PSS Winter '13

PULTENEY STREET SURVEY - WINTER 2013

Sustainability Manager James Landi ’08 and students set up a
rainwater barrell to support the local communitiy garden.

Five Years: Committing to the Climate

by Dominic Moore ’05

It’s 9 a.m. in de Cordova Hall, and with a few clicks of the mouse it becomes clear that the building is running at high efficiency. According to the online HWS Building Dashboard, de Cordova is consuming 36 kilowatt hours of electricity, a nice six percent reduction from the day before.

Every few seconds this number is updated, producing an hour-by-hour summary of the energy use across the facility. If someone remembers to turn off his or her electronics or kill the lights when leaving a room, it is immediately visible in real-time on the Building Dashboard, which serves as a cutting-edge web interface for monitoring the energy consumed by campus buildings and evaluating this data over time.

Caird, Stern and de Cordova halls are all currently monitored this way, each serving up data that helps HWS students, faculty and staff better understand and reduce their own patterns of carbon consumption. But as impressive as it is, the Building Dashboard pilot project is just one of the latest innovations in a bold and sweeping set of initiatives to make the Colleges a greener place to live, work and study.

In 2007, President Mark D. Gearan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. The landmark document made the Colleges a charter member of a forward thinking group of higher education institutions dedicated to reducing their production of greenhouse gases.

The signing of the Commitment ushered in a period of swift change. In 2007, the Colleges had no metrics or benchmarks to assess its environmental impact. With a recycling rate of 14 percent and with five percent of electricity coming from wind, the Colleges had no energy efficiency program and only two student Eco- Reps to help with sustainability programs. Five years later, the Colleges have completed three comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories and have cut energy consumption by 10 percent. Today there are 40 Eco-Reps and a robust composting program that diverts more than two tons of compost from the landfill each week. The recycling rate has increased 42 percent and 100 percent of the Colleges electricity comes from wind power.

“We’ve made significant progress,” says James Landi ’08, the Colleges’ sustainability manager. “The transformation has been driven by our institution’s approach to sustainability. We’ve integrated our environmental commitment and made it into a campuswide endeavor rather than a consultantdeveloped project plan isolated to one or two departments. Projects are intentionally developed either by or in collaboration with students to maximize educational value, and then implemented by any number of departments. We’ve changed our campus culture.”

The cornerstone of this impressive achievement is the Climate Action Plan, authored by Landi and the members of the President’s Climate Task Force which includes faculty, staff and students. The document lays out a vision for carbon neutrality and practical steps to achieve that goal by the year 2025. This is an ambitious objective, but one that has been enthusiastically embraced by the campus community.

“Our Action Plan is unique among colleges and universities,” Landi says. “We’ve done a great deal of work to integrate the plan into every part of the Colleges: academics, student life and administration, while also paying very close attention to the cost. The result is a plan that is fiscally prudent yet also environmentally aggressive.”

Because, while the HWS campus may be carbon neutral by 2025, the mission of the institution is broader even than that: to create and cultivate a sustainable future. “We want students involved in every aspect of this because we want them to be informed citizens able to create and cultivate a sustainable future,” says Landi.

 

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.