September 16, 2010–Hundreds of students, faculty and staff turned out for the unveiling of the University of Utah’s plan to make its operations more environmentally sustainable and to become carbon neutral by 2050. The university today released its Energy and Environmental Stewardship Initiative: 2010 Climate Action Plan (EESI-CAP) with a kick-off event in the ballroom of the Olpin Student Union.
The EESI-CAP essentially provides a road map for departments and colleges to improve efficiency reduce waste and cut back on carbon emissions. The event included remarks by U President Michael K. Young; David Chapman, chairman of the President’s Sustainability Advisory Board and Student Body President Chase Jardine.
“What a great day for the university,” said President Young. “This is very much a student initiative, but as I look around, I see every part of campus thinking about environmental stewardship. The faculty is doing a great job incorporating this into its professional life, but also its curriculum.”
On display at the event were examples of recent efforts to make the campus more sustainable including:
- Projects by the student- led Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund
- Campus gardens
- Lassonde Center Green Titans
- ASUU Sustainability Board
- Bennion Center initiatives
- Marriott and Eccles Library Green Teams
- Campus Energy Efficiency Fund
- Commuter Services
- Off-campus environmental groups
The plan, which complements the U’s Campus Master Plan, makes good on the promise made two years ago by President Young when he signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. That organization’s mission statement calls on schools to “accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability by empowering the higher education sector to educate students, create solutions, and provide leadership by example for the rest of society.” The U, along with more than 670 institutions that have signed the commitment, has agreed to:
- Complete an emissions inventory.
- Set a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral.
- Take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions.
- Integrate sustainability into the curriculum and make it part of the educational experience.
- Make the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available.
“Thousands of students on campus have committed to this initiative. It’s up to us to make a difference” said Student Body President Chase Jardine.
The U has embarked on meeting its goals by evaluating virtually every aspect of university operations and mapping out a path to a sustainable campus that will save millions of dollars and have a positive impact on the environment. Areas of study included building efficiency, transportation, renewable energy production, water use, campus gardens and landscaping, waste reduction, curriculum, research as well as community education.
“Figuring out how best to implement this plan has been a rewarding experience for me and many others at the university. It has been a learning experience trying to map out the steps to cut down on waste and implement new policies that will make these practices part of the culture and curriculum on campus,” said Sustainability Director Myron Willson.
The EESI-CAP recommends various methods for moving toward a sustainable operation with an “inverse pyramid” of action. At the top is the first choice for solving problems, namely to “avoid and reduce” by steering clear of wasteful practices if there is a better alternative, such as avoidance of carbon-based fuels. This block of the pyramid typically provides the highest return on investment
The next preferred sustainable practice is improving efficiency, which means to reduce demand for energy of any type, generally through substituting more advanced technological equipment.
Another option to meet the plan’s goals is to “replace” by re-evaluating a fuel source or means of operation. This might include something as simple as switching the U’s shuttle fleet from diesel to natural gas.
Finally, if examining those three sustainable practices does not produce the desired reductions and savings, a final option of “offset” will be employed. Emissions can be mitigated by establishing financial instruments that help pay for projects that reduce emissions elsewhere. A good example of this is the U’s purchasing of more than 62 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy credits last year to help mitigate its use of fossil fuels. That garnered the university a number four ranking on the EPA’s list of Top 20 College and University green power purchasers.
To download the entire EESI-CAP document visit: www.sustainability.utah.edu.