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Report Outlines Strategies for Reducing Carbon Emissions at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Oct. 22, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — To achieve its goal of carbon neutrality, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire must make structural changes and support additional environmentally friendly programs that will help students, staff and faculty change behaviors, according to a recently completed report that summarizes the university's greenhouse gas emissions and identifies strategies for reducing those emissions.

"The campus community has made it a priority to be a leader in addressing climate change issues," Chancellor Levin-Stankevich said. "Students, faculty and staff already have taken many meaningful steps to make UW-Eau Claire a more environmentally conscious campus. For example, we are buying Energy Star appliances wherever possible, we've begun converting facilities' vehicles to electric and our motor pool is purchasing hybrid vehicles.

"But we know there is much more we can do. This report provides a snapshot of where the campus currently is in terms of emissions. It also outlines short- and long-range strategies to reduce emissions now and in the future."

The "State of the University: UW-Eau Claire Carbon Emissions and Recommendations for Achieving Carbon Neutrality 2008" report will be shared with the campus community during a presentation at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 in Davies Theatre.

UW-Eau Claire emits nearly 40,000 metric tons of carbon each year, with electricity, cooling and heating accounting for more than 90 percent of the emissions. Transportation, solid waste, and refrigerants and other chemicals account for the remaining emissions that make up the university's carbon footprint, according to the report, written by the Carbon Neutral Team.

The Carbon Neutral Team — which includes 10 undergraduate students from a variety of majors who worked under the supervision of Dr. Kristina Beuning, associate professor of biology — was formed after Levin-Stankevich signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment in August 2007 (see related news release). The ACUPCC addresses global climate change by requiring each signatory to complete a biennial inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions and to develop a long-term plan for reducing GHG emissions and achieving carbon neutrality.

"The quality of the research done by Dr. Beuning and the students is very impressive both in its thoroughness and professionalism," Levin-Stankevich said. "They have provided us with a valuable tool that will help us shape the university's future."

While the campus already has initiated numerous programs to change campus behaviors and infrastructure, there is more work to be done, said Dr. Kate Hale, UW-Eau Claire's Campus Sustainability Fellow and member of the chancellor's Climate Commitment Advisory Group.

"This report will help guide our discussions as we determine next steps and timelines for projects that will keep our sustainability efforts moving forward," Hale said.

With electricity resulting in significant GHG emissions each year, the plan states that meaningful structural and behavior changes are needed to reduce energy consumption on campus. Behavioral changes include things like turning off lights and electrical devices when not in use, and setting computers to go into sleep mode. Structural changes include increasing lighting efficiencies and installing geothermal heating on new buildings.

Heating also accounts for much of the carbon emissions each year. Increased efficiency is needed, which can take place through improving the heat retention in buildings or by reducing the amount of GHGs emitted by the University Heating Plant, the report states.

"Possible changes that can be made include increasing the amount of natural gas burned, the use of geothermal heating for all new buildings, incorporation of passive solar in all new buildings, and renovating the current heating plant to increase the percentage of less carbon dense alternative fuels it can use, or building an entirely new heating plant," the report states.

Changes already are under way in some residence halls, with new radiators, windows and pipes being installed. Upgrades to residence hall heating systems and windows should and will continue in future summers, the report states.

Researchers also found that about half of the transportation-related carbon emissions on campus come from student, faculty and staff commuting.

"While (transportation) is not the greatest contributor to our university carbon footprint, it is still substantial and must be reduced to achieve carbon neutrality," the report states. "To eliminate all transportation is impractical, so changes in commuting patterns and increases in vehicle fuel efficiency offer a more reasonable emission reduction solution."

Reducing the emissions from commuting can came in the form of increasing bus ridership, increasing non-automotive commuting or increasing carpooling, the report states.

The inventory report also notes several existing programs that reduce the amount of carbon emitted by UW-Eau Claire. Examples include an Eau Claire Transit Company agreement that allows students, faculty and staff to ride buses at no cost; the university's contract with Veolia Environmental Services, which uses a waste-to-energy program; and the preservation of university-owned land.

The Carbon Neutral Team included in its report nonquantitative recommendations, including seeking grants to retrofit the campus with energy-efficient appliances, forming environmental student initiatives to encourage awareness of climate change and including environmental sustainability in the curriculum.

"While some environmental actions do not directly reduce the university's carbon footprint, such actions nevertheless contribute to the long-term goals of environmental sustainability, efficient resource management and carbon neutrality," the report states.

The full report can be found online. A summary of recommendations included in the Carbon Neutral Team's report also can be found online.

Stories highlighting current sustainability efforts on campus can be found online.

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JB

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