NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—A recent inventory of the greenhouse gases Smith College produces found the college’s “carbon footprint” has gotten smaller since a growth spurt in 2004, which means it is headed in the right direction, according to Dano Weisbord, environmental sustainability director.
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, Weisbord noted during a Nov. 19 forum about how the college’s emissions are determined.
“If we want to know what we can do about our carbon contribution,” said Weisbord, “we first need to know what that contribution is.”
Currently, Smith produces about 35,030 metric tons – an average 10 metric tons per Smith community member – of gases contributing to global climate change each year, according to Smith junior Elisabeth Wolfe, who was among the campus group that calculated Smith’s carbon footprint last year. The group used a tool commonly used by higher education institutions provided by the organization Clear Air Cool Planet.
The initial results show that of the college’s total emissions, about 5 percent is produced by the transportation of people within the Smith community.
Nearly the rest – 94 percent – is derived from the heating and cooling operations and the electricity purchased to power Smith’s 120 residential, academic and administrative buildings, Wolfe said.
However, a variety of campus-wide environmental sustainability efforts conducted in recent years has had an impact on Smith’s carbon footprint, which is now just slightly more than it was in 1990, according to Weisbord.
Although the campus electrical demand is expected to increase by about 10 percent when Ford Hall opens in the fall of 2009, that percentage will be negated by another recent campus addition – Smith’s co-generation plant.
The co-generation plant is Smith’s new power plant – producing both heat and a substantial amount of electricity for the college, electricity that Smith will no longer need to purchase from the regional power grid. When running during a typical day in winter, the co-generation plant will reduce the carbon emissions of the campus by 30 percent, according to Weisbord.
Throughout the coming year, Weisbord will work with the Sustainability Committee and Green Team to generate a timeline and plan for making Smith’s footprint disappear altogether (carbon neutrality) – an ambitious commitment made by President Carol T. Christ in 2007.
Discussion about the next steps toward that long-range goal will continue at the forum “Dude, Where’s My Windmill,” Monday, Nov. 24, at 4 p.m. in the Campus Center.