Walking the Talk entailed making this Convocation as sustainable as possible. This was a first here for the Sloan Fellows Program and indeed for MIT, so we climbed a learning curve that will inform our efforts for the future. Where we have room for improvement, we are also transparent and welcome suggestions as we develop our knowledge and capabilities in sustainability.
We made every effort to “refuse, reduce, reuse, renew and recycle” as part of our consideration for all the materials that we used for this event.
We have addressed sustainability at the levels of:
The broader message is that this is doable, it is desirable and that we at the MIT Sloan Fellows Program can help lead MIT towards a more responsible stewardship of our community and our planet in ways that are cost effective for the school.
While most of Convocation was held on campus, we chose to host the Opening Reception at a site that strongly reflects sustainability — and what is possible in terms of creating an organization with a “Triple Bottom Line”.
The venue, Artists For Humanity (AFH), is a site that embodies the three key elements of sustainability: economy, environment and equity. The story of AFH is a compelling one with a founder who was advised 18 years ago by an MIT Sloan graduate student as she struggled to launch this non-profit. How appropriate that we brought Sloan back to her program, now a successful microenterprise, located in a revitalizing neighborhood of South Boston in the city's first LEED Platinum building.
The mission of AFH is “to bridge economic, racial and social divisions by providing underserved youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts.” We hope those who attended enjoyed viewing the art, meeting some of the artists and touring this very “green” building.
MIT is working hard (see Efforts at MIT) to green up its campus. At the Sloan School Faculty Club, at Kresge and in our classrooms, we were powered by green energy from MIT's own cogeneration facility.
For both off campus and on campus catering, we set forth the following requests:
At Artists For Humanity, the caterer we used has a strong sustainability ethic and practices, including offering cooking classes to schools as a standard volunteer activity that they support.
At MIT, our diverse caterers on campus pursue sustainability to differing degrees. The Faculty Club, which catered our on-campus events, has adopted numerous sustainability practices.
We asked all attendees to help us with our sorting and recycling of materials throughout the event, including at the breakfasts and at breaks. Attendees also utilized the water bottles that they received at registration — we supplied water for refills throughout the event, thus saving hundreds of plastic water bottles from the recycling bins.
There were recycling bins for paper products, plastic and glass bottles placed at Kresge and at the Sloan School. The Sloan Fellows Program has an active recycling program in accordance with MIT practices.
We reduced the number of signs made out of difficult-to-recycle materials such as foam core. By using digital displays and lighting for logos, we reduced the amount of printed signage that would go to land fill or might be recycled. Many of the signs that were produced, such as those to encourage recycling or composting, will be used for future events as will all name badge holders and lanyards.
Our caterers composted their kitchen food scraps; a company that specializes in composting collects these materials for compost that it sells to local farmers.
We “greened up” our supply chain as much as possible, including the paper we used to the school bags everyone received at registration. We also made every effort to use as little paper as possible in the office and in our correspondence with our alumni. Paper products that were used have high recycled content and, to the degree possible, were FSC certified and wind-powered.
This is an area in which we know we can make improvements. From light bulbs to computers, we look forward to increasing our energy efficiency throughout our program. For Convocation, we were mindful of our energy consumption but were limited in what we were able to improve. We worked with the facilities manager to assure that lights and HVAC were on only as needed for the event. On the plus side, MIT's energy is generated by its own co-generation plant which is highly efficient and quite unique in the way that it also utilizes steam to produce cooling and heating throughout the campus.
We are encouraged all attendees to utilize public transit where possible e.g. to attend the Opening Reception. Boston and Cambridge are fortunate to have the “T” which provides excellent service for getting around town and to and from Logan International Airport. We also encouraged walking, and using the new MIT Shuttle for those who needed to get from one end of campus to the other, where the “T” is not so useful. This avoided unnecessary use of cars or taxis.
In these ways, we looked to reduce our eco- and carbon footprints of the Convocation, given that transit and energy use were the largest contributors to the event's footprint.
As discussed elsewhere, we are still in the process of estimating and then offsetting our carbon and — perhaps even our eco-footprints — to the degree possible. Again, we are at the start of this journey to sustainability so the results of our efforts to estimate these impacts will be instrumental in developing a base line of understanding of event hosting as well as for the Program itself.