Letter from the Director March 2014

A letter from MIT's Director of Sustainability, Julie Newman

To the MIT Community:

Being at MIT is a magical experience, and I am thrilled and humbled to play a part in founding the MIT Office of Sustainability. Upon arrival at MIT, I conducted an extensive listening tour of staff, faculty, and students in an effort to develop a clear sense of MIT as an organization, as a place of learning and teaching, and as a hub of innovation. In a position like this, it is critical to develop first-hand knowledge of the range of campus activities early on – from the workings of the power plant, to the waste management systems, to the operation of the dining halls, to the breadth of research taking place in the labs and centers. Through our rich conversations, I now have a better understanding of the Institute’s decision-making processes, priorities, and values, which will help determine how best to leverage an Institute-wide commitment to sustainability moving forward. While the formal listening tour has concluded, I continue to seek out new colleagues and perspectives.

MIT’s ongoing commitment to sustainability through research, teaching, and operations is prevalent throughout campus and extends into the cities around us. One of the most extraordinary findings in my first months here was the identification of no fewer than thirty departments, labs, centers, and initiatives on campus that commit to elements of sustainability in their statements of purpose. MIT also works very closely with the Cities of Cambridge and Boston to advance sustainability on a number of fronts. I encourage you to begin exploring the Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future, Net Zero Task Force, and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission to learn more.

With the launch of this new website, we invite you to become familiar with MIT’s new Office of Sustainability and related activities on and around campus. We have launched the office on the platform of learn, invent, apply, transform, and connect.  These words describe the heart of the MIT educational experience and reflect our own process of moving MIT toward becoming the most sustainable campus. 

  • Our learning process will be humbling at times, as we strive to reach beyond best practices and connect theory to practice in campus operations. 

  • Through collaborative problem solving, we are determined to invent integrated, scalable, and (at times) disruptive solutions that reimagine old ways of managing the systems that sustain us – from energy to food. 

  • We have set out to develop a model-campus that applies promising technologies, strategies and processes and evaluate them in real time. 

  • We aspire to transform our thinking by leaping beyond the application of best practices that define campus sustainability today and push for cutting edge practices, processes, and technologies that are cost effective, impactful, implementable, maintainable, and scalable.  

I plan to keep the community updated with regular letters as the Office takes flight. We invite you to check in often and be part of the evolution of learning, thinking, and doing as we shape MIT’s commitment to sustainability.


Julie Newman, Ph.D.
Director of Sustainability
March 2014