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March 29, 2010

Smith College Aims for Carbon Neutrality by 2030

Top priority: reduce the energy used to heat, cool and light the college’s 111 buildings, which accounts for 85 percent of the college’s carbon emissions.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – As part of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, Smith College recently unveiled a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.  

2009 at a Glance

25: Local farmers and growers from which Smith purchased food.

40: Bicycles rented out by the student-operated “Bicycle Kitchen” each semester.

96: Percentage of the 2,500 tons of material cleared away to build Ford Hall that was recycled.

130: Solar panels on top of the Campus Center, an energy production system that reduced carbon emissions by 238 metric tons.

290: Tons of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans Smith recycled.

400: Dollars Smith paid each faculty and staff member living more than a mile from campus who opted-out of driving alone to work.

500: Low-flow showerheads that Smith installed in houses and locker rooms.

735: Tons of trash generated by Smith (down from 900 tons in 2007) due to an expanding composting program.

2030: Year Smith will reach carbon neutrality.

The detailed, electronically available, 60-page Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan (SCAMP) takes into account every aspect of campus life, including water and energy use, buildings and landscape management, product purchases and waste disposal, as well as transportation usage such as airline travel for college business and commuting to and from campus.

“The commitment to resource stewardship and preservation has emerged as a powerful organizing principle in Smith College’s operational and curricular development,” said Carol T. Christ, Smith president.  

To establish the 20-year path to carbon neutrality (defined as no net greenhouse gas emissions), the plan benchmarks Smith’s current resource usage and carbon emissions.

Not surprisingly, the largest portion of Smith’s carbon impacts arise from its mission as a residential college: heating, cooling and powering Smith’s 111 buildings requires utilities that result in 85 percent of the college’s carbon emissions. 

The plan calls for the installation of new meters to report utility usage by building in “real time” and direct efficiency upgrades. The information will also encourage student energy reduction competitions.

One of the single largest energy efficiency upgrades to Smith’s facilities was the recent installation of a cogeneration plant, which produces heat and electricity for the campus buildings. The new system has slashed energy costs by about $650,000 a year in addition to significantly reducing carbon emissions. In the near future, the cogeneration plant will be upgraded to provide the ability to cool buildings in the summer, enabling it to produce electricity for the campus year-round.

Further, by 2030, the plan calls for a substantial portion of campus heat and electricity to come from a variety of renewable sources. “We hope to meet and surpass the efficiency and conservation goals we’ve set in the plan,” said Dano Weisbord, Smith’s environmental sustainability director, and one of the plan’s architects. “Beyond that, renewable fuels, renewable power and offsets have to do the rest.”

The plan considers areas of resource consumption beyond those that have significant contribution to Smith's carbon footprint. For example, in regard to potable water, the plan calls for reducing millions of gallons through efficiencies. Consumption will be reduced by 6 million gallons through the installation of such features as reduced-flow showerheads and sink aerators, according to the plan.

Further, by eliminating the use of potable water for irrigation by 2015, the college will save 2.1 million gallons a year. The grounds department also plans to cut down on the use of non-potable water by replacing sprinklers with “smart” systems that take ground moisture content readings into account instead of watering by timers.

Some recommendations within the plan are already familiar to the Smith community. For example, a few years ago composting was introduced to some of the student dining rooms, an effort that has grown over the past two years and has reduced the amount of waste Smith sends sent to the landfill by 30 percent. The plan proposes that all food waste generated by dining services be composted by 2012.

Other aspects of the plan will be invisible to most of the community. They include purchasing changes such as increasing the amount of local food purchases from 21 to 30 percent of the food budget.

The SCAMP is viewed as a tool to guide the college through the coming years of evolving technologies and new challenges. It will, noted Christ, provide countless opportunities for student research, analysis and policy development.

“We are giving our students the experience of shaping and observing the evolution of their college as it addresses the major issue of this century,” she said.

Drafted by student, faculty and staff members of the Committee on Sustainability, the plan includes a four-month schedule of presentations to disseminate the ideas to all parts of the college community.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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