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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

WCC Commits to Climate Neutral Practices

WCC has taken two more important steps in its commitment to minimizing energy use and reducing greenhouse emissions.

In June, the College completed a report that examines the impact of WCC’s energy use on greenhouse gas emissions. This greenhouse gas inventory is a required part of WCC’s participation in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

And on June 23, the WCC Board of Trustees approved two energy-saving policies that will move the College closer to its goal of operating in a climate neutral manner. The first is a commitment to purchase energy efficient Energy Star rated appliances for all WCC facilities. The second is to perform all future large building renovations to the energy and environmental standards of LEED Silver for Existing Buildings, which is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

In 2007, WCC joined 600 colleges and universities nationwide committed to climate neutral practices when WCC President Larry Whitworth signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. All signatories make a pledge to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions associated with their institution by a specific date of their choosing.

“Climate neutral practices aren’t just about protecting the environment or avoiding global warming,” said Whitworth. “They’re sound business, which in the long run will save the College money. Energy cost will continue to rise and if we don’t address this now, we’ll face consequences later. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

The recently completed greenhouse gas inventory indicates that 38 percent of WCC’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced as a result of electrical power used on campus, while student and staff commuting accounts for 41 percent. The remaining percentages are generated through solid waste (largely methane) emissions, miscellaneous air and auto travel, inefficiencies in the transportation and distribution of electricity, and miscellaneous on-campus fuel use for machinery, generators, and other activities.

Mark Rabinsky, a sustainable systems professional, was hired to complete the study. He conducted a similar study for nearby Jackson Community College in 2008. Rabinsky used the popular and free Campus Carbon Calculator from Clean Air-Cool Planet to conduct the survey. The data was drawn from records covering the past five years and, in some cases, from estimates based on average uses. “It’s not an exact science,” he admitted, “especially when it comes to calculating the carbon produced through commuting. In any case, the report identifies where reductions will have the biggest impact.”

Using this benchmark of energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, WCC will now develop a plan to implement more climate neutral practices. The College’s Environmental Committee will begin coordinating a detailed plan to reduce emissions and put energy saving practices into action.

The committee of faculty, students, and staff is headed by Dale Petty, an electronics instructor who recently completed a sabbatical to study effective implementation of the Climate Commitment plan. “We’ve already made some good progress, with a history of building energy improvements, a well-run recycling program, two LEED certified buildings, the new energy-saving policies just approved by the Board, the AATA bus pass, and good access to bicycle paths,” Petty said. “The committee looks forward to helping WCC continue on this path and modeling sustainable practices to the community.”

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