October 14, 2010

Climate Action Plan Team Gives Midterm Update

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Gene Matthews at Wednesday's CAP forum.

At Wednesday’s Climate Action Plan Campus Forum, members of the Case Western Reserve CAP team presented an update on the university’s plan to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and progress on other sustainable issues.

Linda Robson, sustainability coordinator for the Institute of Sustainability, said the Climate Action Plan essentially is a plan to move the university toward climate neutrality–minimizing the university’s environmental footprint, its impact on the environment. “We’re only midstream in the climate planning process, so it’s not too late to chime in.”

Mike Walters, a consultant working with the university, presented the update. He said the idea of a climate action plan is to move an institution toward becoming “climate neutral” as soon as possible. He noted it takes “a fair amount of financial commitment to do that.” The plan targets carbon neutrality by 2050.

Case Western Reserve pledged to make the campus carbon-neutral in 2008 when President Barbara R. Snyder signed the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

The first focus is to reduce demand for energy, then turn to the supply side of the issue. Behavior modification, such as choosing a more energy-efficient way of commuting to the university or adjusting the heating and cooling, is one approach. Much of the update looked at various energy sources available to run the university: Coal-generated electricity vs. natural gas, solar thermal generation, solar voltaic, wind power and others.

A question-and-answer session followed the brief update.

A student asked what she and other students could do to help on a smaller, personal scale.

Gene Matthews, director of facility services, said students and others don’t necessarily need to do anything big or demonstrative. “The most important things is to track utility consumption on campus,” he said. It’s the little things, like turning off the lights when you leave a room or shutting off the water while brushing your teeth. 

“Take stock of how you use your energy,” Matthews said. “Pay attention to what you’re doing and don’t assume that energy reduction is somebody else’s responsibility. We all use energy every day in everything we do.

“If everybody does a little bit, collectively we do a lot.”

Gary Murphy, an associate professor of economics and a faculty adviser to the campus bicycle club, had another suggestion: Make it fun. One of his group’s projects involves building unique pedal-powered vehicles that challenge students’ imaginations and will grab attention. He envisioned hauling compost in a hand-made, pedal-powered vehicle across campus.

The university expects to have finalized its Climate Action Plan in 2011.

Posted by: David Wilson, October 14, 2010 11:02 AM | News Topics:

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