Chatham University Professional Development Series: Sustainable Chatham

By: Kayla Copes

On Wednesday, May 8th, Chatham students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Mellon Board Room to hear Director of Sustainability, Mary Whitney, give a talk on Chatham’s progress of becoming a sustainable university. Whitney started off talking about how everyone needs to be an advocate for sustainability and to “keep the conversation going.”

The bulk of Whitney’s talk was on Chatham’s goal to have a neutral carbon footprint. She showed us the software that she uses to calculate the carbon footprint.  The software was what she called a carbon calculator and she calculates all of the carbon emissions that the Chatham community uses. Emissions made on campus were mostly from natural gas such things as outsource travel, study abroad travel, and air travel. There are various items that Mary tracks on her carbon calculator. Another calculator that Whitney used was the GHG (Greenhouse Gas) calculator. Whitney said that she got most of her calculations from the Business Office.

Commuter miles are calculated from parking permit data that is done or students, faculty, and staff. Some of the emissions that are calculated are electricity, gasoline for fleet & air travel, (which are bought), solid waste refrigerants, commuting, etc. Whitney showed the audience a pie chart of total emissions from 2011. 82% came from Direct Transportation so Whitney said that the main focus needed to be on transportation to reduce carbon footprint.

The next graph broke down emissions into 3 scopes. Scope 1 was based on emissions from everyday life including: faculty/staff commuting, study abroad travel, and the highest amount, 33%, came from commuting students. Scope 2 was purchased electricity and Scope 3 was waste and paper. Overall, a 68% reduction in GHG has been achieved.

Chatham has started various initiatives to achieve the goal of a neutral carbon footprint. Some of the initiatives include composting, paper reduction, and recycling bottles and cans; also within these elimination of plastic water bottles. Other initiatives were heating and that brought solar panels that sit on top of Fickes and Woodland residence halls. The lighting initiative brought new lighting to Eastside. The transportation initiative brought shuttles that use 5% biodiesel fuel. Whitney said that biodiesel fuel is hard to get so they’re working on an alternative to the shuttles for the future.

So what have all of these initiatives done to our carbon footprint thus far? Well, from a net emissions standpoint, emissions have decreased since Chatham started the sustainability project in 2007. The GHG emissions per full time student have gone down as well. What’s on tap for the future? Whitney said that the goal is by 2015 to have a 10% reduction, by 2020 a 20% reduction, and by 2025 to have a 100& reduction on our carbon footprint. “According to Whitney there has to be a behavior change in the Chatham community in order for this goal to be attained.”

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