NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College’s commitment to energy efficiency has resulted in a steady decline in carbon emissions throughout the past four years that “very few” schools experience without purchasing carbon offsets, said a Smith official.
Dano Weisbord, environmental sustainability director, noted that Smith’s emissions in 2008 were 31 percent below the peak level of 2004. The peak coincided with the opening of the Campus Center, an event that added the heating and electrical demands of the 56,000-square-foot building to the college’s carbon footprint.
Last year’s decrease is attributed primarily to two efforts, according to Weisbord: ongoing efficiency upgrades to campus buildings and infrastructure and Smith’s conversion from burning mostly oil to natural gas in the central heating plant.
These efforts are significant when one considers that, in 2007, 84 percent of Smith’s carbon emissions derived from the heating and cooling operations and the electricity purchased to power Smith’s 120 residential, academic and administrative buildings.
That year, Smith produced about 31,500 metric tons, or 9 metric tons per Smith community member, of gases contributing to global climate change. In 2008, the figure had dropped to 25,900, or about 7 metric tons per person.
The next time Smith’s greenhouse gas inventory is updated, it will begin to reflect the impact of Smith’s new power plant, the cogeneration plant.
Smith’s cogeneration plant began producing both heat and a substantial amount of electricity for the college last fall. When the college produces its own power it purchases less electricity from the regional power grid. During a typical winter day, the cogeneration plant reduces the carbon emissions of the campus by 30 percent, Weisbord said.