University of Colorado Sustainability Initiatives

February 27th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Not long ago we raised some questions about how well the University of Colorado’s commitment to sustainability was actually being reflected in actions. Recent remarks by our Chancellor, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, at a conference on sustainability last week suggest that our campus leadership is in fact now taking this issue seriously. Here is an excerpt:

First, on behalf of CU-Boulder I have pledged to participate in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (PCC), which will solidify our goal of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. CU-Boulder will begin immediately, a detailed inventory of our current emissions; then, within two years, the campus will outline short and long-term strategies for emission reductions to reach the PCC goal of “climate neutrality” – zero net GHG.

This is a bold challenge, but CU-Boulder has an excellent record to build upon. Today, the University purchases 10 percent of the campus’s electricity from renewable sources, and we have reduced our electrical consumption by 13 percent per square foot since 2001. In addition, CU-Boulder has helped to generate 3.2 million rides per year on RTD buses through participation in RTD’s Ecopass program, created a recycling program that is diverting 1600 tons from landfills annually (and has saved the campus about $2.4 million in avoided costs over the past three years alone) and pioneered water conservation programs that save over 110 million gallons annually on campus.

Most of all, our students are to be credited for their leadership in helping to make the recently completed ATLAS building at CU-Boulder the first public building in the state of Colorado to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification – one of only seven buildings statewide to achieve such a designation.

With the need for a centralized heating and cooling facility to be built, we must take new and stronger measures to offset our purchase of electricity from sources that increase our carbon output. To assist in this process, I am pleased to announce that in the next fiscal year, we will begin investing $250,000 annually in projects to reduce campus energy consumption, particularly electrical consumption. At some point in the near future, we expect we may seek new funds or a reallocation of a portion of the $250,000 for renewable energy production systems on campus properties or close to the campus.

I am also asking that investments beyond the $250,000 per year be considered for future funding as a pressing campus priority in order to aggressively pursue options for greatly reducing CU-Boulder’s GHG emissions. To offset our carbon output in the meantime, our campus has committed to spending an additional $50,000 per year for the purchase of renewable wind energy.

Finally, I am pleased to announce one more measure that I believe will lay the groundwork for even more progress toward sustainability. That is the establishment of the Chancellor’s Committee on Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CCEES), a working group to be led by Vice Chancellor for Administration Paul Tabolt, charged with setting sustainability goals for the campus and advising the university on all environmental matters.

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