While all eyes are on Paris and the UN climate summit, major progress is being made closer to home. Fort Lewis College announced this week that it has exceeded its 2015 goal of reducing carbon emissions.
The college is a signatory of the Second Nature Climate Commitment and has set a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2080. To reach that goal, it set benchmarks along the way. The goal for 2015 was a 20 percent reduction, and the analysis showed the college actually hit 21 percent.
“This is good news for the climate,” said Kathy Hilimire, assistant professor of environmental studies and the FLC sustainability coordinator. “At a time when many institutions are increasing their carbon footprint, it is heartening to see FLC make such a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.”
Hilimire measured emissions from natural gas usage and the college’s vehicle fleet as well as refrigerants, which she said were “a small but powerful contributor” to carbon dioxide emissions.
The reduction since changes were instituted totals the equivalent of more than 3,200 tons of carbon dioxide, said Mitch Davis, spokesman for the college.
The school began campus-wide energy-efficiency upgrades after signing the commitment in 2010, updating inefficient equipment on campus, such as boilers, replacing and updating light fixtures with efficient bulbs and motion sensors and adding insulation to dormitories, most of it completed by 2013. The college also installed energy-producing solar panels to some buildings.
“In addition to the reduction of CO2 since the upgrades were completed, FLC has saved nearly 3 million (kilowatt-hours) of electricity,” Davis said, “more than 200,000 (cubic feet) of natural gas and 6.4 million gallons of water.”
The upgrades cost $9 million, he said, but should more than pay for themselves over time in energy savings.
“Exceeding the carbon emissions goal we set for ourselves meant a significant investment in time, money and other resources,” FLC President Dene Thomas said, “but this is an initiative that is important to Fort Lewis College and the world.”
Thomas credited Physical Plant Services, Environmental Studies and Environmental Center for leading the charge on reducing emissions.
The Geosciences, Physics and Engineering Hall, now under construction, will be the college’s fourth Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold-certified building, joining the Student Union addition, where Campus Dining is located, the Biology Hall and the college’s newest residential facility, Animas Hall.
“One of the more noticeable sustainable additions to campus is the solar array atop the Student Union,” Davis said. “The array supplies electricity to one of the busiest buildings on campus. Since its completion in 2010, the array has generated over 144,000 kwh of electricity.”
FLC also reduced its carbon footprint on air travel by 8 percent and solid waste disposal by 4 percent.
In recent years, FLC has been recognized by Sierra Magazine as a “Cool School” and was named one of the Princeton Review’s “Best Green Colleges.”
The college’s next benchmark year is 2020, when the target is to have reduced emissions by a total of 30 percent from 2011 levels.