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Initiatives Towards a Greener Campus

By: Jacqueline Stoughton

Central Connecticut State University has done a lot in the past seven years since President Jack Miller signed the President’s Climate Commitment.  Since then, the rest of the CSU system has also signed the commitment to create carbon neutrality on campus.

CCSU has already taken major steps to making Central a green campus.  The university has set goals that include reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2015, 50 percent by 2020 and ending with the ultimate goal of reducing fossil fuel emissions 100 percent.

“The point of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment is to figure out what needs to happen on this campus to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero,” said Charles Button, geography professor at CCSU.  “The universities sustainability officer has to send a report each year to how close we are to that goal.”

“We’ve gotten to 18 percent which is great considering our goal is twenty percent by 2015, but that’s really just a testament,” said Button.  “Most of what we’ve done has been fairly easy.”

Accomplishments that have already brought the campus to 18 percent include the recent installation of electric car charging stations located in the student center parking lot and the creation of a ride share program that will be available to serve both students and faculty.

CCSU has also put online last year a new academic building, the Social Sciences Hall, which is LEED-certified gold.  The new residence building that the university has just recently broke ground on will also be a LEED-certified building.  According to Button, it is a state initiative that all new building built on state property must be LEED-certified at a minimum of silver.  Other programs like the fuel cell initiative that the university have taken part in were only started because they were required state initiatives; similar to only building LEED-certified buildings.

The Garden of Eden, a community garden on campus, is also in its conversation stages, will contribute into making CCSU a completely green campus.

The President’s committee is in constant talk of how the university can continue to reduce its fossil fuel emissions.  One suggested idea, says Button, would be to do offsets to the campuses net fossil fuel emissions.

Button explains that the study abroad program is a big contributor to the universities fossil fuel usage.  Since non-carbon airplanes don’t exist, and putting an end to the study abroad program is unrealistic, the only option left is to do something that will off set this.

“Calculate how much carbon emissions the plan trip there and back creates, and the obvious solution would be to do something like to plant an acre of trees,” said Button.  “You then could add to the net, that would be an offset.”

“What can we do now that will get us to 50 percent,” said Button.  “We’re not going to get there unless we think of bigger ideas.”

Button suggests that the university’s engineering professors get together with the President’s Committee to collaborate and create a renewable energy plan for the campus.  This would entail calculating approximately how much energy and fossil fuels the campus uses on a daily basis.  This would then demonstrate how many solar panels and wind turbines the university would have to install to replace the amount of fossil fuels being used.

“The rooftops facing south and big, empty parking lots could easily have solar panels installed,” said Button.  “This sounds like a really progressive idea, usually the revolt to it is we can’t afford it.  But, solar panels are so cheap now.  You can get solar panels for $500 a piece.”

Button explains that if the university were to really analyze the cost, with all the money that is saved by using solar panels; that saved money could be used to buy more.

“Tuition is going up every year now, why?  We’re wasting opportunities to save and cutback money,” said Button.  “You as students are literally paying for the university to not do these things.”

“The administration needs to start embracing these things,” said Button.  “We need to start being more of a leader than a follower or else we’re never going to see 50 let alone 100.”