Monday, April 14, 2008

Ohio University's next steps in climate control

Alex Mazer

Ohio University considers itself a green campus and is taking steps towards improving the overall climate of the campus. Last Thursday the Ecology and Energy Conservation (EEC) Committee held a forum on the "immediate steps" required of Ohio University by the Presidents Climate Commitment that administrators are considering to take in order to reduce its carbon footprint.

Ohio University President Roderick McDavis signed the Presidents Climate Commitment in March of 2007. He agreed to take steps around campus to reduce the emissions overall. As of today, more thank 500 university presidents have signed this commitment; nine of them are in Ohio.

Sustainability coordinator Sonia Marcus says the agreement requires each university to work towards achieving "climate neutrality".

Sonia Marcus describes what the Presidents Climate Commitment is.

Drs. Pat Hassett and Kim J. Brown were the presenters at the forum and talked about the different options OU has to reduce its carbon footprint and which would be the best overall decision for the University.

Brown said immediate steps need to be taken to begin reducing OU's emissions. The forum discussed six possible steps that OU may consider to reduce its carbon footprint. Those choices included:

• Establishing a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S.G.B.C.’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

• Adopting an energy efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which ENERGY STAR ratings exist.

• Establishing a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.

• Encouraging use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitors at our institution.

• Within one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.

• Establishing a policy or committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where our institution’s endowment is invested.

Those in attendance were asked to rate the top three steps they feel would be best for the university to take.

As part of the agreement, OU is required to take inventory of its total carbon usage. Last summer, a group of Dr. Brown's students calculated the campus's total carbon emission. They found the carbon emission both high and rising.

Dr. Kim J. Brown tells what her student's emissions calculations found.

Dr. Brown also encouraged people to take their own steps at home or in the dorms to help reduce their own carbon footprint. She said just by walking to class instead of driving, turning off your computer at night and changing to compact fluorescent bulbs could minimize each individual's carbon footprint drastically. She also said if everyone did that the impact would greatly reduce the campus' emissions as a whole.

There are many groups on campus that are working to reduce campus emissions and waste. Such programs include:
• Residence Challenge 2008 - a competition between dorms across campus that challenges residents to use less energy and recycle more.

• Recycle Mania - a program originally started at OU has spread to other college campuses challenging students to recycle more.

• Ecohouse - an active home that demonstrates how green sustainable living is possible.

Another opportunity for students and Athens Community members to become active in the effort to minimize the carbon emissions at OU is beginning this week. Earth Week 2008 offers daily activities.

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