Smith Sets Goal for Carbon Neutrality by 2030
To help reduce its impact on climate change, Smith College recently unveiled an action plan to neutralize its greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
The Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan was filed with the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in late March. The detailed plan 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.
Work on the 60-page document began when Smith President Carol T. Christ signed the ACUPCC commitment in 2007 and students, faculty and staff formed a working group to develop the plan.
The plan is viewed as a tool to guide the college through the coming years of evolving technologies and new challenges. It will, notes 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 says.
Not surprisingly, the largest portion of Smith's carbon imprint comes from maintaining its residences and offices: 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," says 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."
Some recommendations in the plan are already familiar to the Smith community. For example, what started as a pilot project in 2008 with two Smith kitchens has now grown to include five kitchens,
all sending food waste to a licensed local farm where it is turned into compost. It has reduced the amount of waste Smith sends to the landfill by 30 percent. The plan proposes that all food waste generated by dining
services be composted by 2012.
In another initiative, students, faculty and staff changed the settings on their computers to save energy in The Million Monitor Drive campaign. This contribution added up to savings of $60,000 and diminished emissions of carbon dioxide by about 520 tons each year.
And in 2006 Smith partnered with the car-sharing service Zipcar to offer the community a cost-effective alternative to car ownership and to reduce the number of cars on campus.