University of Massachusetts Lowell

Student Preparedness

UMass Lowell is a charter signatory of Second Nature’s Climate Commitment and demonstrates this commitment at the highest level through the university’s 2020 Strategic Plan. One of its strategic priorities is to “Integrate sustainability and climate change literacy in learning and research.” The university embodies using the campus as a living laboratory by supporting student projects that assess building energy efficiency and campus greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts. UMass Lowell currently offers 204 courses focused on sustainability and 499 courses related to sustainability.

UMass Lowell has led a focus on climate change through our Climate Change Initiative (CCI). The CCI brings faculty, students, and communities together to address climate change through education, research, and the development of solutions for a more sustainable and resilient society. The CCI is composed of academic programs, research, campus events, and community outreach to increase public understanding of climate change. Since 2009, CCI faculty have helped to arrange the annual Climate Change Teach-In featuring leading climate change scientists and activists addressing groups of students numbering over 500. Other campus research centers include the Center for Wind Energy, Toxics Use Reduction Institute, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Center for Sustainable Energy, and the Center for Electric Car and Energy Conversion

UMass Lowell received the 2015 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which is considered the gold-standard system for measuring the service universities provide to their local communities. The City of Lowell, our longstanding community partner, serves on the UMass Lowell Climate Action Plan committee.

Climate Innovation

UMass Lowell takes an aggressive approach to implementing the Climate Action Plan (CAP). The university has already achieved  their FY2020 Phase 1 interim greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) goals for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions despite rapid campus growth. Between FY2011 and FY2015, full time equivalent (FTE) student enrollment has increased by 18% and the physical size of the campus has grown by 24%. This expansion has included the addition of many LEED Certified Buildings and LEED standard sustainability-focused renovations, retrofits and upgrades. GHG emissions per FTE student have decreased by more than 15% since the CAP was adopted at UMass Lowell. In addition, the university has reduced their Energy Use Index (EUI) (KBTU/SF) by 13.8% since FY2011 and 29% since FY2005. Fuel combustion emissions per square foot have decreased by 19.3% since FY2011 through energy conservation and efficiency projects. The $27 million Accelerated Energy Program will further reduce emissions and energy use by implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on campus.

UMass Lowell is an inaugural signatory of the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment. The Chancellor recognized this as an opportunity to continue to advance efforts in conjunction with the success of the CAP. In late 2015, UMass Lowell received FEMA approval of the campus’ first Hazard Mitigation Plan, which includes a proactive campus strategy to address and educate the campus on climate-related hazards. UMass Lowell was also actively involved in the development of the UMass System sustainability policy, which includes climate resiliency and preparedness as a priority.

Creating Opportunity

In November 2015, the City of Lowell, in partnership with UMass Lowell, secured a $13.4 million federal TIGER grant that will help pay for the repair or replacement of eight of the city’s canal bridges, including several that serve as vital links to the campus. This grant will have a positive impact on transportation-related GHG emissions both for the university and the city through more direct transportation links and added amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians. Both parties recognized the strong sustainability focus of this grant and worked collaboratively with a strong focus on community outreach to secure funding.

To ensure that the more venerable buildings on campus keep pace when it comes to energy efficiency, the university is making $27 million in upgrades to 32 buildings over the next three years through the state’s Accelerated Energy Program (AEP). The project, the largest AEP in the state, will also reduce the university’s energy and water bills by nearly $1.5 million annually. UMass Lowell has a contract for solar capacity of 15.9 MW with solar developers, reducing the university energy budget by $875,000 per year.

The campus has embraced the lead-by-example philosophy as a means to influence others. A highly visible example is the university’s annual report card that describes progress on specific campus metrics. For the past two years, these metrics have included progress toward CAP greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) goals. The 2016 Strategic Plan also includes UMass Lowell’s AASHE STARS rating as a visible performance metric.