University to start ‘waste-to-energy’ program

GW plans to burn 3,500 tons of waste this year in hopes of eliminating the University’s solid waste carbon emissions.

The 3,500 tons of waste produced each year at the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses will be converted into 1,800 megawatt hours of electricity, generating enough power to run 100 homes for an entire year, officials said this week.

“By switching to waste-to-energy (WTE), our greenhouse gas emissions for solid waste will be reduced to zero,” said Nancy Giammatteo, director of Planning and Environmental Management. She added that GW’s “green grade” should improve with this initiative.

GW’s most recent grade from the College Sustainability Report Card was a B, up from a D+ two years ago.

The disposal and conversion program started on Oct. 5. Waste from both campuses is now disposed of regularly at the Covanta WTE facility in Alexandria, Va. The energy conversion happens when waste is burned at high temperatures to generate steam to power turbines that create electricity, Giammatteo said.

The University’s most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory, conducted for the 2008 fiscal year, found GW emitted 128,301 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. This number is equivalent to the yearly emissions from approximately 23,498 automobiles, the report found.

The new initiative is part of the University’s proposal to lessen overall greenhouse gas emissions as part of the obligation to the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment and GW’s climate action plan.

The WTE project will have a “large impact on the current dialogue and the next generation of leaders,” Chapple-Brown said.

Rhea Suh, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, said GW needs to be a be a leader on sustainability issues not only to teach students, but also to set a good example for the D.C. community at large.

“It is important for institutions such as GW to be role models and produce energy in sustainable ways because its influence on the District and student body is critical,” she said.

Suh said projects like the GW plan are one of the easiest steps to take in becoming more environmentally friendly.

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