Last week, President Jim Brenneman finalized Goshen College’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the campus’ carbon impact. He submitted it to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a college and university climate change initiative, taking steps such as reducing carbon impact and neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate Action Plan declares GC’s commitment to carbon neutrality, outlines ways to achieve this goal and includes steps to help students develop skills necessary to help other communities toward the same cause.
“Climate change presents us with a societal emergency and a moral imperative for innovation," said President Brenneman. “The campus has made good progress in the last 20 years in conserving energy use, but much more can be done to reduce the college's negative impact on the earth's climate.”
The plan aims to reduce the carbon impact to zero, and explores different ways to minimize carbon use. These include continued work towards carbon-free energy sources and promoting carbon sequestration.
GC has already been making decisions with a careful eye on climate impact. One example is the decision to replace campus cars with used ones that have better gas mileage. Future ideas are requiring all construction to be L.E.E.D. certified, installation of solar hot water heaters in the Recreation-Fitness Center, expanding production of biodiesel from cooking oil and installation of wind generators.
Glenn Gilbert, sustainability coordinator and utilities manager said, “We intend to monitor the Goshen College carbon footprint annually, to communicate progress in carbon reduction widely, and to create deeper campus commitment to the cultural change that will be required to reach our goal of zero carbon impact on the earth's climate.” Gilbert is also a member of the Ecological Stewardship Committee, which includes both faculty and students.
Funding will likely come from the Revolving Assets for Sustainability Project, which will be created specifically to fund cost-saving projects, renewable energy projects, and renewable energy efforts.
Joe Friesen, a senior who worked on the subcommittee to draft the Climate Action Plan said, “Students can get funding to implement projects that in some way saves the college money." Friesen is also a member of GC’s Ecological Stewardship Committee.
The Revolving Assets for Sustainability Project will revolve in order to keep the fund plentiful.
“Fifty percent of the cost savings from the project goes to the college while the other 50 percent goes back into the fund until 125 percent of the cost of the project has been returned to the fund,” explained Friesen. “In this way, the fund grows after each project and enables the college to implement larger projects which will in turn make the fund grow even larger.” He added that project proposals may be sent to the Ecological Stewardship Committee.
The GC campus has reduced carbon emissions from natural gas consumption by more than one percent for the last decade. During the last seven years, GC has reduced electricity consumption by more than three percent.
President Brenneman signed into the ACUPCC climate initiative in 2007, making GC the second college or university to sign the commitment.
“This climate action plan represents a significant effort toward responsible global citizenship, one of Goshen College's core values," said Brenneman.