyle and is officially labeled and endorsed as a One Planet Community. The first objective of this project was to determine whether these principles provided a framework which was reasonable for WPI to integrate into its own sustainability plan. After accomplishing this, the team had to determine to what extent WPI should integrate the principles and how it should be done if the framework is accepted for their sustainability plan.

Currently, there are five endorsed One Planet Communities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Portugal with others planned in South Africa, Australia, China, and Canada. However, there are currently no endorsed One Planet college campuses. Additionally, in the United States there are no colleges or universities which utilize the OPL framework for their campus sustainability plan. Thus, WPI would be the first.

In 2012, a WPI Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) team worked with BioRegional to increase their visibility and continue to market its efforts. Through doing so, WPI and BioRegional developed a professional connection. During their project, the students and advisors of the IQP team learned about the One Planet Living initiative and, with their sponsor, decided it was something WPI should consider. As a result, a new IQP was developed to focus on bringing the One Planet Living principles to WPI and thus is the purpose of this project. The objectives of this project were to investigate the plausibility of the integration and use of the OPL principles for WPI’s sustainability plan, research the potential of WPI becoming the first One Planet Campus, and develop recommendations which can be used by WPI for guidance on integrating the principles into their sustainability plan.

Methodology

The main focus of this project was to determine the plausibility of the adoption of the One Planet Living principles by WPI. The team developed a paper presenting recommendations for how to integrate the principles as the final result of the project. To accomplish this, the project team worked to complete the following objectives.

  1. Evaluate the current sustainability efforts made by WPI
  2. Investigate the knowledge and opinion of the WPI community on WPI’s sustainability efforts
  3. Investigate the opinion of the WPI community on the reasonability and plausibility of the adoption of the One Planet Living principles
  4. Investigate effective sustainability efforts made by other colleges and universities and/or recommended by college-focused sustainability organizations
  5. Develop recommendations for the President’s Task Force on Sustainability on how WPI can implement the One Planet Living principles.

In order to complete each of these objectives, the team used document analysis, interviews, a survey, and an interactive presentation.

For our document analysis, we analyzed all WPI annual sustainability reports and the Phase One Draft Report on WPI’s progress toward the development of a sustainability plan. We subsequently organized the data according to how it paralleled the goals of each of the ten OPL principles. From the Phase One Draft report and other sources, the team gathered information on successful sustainability efforts made by other universities.

We next conducted interviews with members of the President’s Task Force on Sustainability and sustainability-related clubs and organizations on campus to educate ourselves on  the challenges, organization, and governance of WPI’s sustainability efforts and to educate these individuals on the adoption of the One Planet Living principles.

Simultaneously, we distributed a survey to the students and faculty of the WPI campus community. To increase participation, our team table sat in busy campus locations. We received 421 survey responses (just less than 10% of the total faculty and student population) on WPI’s current sustainability efforts and the plausibility of adopting the One Planet Living principles at WPI.

The team used the interview and survey data as well as the information found on successful sustainability efforts at other universities to compile a list of possible suggestions for changes, improvements, or additions to WPI’s sustainability efforts and presented them to the WPI Student Green Team.

Findings

Through the completion of the data collection and analysis, the team found that the implementation of the One Planet Living principles as a framework for WPI’s sustainability plan was plausible. The current areas of focus identified in the Phase One Draft Report can be merged with the principles with minimal effort and the President’s Task Force on Sustainability recognizes this. WPI could merge the principles in two manners. The first would be to maintain the four current focuses as the overarching framework and to use the principles to achieve them. In other words, by focusing on and achieving the goals of the principles, WPI would also be working toward the achievement of the four focus areas. The second manner for merging the principles into WPI’s current framework would be to use the four focus areas to achieve each individual principle. This means for each principle the four focus areas would be worked on within the concentration of that specific principle. By working in the four focus areas for each principle, the goals of the principles would be achieved. Either of these methods of integration could be used to fully implement the ten principles as a framework for WPI’s campus sustainability plan.

WPI’s current sustainability efforts match the focuses of the principles, with many specifically paralleling the goals of the Common International Targets. For example, 0% of WPI’s waste is sent to landfills meeting one of the goals of the Zero Waste CITs. By providing funding and staff time to student projects, WPI is also meeting a goal of the Culture and Community CITs. Additionally, the promotion of healthy diets and active lifestyles ties in with the Health and Happiness CITs. These are just a few of the many examples.

From responses of the approximate 10% of the WPI community surveyed, the team determined that the community is generally knowledgeable of WPI’s sustainability efforts and an impressive majority supports the expansion of the current efforts, as well as the implementation of new efforts. A majority of the community showed an agreement that it is plausible for WPI to adopt the principles as a framework for sustainability, with an average agreement or preference of 66.3%.

Conclusions & Recommendations

At the completion of this project, the team concluded that WPI should merge the ten One Planet Living principles into their current sustainability efforts. In doing so, WPI would become the first college to utilize the One Planet Living principles in the United States. WPI is at a convenient point in the development of their sustainability plan to integrate the principles into their current organizational structure. The One Planet Living principles and framework could provide WPI with the support, organization, and direction needed to accomplish our goal of becoming a more sustainable campus and community.

                WPI sustainability efforts have already made progress toward achieving certain principles. For example, WPI’s culture of civic duty, history of innovation, and strong traditions meets most goals of the principle of Culture and Community, however, campus operations must be significantly improved to reduce carbon emissions and complete the goals of the Zero Carbon principle. WPI’s sustainability efforts partially fulfill each principle. Below is the list of the most recommended suggestions developed by the team to help WPI make further progress toward achieving the ten One Planet Living principles.

  1. Utilize roof space of buildings to assist in efficiency and carbon emissions of the building. Some examples of enhanced roofs include white reflective roofs, roof top solar panels, and roof top gardens.
  2. Reorganize WPI’s recycling program. Investigate the dispersal and placement of recycling bins. Educate the WPI community about recycling on-campus. Initiate an advertising campaign to increase on-campus recycling efforts.
  3. Convert WPI’s vehicle workforce to hybrid, electric, and biodiesel vehicles.
  4. Switch to biodegradable food containers and utensils
  5. Investigate creating a student run garden.
  6. Better regulate irrigation.
  7. Plant more native trees around campus and the surrounding community.
  8. Increase visibility, awareness, and engagement in regards to sustainability efforts.
  9. Coordinate with existing student organizations to further key themes of the Equity and Local principle.
  10. Offer additional healthy food options.

After presenting the findings of this project to the President’s Task Force on Sustainability, the team can confidently say that the principles will be considered for an organizational structure during phase two of the development of The Plan for Sustainability at WPI.