University officials said they are in the process of developing a specific plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality but will not implement anything without input from a permanent president at the mast.
Officials said they want to wait to see if the future president’s goals for footprint reduction and green initiatives are aligned with the ideas of those involved in the long-term project.
“We don’t want to have people come up with a plan and then have a president come in and have differently aligned goals,” said Carol Dollard, an energy engineer at Facilities Management and one of three analysts who collected and compiled the pertinent data.
The university’s carbon footprint, more specifically referred to as a greenhouse gas footprint, is one of several aspects of former President Larry Penley’s 2020 carbon neutrality plan and examines the amount of greenhouse gasses CSU produces each year.
Calculation of the greenhouse gas footprint was one of several initiatives set when CSU signed the American College and University’s President Climate Commitment in June 2008, a program to help universities set goals to achieve carbon neutrality.
To calculate the footprint, analysts examined all university practices and physical sites to determine the amount of electricity and natural gas consumed, the level of carbon emissions contributed by students and faculty’s daily commute and several other factors.
According to the results, CSU’s greenhouse gas footprint is less than 249,000 metric tons per year, with electricity, natural gas consumption contributing 135,000 and 56,000 metric tons respectively.
“The results of the greenhouse gas inventory were reasonable for a large research, land grant university,” said Patrice Stafford, program assistant and Facilities Management team member who researched and collected data to write the survey. “That footprint is reflective of tens of thousands of acres, that support the work and learning experiences of 30,000 people.”
“Colorado State’s footprint can’t be accurately compared to footprints of higher education, as much as people would like to do so.”
Dollard said it is difficult to compare CSU’s greenhouse gas footprint with other institutions because the figure is relative for individual institutions. A university with more labs and especially institutions similar to CSU with large areas of land and livestock require more energy to maintain these resources.
Dollard said potential plans installation of energy efficient lighting to increase building efficiency and they are looking at wind power as an alternative energy form, but the idea is several years down the road.
This week, the results from a commuter survey developed by Facilities Management in late September, showed that transportation and community made up about 8 percent of CSU’s total greenhouse footprint.
More than 8,500 people filled out the survey, a second initiative in CSU’s climate commitment that was created to assess carbon emissions that relate to student, faculty and staff commuting to campus. The survey asked people to report their mode of transportation, average miles traveled per day and frequency of travel.
Patrick Canavan, assistant director of the Department of Environmental Affairs for the Associated Students of CSU, said he was disappointed with the statistics revealed in the survey result, which showed that the average student drives an average of eight miles (round-trip) to campus each day.
“Now that we know the extent of the commute students go, the university and departments need to step it up and come up with a solution,” he said, adding that the “scary” figures should provide additional motivation.
Canavan and Dollard both said they would like to see collaboration between Facilities Management, Environmental Affairs and other CSU departments in order to increase environmental awareness and help students and faculty to reduce their individual carbon footprints.
“Starting with the students is a good place to start,” Canavan said, pushing the need to increase student awareness and encourage alternative modes of transportation.
Stafford said that she thinks the data collected in the past and the future regarding greenhouse gas emissions is imperative in moving the university’s carbon neutrality plan forward.
“Colorado State has always looked to be an environmental steward and by signing the Presidents Climate Commitment, has expressed the desire to achieve carbon neutrality,” she said. “With that large goal in mind, creating an inventory, or a measure, of the university’s current operations allows plans to be made to achieve that goal.”
Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.