University works to reduce emissions

By The Numbers:
Energy Use

  • 145 billion pounds: amount of carbon dioxide produced by D.C. in 2005
  • 225 million pounds: amount of carbon dioxide produced by GW per year for the last five years.
  • 154,674: gallons of oil GW used 5 years ago
  • 123,231: gallons of oil GW used this year

A new initiative has GW working hard to not follow in the footstep of the District’s large carbon footprint.

D.C. produced 14.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide in 2005 – higher than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Sweden or Switzerland, all of which have higher populations, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

In the last five years, GW’s carbon emissions have been about 225 million pounds per year, said Nancy Haaga, managing director of Campus Support Services.

“GW’s energy use over the past five years has remained relatively constant at about 925 billion British thermal units (BTUs) per year,” Haaga wrote in an e-mail.

Corey Buffo, the interim director of D.C.’s Department of Environment, said D.C. has plans to set up carbon trading schemes in an effort to lower carbon emissions.

“The Department of Environment is looking to provide incentives for renewable energy projects such as teaching energy efficiency and paying for energy audits in people’s homes and small businesses,” Buffo said.

“Our emissions rules are among the most stringent in the country,” Buffo said. “We have rules and if they’re not followed, we fine institutions.”

GW was fined $7,500 for not having a permit for its boilers in February 2004, Buffo said.

Haaga said the University’s consistently low output of carbon emissions is something to be proud of.

“This is a significant achievement given the growth in the University’s facility infrastructure over the past five years,” Haaga said, adding that GW’s energy use has remained relatively constant but that carbon emissions rates have risen during this time period.

GW has been trying to control its carbon emissions in several ways, including converting oil-burning boilers to natural gas-burning models, installing more energy – and water-efficient appliances and replacing older windows and light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones.

Additionally, the University is working on a transportation management plan to discourage the use of automobiles, as well as constructing new buildings with greener standards, Haaga said.

Most recently, University President Steven Knapp created a sustainability task force to evaluate environmental policies on campus and recommend improvements for energy conservation, resource and waste management and sustainability awareness, among other topics. The task force will deliver their report in June 2008.

“We have a small percentage of alternative energy sources,” said Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson. “We use oil for some heating in some buildings, but GW has a mix of energy sources. We’re not dependent on just coal power.”

Executive director of Green GW, senior Casey Pierzchala said Green GW has discussed the vehicles that the University purchases. Pierzchala, said that a switch to electric or hybrid vehicles would work well at GW. Campus vehicles rarely drive at high speeds or on highways, and hybrid cars use energy-efficient electric motors to run when they are driving at speeds lower than 30 mph, Pierzchala said.

“The investment would pay for itself and emissions would go down,” Pierzchala said.

According to the Carbonfund.org, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing climate change, manufacturing products creates an average of four to eight pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of manufactured product. Recycling could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“There is a stigma going around campus that GW doesn’t recycle,” Pierzchala said. “The GW staff is trying and they’re doing their best, but students need to step up and sort their garbage and recyclables.”

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