Western works toward climate neutrality - The Western Front: News

Western works toward climate neutrality

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, June 25, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 7:33 am, Fri Oct 5, 2012.

Western is on track to become the first climate-neutral university in the state, and will aim to have zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Board of Trustees voted to accept Western’s Climate Action Plan (CAP)  on June 11.

Western is on track to become the first climate-neutral university in the state, and will aim to have zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Board of Trustees voted to accept Western’s Climate Action Plan (CAP)  on June 11.

In addition to becoming climate neutral, Western is trying to reduce its emissions to 36 percent below 2005 levels within the next decade.    

In 2007, former Western president Karen Morse signed the President’s Climate Commitment, a national commitment putting in motion Western’s fight to reduce campus energy use and costs and create demand for low-cost renewable energy technology.

Western’s climate plan aims to reduce emissions at a much faster rate than is required by state law, but Western students may not notice any changes on campus following the acceptance of the new plan because it is divided into several subtle approaches.     

Western Facilities Manager Tim Wynn and Office of Sustainability Program Specialist Seth Vidaña, both of whom presented the plan to the Board of Trustees, explained the details.

The first approach involves creating behavioral changes among the campus community to save energy. Students and faculty can expect to see more encouragement to turn off computers and lights. In some buildings, the heating system will turn on later in the day rather than in the morning.

Several other projects having to do with Western’s infrastructure will help make the campus more efficient. Western’s steam plant currently provides heat for buildings on campus.

The university boils water in the plant, then sends the resulting steam to heat buildings. But instead of using natural gas, which is a fossil fuel, Western may try to use wood.

Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel because plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow; when a plant dies it releases that carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere as it decays. Burning wood simply speeds up this process, Vidaña said.

With an ambitious program driven by a combination of student interest and state requirements, Western is stepping forward as a model for the rest of the county.

Wynn said Western’s intention is to show the community a change can be made on a campus in hopes it can inspire other organizations, counties and nations to follow.

State legislation serves as a driving force for the climate plan by providing minimum guidelines by which all universities in Washington state must abide. 

In 2009, the state made it a requirement to report annual greenhouse gas emissions and requested a 50 percent emission reduction from 2005 to 2050, according to a report by the Washington state Department of Transportation.

“Leadership needs to come on all levels, and we applaud Western’s leadership on this,” said Laura Curley, public information office for the Northwest Clean Air Agency. “That is a great example of leadership.”

 

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
  • 2 Don't Threaten or Abuse. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. AND PLEASE TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
  • 3 Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
  • 4 Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 5 Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 6 Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Welcome to the discussion.