Submitted on September 15, 2009; last updated on November 6, 2009
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Strategies: To set reduction goals for the colleges first Climate Action Plan (CAP), Agnes Scotts Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC) agreed to three phases of action. Phase one strategies include: 1) energy conservation through behavioral change, education and incentives; 2) energy efficiency through mechanical retrofitting and deferred maintenance programs; 3) design, renovation, and construction of efficient buildings; 4) alternative transportation programs for commuters; and 5) reduction of waste to landfills through green purchasing, recycling, and composting. Phase two strategies will incorporate renewable energy technologies. An assessment of the feasibility of financing and installing solar power solutions has been initiated, since solar is the best renewable option available at this time. Phase three strategies will focus on purchase of green power and renewable energy credits or carbon offsets.
Progress to date: We have already achieved significant progress in the areas of efficiency and conservation. In 2008-2009 (the first year of our CAP) conservation efforts included: establishing an energy policy, changing operating hours temperatures to ASHRAE standards (off hours were already set to the standard), minimizing building operating schedules, and encouraging behavioral change, such as turning off lights, computers, and printers. These activities resulted in an approximate 7% reduction in electricity use in year one. Expanded commuter incentives (reduced parking rates and designated spaces) were introduced. Year two will focus on achieving efficiency through mechanical retrofitting, to include installing occupancy sensors, replacing light bulbs, and replacing outdated equipment. An energy audit and master plan will also be completed in year two to coordinate the mechanical retrofit plan with the plan for addressing deferred maintenance. In 2008, the Board of Trustees passed a policy for renovations and new construction to strive for LEED Silver certification. One major renovation completed in 2009 is slated for LEED Silver and another is being designed for LEED Gold.
Agnes Scott stepped up its efforts to incorporate sustainability into the curriculum this year. Four new courses were offered with a direct tie to the colleges sustainability program, ranging from a seminar on alternative energy to a class on green learning spaces. This spring, faculty approved a new minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESS) which will launch this fall. The ESS minor will combine natural and social science courses and promote experiential learning by helping students undertake environmental internships on and off campus. The first course for the minor, ESS 101, will be co-taught by the director of sustainability and a biology professor in spring 2010. A study designed to benchmark the current level of faculty engagement and interest in sustainability was conducted in spring 2009 by a professor and student and presented at the colleges spring research conference. This study will form the basis of sustainability across the curriculum workshop for faculty in 2010, dubbed the Azalea Project and modeled on Emory Universitys Piedmont Project.
Student interns have been integrally involved in every stage of Agnes Scotts climate neutrality efforts. A biology student conducted the GHG emissions inventory in 2008 and several students contributed to the CAP and are working on a broader sustainability plan.
Sustainability education and action has shaped the experience of all students through the colleges single-stream recycling and food composting efforts, the work of environmental residents in dorms, and participation in Recyclemania (Agnes Scott earned 38th place nationally in the per capita division). This year, we will develop a more systematic approach to assessing and promoting education in sustainability for all students. Plans include inclusion of questions in first-year and senior surveys and the installation of dashboard technology in residence halls to provide real time data on energy and water use.
At the heart of Agnes Scotts climate neutrality efforts is a commitment to making the campus a living laboratory for sustainability research, teaching and action. Critical to this approach is an emphasis on developing in-house expertise and maximizing the participation of the college community students, faculty and staff in sustainability research. This emphasis has been reflected in the role of students, faculty and staff in conducting the colleges GHG emissions inventory and developing CAP goals. We have also undertaken a water audit and water use reduction plan with staff, faculty and student labor. Initial results of this water audit were presented by students at the colleges annual research conference in 2009.
While this approach de-emphasizes the use of outside consultants, we will partner with outside consultants and researchers to provide expert assistance and third party or peer review to ensure the accuracy of our findings and recommendations. For example, a grant from the Atlanta Community Foundation funded an energy audit of our gym, and we have a grant proposal pending to support the development of a campus-wide energy audit and master plan through shared staff from an energy consulting firm. Our goal with every research project is to expand community buy-in and to build research capacity among students, faculty and staff.
In the short term the new ESS program (described in section 2 above) will be the home for much of this research activity. A long-term goal is the establishment of a Center for Environmental and Sustainability Studies on campus in order to share our knowledge through training programs with other colleges and universities. The activities of this center will be augmented by our existing partnerships with local governments and national organizations (see next section).
Agnes Scott is partnering with local governments within whose jurisdiction we fall. The City of Decatur funds approximately 1/5 of the salary for the colleges sustainability fellow so that she can work with the citys Environmental Sustainability Board on their climate action and sustainability plans. At the county level, the colleges director of sustainability serves on DeKalb Countys new Green Commission and a recent Agnes Scott graduate has been appointed as the commissions first intern. Agnes Scott representatives have given presentations to both local governments about the colleges GHG emissions inventory, CAP and overall sustainability efforts. The college is also taking part in a new urban farm initiative being planned by the City of Decatur. In 2008-2009 we partnered with the Campus Ecology program of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to host a regional climate action forum for colleges, schools and municipalities in north Georgia. ACUPCC founder Anthony Cortese spoke at our annual alumnae leadership conference and participated in the NWF forum. We have committed to assisting NWF with future regional events and will encourage participants from last years forum to attend public lectures offered in conjunction with the ESS 101 course.
In cooperation with Emory University, we are researching the colleges options for accessing federal stimulus funding to support our climate neutrality plans. Sustainability director Susan Kidd serves on the Atlanta Regional Commissions sustainability advisory committee and has attended their planning sessions for regional stimulus funds. Finally, the college has hosted several sustainability related events, including a sustainability workshop for the local chapter of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, as well as the 1,000-attendee Georgia Organics annual conference.
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