SU Takes Steps to Reduce Carbon Footprint

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Susquehanna is establishing a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the Green Building Council’s standards for Silver LEED certification.Student Awareness for the Value of the Environment (SAVE) is another student organization that is helping lead the campus community’s sustainability efforts. Each year, the organization hosts a variety of events that educate the campus about the importance of sustainability and conservation. This past fall, SAVE sponsored a No Impact Week, described as an eight-day experiment challenging the campus community to consume less, eliminate waste, practice more sustainable eating habits, and reduce its use of automobiles and water. In addition to such activities, student workers regularly collect and sort recyclable materials from residence halls and academic buildings.

On a larger scale, the new science building and five of seven buildings in the West Village housing complex were designed to meet or exceed the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification criteria. Features such as low-flow fixtures, motion-sensored lighting, high-efficiency water heaters, and high-value insulation that keeps the buildings warmer in winter and cooler in summer are just a few of the features that are helping the university conserve energy and, therefore, reduce its carbon emissions. Community-supported agriculture at the new Center for Environmental Education and Research also reduces carbon emissions by producing locally grown food sources, which cut back on the distance diesel-burning trucks need to carry food for delivery.

Despite these strides, Susquehanna struggles to find a cleaner source of power. “That’s the big apple in the tree,” says Chris Bailey, director of facilities management, who has been charged with investigating alternative energy sources. “A significant portion of our carbon footprint comes from our use of electricity, natural gas and coal for heating and cooling the campus,” he says.

The university’s central power plant is a coal-fired facility built nearly 50 years ago, and although it has been updated through the years to run cleaner and more efficiently, it is not an environmentally responsible choice for the future. “The plant runs as efficiently as ever, and with the investments we made two years ago in replacing 95 percent of the underground steam lines, it runs cleaner and allowed us to cut back on our use of coal by 20 percent,” Bailey says.

“So, we could continue doing exactly what we’re doing now for the next 10 years, but we can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths,” he says, referencing Susquehanna’s Climate Commitment.

The document is based on the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), launched in 2006 and signed by more than 475 colleges and universities. Susquehanna chose to use the ACUPCC as a framework to develop its own climate commitment rather than sign on to the existing document. University President L. Jay Lemons has praised the ACUPCC for its “laudable intentions,” but noted that there is “considerable debate and some disagreement about the feasibility and even the metrics of carbon neutrality.”

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