University tallies total carbon emissions

The University released the first school-wide inventory of greenhouse gas emissions Wednesday, and administrators said the age of campus buildings is one of the largest contributors to GW’s carbon footprint.

In the 2007-08 academic year, 53 percent of GW’s emissions were the result of purchased electricity, while 24 percent came from stationary combustion, according to the data released Wednesday. The inventory concluded that the overall emissions are “on par with an average of other schools.”

Wednesday’s announcement was part of an Earth Day Fair held in Columbian Square. University President Steven Knapp and Office of Sustainability Director Meghan Chapple-Brown told students that the University’s total carbon footprint is 143,582 metric tons in gross emissions of carbon dioxide. The greenhouse gas emission of the University equals the annual usage of about 26, 297 automobiles.

Now that the inventory has been completed, the University is expected to develop a comprehensive plan by May 2010 to reduce its carbon footprint, with the eventual goal of making the University carbon neutral.

The purchased electricity that comprised more than half of GW’s emissions included heating, air conditioning and lighting. The data collected addressed energy use, transportation, waste water and solid waste at all GW-owned and -leased properties for the 2008 fiscal year.

The inventory was the first requirement in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which is a national program designed to make colleges and universities more sustainable, that Knapp signed one year ago.

Knapp said that old buildings, like many on campus, are difficult to bring up to green standards. He also expressed great interest in improving new buildings on campus with green technology.

“With any new buildings we construct, we are going to strive to reduce their impact,” Knapp said. “We are reinforcing our commitment as an institution to be a leader on sustainability.”

Knapp said the push toward becoming a greener campus has been led by students.

“We would not be where we are today without the involvement of our students,” Knapp said.

Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz called the greenhouse gas inventory project a “great success.”

“It’s a baseline to view our progress on an annual basis,” Katz said. “The whole idea of this is to become carbon neutral.”

The Earth Day Fair, originally scheduled for University Yard but relocated due to weather concerns, consisted of various booths all dedicated to promoting energy conservation. Students were encouraged to share green ideas that could be implemented at GW to decrease the University’s carbon footprint.

Preeti Parulekar, president of Green GW, expanded upon the theme of the day’s festivities.

“Going green is for everyone, not just the stereotypical environmentalist,” Parulekar said.

Chapple-Brown reinforced the gravity of the topic by stating that the world is “heading toward a threshold for catastrophic change.”

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