UGA developing plan to be more sustainable

written by: Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/uga/2013-03-04/uga-developing-plan-be-more-sustainable

 

UGA developing plan to be more sustainable

The University of Georgia’s carbon emissions continue to rise despite the university’s big gains in energy and water efficiency over the past five years.

But UGA planners hope to reverse that trend in coming years.

UGA’s Georgia Climate and Society Initiative is cultivating a so-called sustainability plan for the campus, working with UGA’s Office of Sustainability. The document, scheduled for completion in November, will outline ways the campus can become more carbon-neutral.

UGA already has taken some big sustainability strides in recent years, said Tyra Byers of the UGA Office of Sustainability as about 20 people met Monday in the Miller Learning Center to talk about ways to reduce UGA’s carbon footprint.

Thanks to a series of conservation measures such as 18 water storage cisterns that can hold 550,000 gallons of water, the university’s use of potable water has declined by about 20 percent since 2007, she said. That’s halfway to a goal of a 40 percent reduction by the year 2020 already outlined in the UGA Campus Master Plan, she said.

The master plan outlines some goals, but the sustainability plan will go well beyond the master plan goals.

On another front, the university’s buildings now use about 13 percent less energy per square foot than they averaged in 2007, but because UGA has added so much space in those years, the university’s overall energy use is still growing slightly, Byers said.

Those gathered for the meeting came up with dozens of ideas for making the university more efficient and reducing carbon emissions — from bike lockers to solar energy to simply monitoring buildings’ energy use more closely and buying more locally grown food.

UGA’s dining halls already are buying about 20 percent of their food locally, but the goal under the campus master plan is to reach 35 percent by 2020, she said.

If the overall trends of the 2000s continued into the future, the university’s contribution of carbon to the atmosphere could more than triple by 2030, according to a project that sustainability office intern Alex D’Agostino showed in Monday’s meeting.

But since 2007, there’s been little growth in UGA’s carbon emissions, Byers said.

About 63 percent of UGA’s carbon footprint is indirect, in the form of purchased electricity, D’Agostino said. Another 21 percent comes from on-campus stationary sources such as the coal-, oil- and natural gas-fired boilers that generate steam to heat and cool the campus.

Even student travel abroad contributes; planners have had a harder time figuring out how much faculty travel for conferences and research may add to the footprint, Byers said.

UGA President Michael Adams wouldn’t sign a popular resolution that circulated around college campuses a few years ago. Signers promised to become carbon-neutral.

Adams wouldn’t sign because the goal of becoming carbon-neutral seemed unrealistically high, said Kevin Kirsche, coordinator of the Office of Sustainability. But Adams has supported the effort to move the campus closer to that goal of carbon neutrality, Kirsche said.

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