College gets greener

College president R. Barbara Gitenstein signed the American College and University Presidents Campus Climate Commitment (ACUPCCC) on April 15.

By signing the commitment, president Gitenstein created a Campus Climate Committee that will be responsible for planning and implementing an initiative to reduce and eventually end greenhouse gas emissions on campus.

President Gitenstein said she was approached about the climate commitment in spring and discussed it with vice president of Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety, Curt Heuring.

“I concluded that such a commitment was the responsible action for (the College),” she said.

The Climate Commitment Committee consists of faculty, students and staff and is co-chaired by Heuring and professor of civil engineering Michael Horst.

“This initiative commits the College to developing a long-range plan for our institution that will reduce and ultimately neutralize greenhouse gas emissions on our campus and promote research and educational efforts to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate,” Heuring said. “The committee will help the College achieve the presidents climate commitment.”

Andrew Mathe, publicity coodinator of Water Watch and Meagan Terry, vice president of Water Watch, are the student liasons to the climate committee.

The committee’s initial work will include investigation, analysis and planning, according to Heuring, as well as establishing a schedule and setting long-term goals.

Heuring said as time goes on and the College adopts certain strategies, more changes may become evident to students.

However, Heuring said the committee has recommended that some changes be implemented immediately. The committee is proposing that the College only purchase equipment that is Energy Star compliant, and that it looks into establishing a policy that all new buildings be designed to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, a nationally-recognized standard for construction of environmentally safe buildings.

Heuring said the committee is also investigating initiatives at other institutions to determine what might work at the College and several committee members are attending training sessions about sustainable technologies and strategies.

Although the process will probably take several years, Mathe said he believes it will be beneficial to students.

“This will be a comprehensive process that will potentially affect everything from food services to how we submit our papers,” he said.

Mathe said the only point of contention he sees for students is a possible sustainability fee to help compensate for any initial costs.

“Compared to the countless fees that are already a part of our term bill, I think few people would protest such a decision,” he said.

“Institutions of higher education should be leaders in minimizing negative impact on our environment,” president Gitenstein said.

Over 300 college and university presidents have signed the climate commitment so far.