The following is from a presentation to the community by Myron Willson, Director, Office of Sustainability, in January 2012.
The Office of Sustainability (OS) is integrating principles of sustainability into the social, financial, and environmental aspects of all decision-making at the U—from education to operations and administration. Using the STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment Rating System) program, which has become the standard used to inventory all universities in the U.S., the OS completed an assessment of campus last fall, earning a bronze star rating. With more than 3,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S., only 133 received bronze or better.
The assessment looked at education components, human research, and operations across the board, including transportation, purchasing, grounds, building, planning, administration, and community engagement. It also looked at greenhouse gas emissions, which includes everything from the fuel used by Air Med helicopters and electricity, to fertilizers and fugitive refrigerants (leaks) from air conditioning. “It complements our climate action plan—the energy and environmental stewardship initiative—which includes a set of principles and decision-making criteria, and nearly 200 strategic initiatives,” said Willson. The climate action plan is designed to make the campus climate neutral by 2050, and this first review will inform us as to what kind of progress is being made.
In addition to the assessment, the U has a Green Power Partner initiative with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to purchase renewable energy credits. “At the time of reporting we were the No. 3 ranked university in the nation in terms of offsetting the carbon impacts of our electrical purchases,” said Willson. And at the new Natural History Museum of Utah and at the HPER Complex, a new 580 KW photovoltaic system has been installed where, through a power purchase agreement, the U will receive renewable power at grid cost over a 15 year period after which the U may purchase the infrastructure and will be getting that power at no cost.
The Better Buildings Challenge is a presidential initiative through the federal government’s Department of Energy. The University has committed to a 20 percent reduction in power consumption by 2020, and Facilities Management has a 40 percent standard as the baseline for all new projects. The U strives to be better than the campus building code standards. Some of the University’s new projects now in the design phase are meeting that challenge. By building more efficiently, the U will save substantially on future electrical and natural gas costs.
- The U is reaching out to the community by funding and supporting community gardens at some local elementary schools; and ASUU has instituted a Recycle Rice-Eccles project at football games, which they hope to expand next year to include basketball, gymnastics, and other events.
- The Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCIFF) funds student sustainability projects on campus. An example is the solar ivy project where individuals can “buy” a solar “leaf” (the solar panels look like ivy leaves) which will then be put on the south wall of Orson Spencer Hall. Students plant trees, and work on storm water mitigation and reducing water consumption. Project-based learning through the OS is carried out in collaboration with the public policy administration, and the colleges of business, architecture, and engineering, where faculty and their students work on campus-related programs.
- The Green Event Guide is now available for those campus departments that want to plan their events to be green. The guide not only provides information on how to emphasize recycling and sustainable food, but it also shares additional ideas such as encouraging use of public transit to get to the event instead of relying on a car.
- As for curriculum, President David Pershing has selected two professors to develop a sustainability certificate and to help train other faculty peer-to-peer on integrating sustainability into their coursework.
- Additional activities of the Office of Sustainability include working with the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Green Team, helping with bike-planning efforts, promoting the annual Clear the Air Challenge, serving on the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce Energy and Clean Air Task Force; and working with the Division of Air Quality’s PM 2.5 Task Force.