University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is committed to climate neutrality as an institution and as a leader in sustainable education, research, and innovation. Working closely with the Climate Change Initiative, UMass Lowell encourages sustainability courses and research activities among students and faculties. The university has implemented sustainability initiatives focused on different areas, including climate, building, energy, transportation, and waste. UMass Lowell has generated impressive results and woven sustainability into every aspect of campus life.

Student Preparedness

UMass Lowell is demonstrating its commitment to the ACUPCC’s mission at the highest level by integrating the need for more climate and sustainability education into the University’s 2020 Strategic Plan Update, and goals of the Climate Action Plan Steering Committee and newly created Office of Sustainability.

The Climate Change Initiative (CCI), a network of UMass Lowell faculty working to further encourage the university to increase the number of climate and sustainability focused curriculum and research, have developed a sustainability course and research inventory and majors and minors for both undergraduate and graduate students focused on sustainability. Since 2009, CCI faculty organize the annual Climate Change Teach-In featuring leading climate change scientists and activists addressing groups of over 500 students. The CCI produced a public television educational interview series that aired on Lowell regional television and educated the public about climate change. A grant-funded program, Climate in the Age of Media, links the university to various high schools via a climate short-film production workshop.

Opportunities for students include various departmental internships in Environmental & Emergency Management, Facilities and Transportation and internships solely or jointly funded by partners such as FirstWind and Constellation Energy. The campus has hosted the Massachusetts Sustainable Communities and Campuses conference and fully funded student attendance the last two years.

The university collaborated with the City of Lowell to create a comprehensive complete streets policy for safer transportation, and to conduct trash audits and implement composting on campus. The City of Lowell sits on the University’s sustainability subcommittee.

Climate Innovation

In recognition of the built environment’s energy impact, UMass Lowell has adopted policy for all new construction and major renovations to meet a minimum LEED silver certification. UMass Lowell developed sustainability initiatives and green design guidelines, which provide recommendations for purchasing, waste reduction, energy efficiency and building related standards. The University’s sustainable transportation program has engaged the City of Lowell and Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA) to deliver more efficient, sustainable and user-friendly transportation options.

The University has created various research centers that address climate change including the Climate Change Initiative, Center for Wind Energy, Toxics Use Reduction Institute, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Center for Sustainable Energy, Center for Electric Car and Energy Conversion, and the Center for Work, Environment, and Human Development.

The ScienceToGo Research project gained White House recognition this year through the “Champions of Change” for “Climate Education and Literacy”. This project received $2.2 million in funding partnering with Lowell, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Museum of Science and Hofstra University to create an adult-focused out of home media campaign targeted at MBTA riders in Greater Boston communities to engage in service-learning opportunities during their daily routines.

With funding from the NSF, the CCI and Climate Interactive partnered to create innovative decision-support simulations in role-playing games that enable the public to come to their own insights, grounded in current scientific understanding, about the impacts of national and regional climate and energy policies. These tools have been used in locations throughout the state, nation, and globe.

Creating Opportunity

UMass Lowell is working with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance in partnership with Constellation Energy, National Grid, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection on a $27 million energy upgrade initiative, the largest to date in the state. The Accelerated Energy Program will leverage low-cost funding to implement a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects over the next three years. Funding will support comprehensive energy reductions including building envelope, mechanical and lighting upgrades, solar thermal and a 200 kW-DC solar PV canopy. The program will result in an estimated 5,749,662 kWh of annual electricity savings and is representative of UMass Lowell’s efforts to meet its ACUPCC goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

UMass Lowell has entered into new solar capacity of 15.9 MW solar net excess generation contracts with solar developers, reducing the University energy budget by $875,000 per year and enabling stable funding for project development. Additionally, the University uses a funding mechanism whereby rebates received from energy efficiency projects are allocated for additional upgrades, rather than being distributed to the general fund.

Chancellor Marty Meehan, a former House Representative, has been a leader on campus and externally through his commitment to sustainability efforts. Several events, including Senate debates are hosted on campus, affording students an opportunity to be exposed to state legislators with influence in affecting climate change policy. For example, UMass Lowell hosted a talk by one of Massachusetts’ State Senators, Mike Barrett, to discuss placing a price on carbon.