Seeing 2020 for Climate Neutrality
Lindsey Kalkbrenner, Director of Sustainability | Clint May '18, Sustainability
It’s no secret that greenhouse gases are a danger to the environment and people alike. An increase in greenhouse gas emissions causes higher temperatures, sea level rise, and smog as well as many other negative effects. Some of the main ways that greenhouse gases are emitted is through electricity production and vehicle exhaust. Second Nature, a nonprofit environmental corporation, created the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a commitment to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions caused by all aspects of the university, including energy production and employee and student transportation. Currently, 597 colleges & universities across the country have made a commitment to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, SCU signed this agreement and committed to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
SCU’s Carbon Footprint
Roughly 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions are due to energy consumption (electricity for air conditioning, lights, and electronics, natural gas for heating and cooking). The remainder of our emissions are due to transportation: University-funded travel and commute to and from campus. The University is tasked with maintaining our high performance standards while identifying areas where we can change the way we operate in order to reduce our emissions.
SCU has been working hard to reduce our energy use through efficient technology upgrades, smarter building systems, and conservation measures. These efforts are paying off: our net greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 20% over the last 10 years.
Some perspective; in the last 10 years:
- our campus grew by 700,000 square feet (the equivalent of 3.5 new Learning Commons buildings)
- our campus population increased by almost 2,000 people
Despite this growth, we are getting more efficient: our greenhouse gas emissions per square foot have reduced by 28%, and our emissions per person have reduced by 25%. A one-fifth decrease in overall campus emissions is good, but knowing that we achieved these savings while our campus grew makes it a remarkable achievement.
Looking forward, it’s time to tackle the more difficult-to-manage emissions sources, like transportation. Our next focus is reducing single-occupancy vehicles commuting to and from campus (employee and student commute accounts for roughly one-third of our emissions). The recent campus-wide transportation survey received nearly 1,600 responses. This data will help us identify initiatives to prioritize as we incentivize sustainable commute options.
Departments are Engaged
The Center for Sustainability is meeting with departments across campus to share SCU’s Carbon Commitment and solicit strategies for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. Departments are sharing their current energy-saving practices and brainstorming ways they can reduce travel emissions and conserve more energy. Here are some highlights:
- Projects and Planning oversees new construction and renovations. Their efforts to ensure our new buildings and renovations are designed according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards will maintain our trend of energy savings despite campus growth.
- Residence Life will explore energy-saving settings on all digital signs in residence halls, making sure they are powered down over holiday breaks when the buildings are vacant and late night hours.
- Center for Student Involvement is in the process of developing sustainability training and resources for all chartered student organizations.
- Campus Ministry will be emphasizing efficient carpools for team and student retreats. The Mission Church is in the process of upgrading to LED lights.
- Besides managing our big efficiency upgrades, Facilities is replacing light bulbs to more efficient options each time they do a small project on campus. Custodians are encouraged to turn off lights that are not in use.
Individuals Can Contribute
Additionally, Sustainability Liaisons from various campus areas are working on projects derived from the Climate Action Plan that bring their individual department, and thus the campus, closer to climate neutrality. Climate Action Projects cover research, assessment, and program development for building and/or individual energy use, waste reduction, sustainable purchasing, engagement, or communication.
Examples of Current Workplace Liaisons Climate Action Projects:
- Develop a Communication Toolkit for all liaisons to share knowledge and stories
- Contribute to more sustainable purchasing offerings from the Purchasing Department
- Reduce building energy use in Bannan Engineering labs and classrooms
- Create a sustainability section on their department’s website
- Develop behavior change and educational programming focused on reducing landfill waste
Share what you’re doing or schedule your club, department, or campus division to meet with Center for Sustainability staff for a sustainability Q&A and brainstorm with us on how to reduce the carbon footprint of your processes and programs. Sign up now.