Campus ratchets up efforts to go green in response to pledge

As the university continues working toward becoming a more eco-friendly campus, it will face some challenges, university officials said.

Last spring the university signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.

The act required the university to form a committee, which is headed by Provost Nowell Donovan and made up of students and faculty.

“The committee is charged to document the ways the university moves toward sustainability and whether or not the university is in compliance with the act,” Donovan said.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said the university is also working to comply with the standards set forth in the agreement.

Since the commitment was signed, green initiatives have become more popular on campus, Boschini said.

He said the Purple Bike Program and Think Purple, Live Green campaign are examples of successful green projects on campus.

Scharbauer Hall is the first building on campus to reach the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver standard, which certifies the building as eco-friendly, Boschini said.

He said the university is working to create a specific plan to accomplish the goals set in the commitment.

According to the act, the university is required to initiate two or more tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while a more specific plan is developed.

Donovan said the university has already committed to four actions, including one which makes sure all new construction meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s standard.

Donovan said other actions being taken include purchasing energy efficient products certified by government-backed Energy Star, providing access to public transportation for all faculty, staff and students and establishing a committee that supports sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where the university’s endowment is invested.

Environmental sciences professor Michael Slattery said this semester the university added a new environmental science course titled “Chasing Carbon.”

The course will require students to tackle a different aspect of the agreement each semester, Slattery said.

Despite the growth of some green programs on campus, there are still challenges the university must overcome, Slattery said.

Slattery said he would like to see improvements in the way the university travels.

He said the university should look into carbon offsetting for the greenhouse gas emissions created by traveling during the various study abroad programs.

Donovan said that there are parts of the act that will be more difficult to accomplish than others.

“These changes are not instantaneous,” Donovan said. “Some require investment of millions of dollars.”

One specific policy that Donovan said would be difficult to enact is purchasing at least 15 percent of the university’s electricity from renewable sources.

“It’s difficult because we have one supplier and it’s dependent on their resources,” Donovan said.

Donovan said he would like to see a greater awareness of green issues on campus.

“Normally we don’t think too much about the planet,” Donovan said. “I would like to see an emphasis in education about the interdependence between humanity and the planet. People need to realize the value of the planet.”