Projects beneficial, officials say, but won't reverse changes
Starting in November, Western Washington University will award $340,000 in grants for student projects that aim to lessen the school’s carbon footprint, an effort that has involved many students and has already saved the school thousands of kilowatt hours of electricity.
The grants, funded by the student-initiated Green Energy Fee, have been used in the past for projects such as the solar array installed on the Environmental Studies building. The array has saved more than 8,300-kilowatt hours over the last 14 months, said Regan Clover, program coordinator for the Green Energy Fee Grant.
In comparison, the average U.S. household uses about 10,000 kilowatt hours per year, according to the Organization of American States' Office of Sustainable Development.
Applications for small grants — between $500 and $2,000 — and large grants — between $2,000 and $300,000 — are due on Oct. 23 and small grants will be awarded in November. Larger grant requests will require a two-part application and may take longer, Clover said.
Anna Smallbeck, a Western sophomore and employee at the Associated Students Recycling Center on campus, said she recycles in order to lessen her carbon footprint and likes the programs put on by the sustainability office.
“I think the Western sustainability program is really on top of things, and it might not look like that to a lot of people,” Smallbeck said.
Western has also saved thousands of kilowatts through the 2005 purchase of renewable energy credits, which are paid for with funds from the Green Energy Fee included in every student’s tuition. Each energy credit saves 1,000 kilowatts.
Renewable energy credits are essentially energy obtained from natural sources that don’t give off greenhouse gases, Clover said.
“Say somebody has a wind farm, they can sell the renewable energy created from that and then we’re basically buying their renewable energy from them to offset the carbon that we create from our electricity usage,” she said.
As part of the university’s goal of reducing its energy use, a thermal system, which will heat the pool and spa using energy from the sun, will be installed this year in the Wade King Student Recreation Center, Clover said. A water bottle refill station and sustainability kiosk will also go in Wilson Library, Clover said.
In 2007, the City of Bellingham enacted a Climate Protection Action Plan that outlines mitigation goals to reduce Bellingham’s carbon footprint and to act as a leader against global warming.
Clare Fogelsong, environmental policy manager with the City of Bellingham, said the city has successfully enacted several of the goals that were part of the plan.
“We have accomplished a huge project that has evaluated all of the city facilities and buildings for their energy efficiency,” Fogelsong said. “[We] have implemented a substantial project that has retro-fitted all those building with energy efficient boilers and generators.”
The City of Bellingham is close to its goal of reducing emissions by 64 percent by 2012, but it may not be enough to stop the progress of climate change.
“I am in the camp that thinks that we are going to be looking at adaption strategies regardless of how much we mitigate now,” Fogelsong said. “We have set in motion changes to the ecology of the Earth that we’re going to be living with for quite a while even if we are able to bring our carbon footprint down to something reasonable.”