Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Creation of a climate neutral campus next on sustainability agenda

Still fresh from its summer rollout of a campus-wide recycling program, DU’s Sustainability Council is embarking on an effort that promises to be its most ambitious and lasting yet.

The council on Oct. 2 embarked on a six-month bid to develop an all-encompassing plan for creating a campus that is entirely climate neutral. Committees in the coming months will examine every aspect of campus life, from transportation to heating to light bulbs, as they craft a plan that will satisfy requirements of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

The commitment, part of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, gives member organizations two years to develop a campus neutrality plan. DU signed on last year, and the plan is due in September 2009. It will require the University to set a specific date to achieve neutrality.

“This is the first day of the new phase of the Sustainability Council,” council Chairman Fred Cheever announced. “This is a huge, big deal.”

The work ahead will be challenging, he said, but by March the council aims to produce a roadmap to climate neutrality for DU administrators and trustees to review.

Jay Pearlman — who tallied DU’s carbon footprint through the consulting firm Sightlines — said DU last year was responsible for nearly 82,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, although some 14,000 metric tons were offset through green energy purchases. Of those emissions, more than half came from the electricity that powers campus. Transportation and campus-supported air travel were the next biggest culprits.

Lyndsay Agans, a lecturer and diversity faculty fellow in higher education at the DU Morgridge College of Education, researched and laid out the steps the council may follow in its quest for climate neutrality.

Her plan would touch virtually every facet of campus life with outreach and town hall meetings, faculty input and student involvement.

She said a plan could look at everything from recycling, electricity and transportation to using locally-grown food and moving toward an “organic” campus that depends more on natural fertilizers and less on pesticides in landscaping. Developing research and courses that target climate neutrality will also be part of the plan.

“The mission and plan really needs to mirror what DU is all about,” she said.

[Editor’s Note: Lyndsay Agans’ title was updated Oct. 6.]

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