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University examines energy use on campus

Katie Peralta | Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In an effort to encourage campus energy reduction, the Notre Dame Office of Sustainability recently released its first annual Sustainability Report highlighting the successes of University-wide green initiatives. 

The report, which examines the 2008-09 academic year, focused on seven areas of campus energy expenditure: power generation, design and construction, waste reduction, transportation, procurement, food services and water.

“This is an opportunity to show people how we’re doing,” Rachel Novick, coordinator of Education and Outreach for the Office of Sustainability, said.  “[The report demonstrates] the need for more participation from the community and from students.”

The University administration hopes the report will promote long-term campus sustainability efforts.

“This information helps us plan carefully and balance with other University needs to ensure a sustainable future for generations of students to come,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in a letter included in the report.

Novick said the effort is a collaborative one that includes the Office of Sustainability and the student body as well as other University departments, such as Food and Transportation Services. She said successes of individual departments include Transportation Service’s launch of a pilot program to give preferred parking to low emissions vehicles. So far, 23 such parking spots exist on campus and Novick said the community has responded well to the program.

“[The program was] definitely substantial,” Novick said. “We definitely hope to expand it.”

Novick said the Office of Sustainability has taken steps to improve campus-wide recycling as well, and part of the initiative includes a comprehensive Game Day recycling program.

“Over the past two years we have tried to make recycling the norm,” Novick said. “We provide easy access to recycling … [and] teach people what can be recycled.”

The Energy Metrics section of the report indicates a decline in four key areas: total carbon emissions, energy intensity of campus buildings, total electricity usage and carbon intensity of the power plant’s fuel mix.

The report shows a decline in all four areas over the past three years, most notably a 4-percent decrease in energy consumption per square foot in 2008-09 and a 7.5-percent decrease in total carbon emitted from electricity.

Additionally, campus electricity demand declined 2.5 percent, even though campus grew by 280,000 square feet with recent construction, according to the report. It was the first year that campus electricity demand has declined since the 1970s.

“[Sustainability] is a key priority at Notre Dame, like most leading universities in the country,” Novick said. “It’s a fast-moving area and there is a strong need to track performance.”

Student body engagement in campus sustainability, Novick said, is crucial for its success. The Office of Sustainability works closely with residence halls to promote awareness and encourage energy saving.

The Office of Sustainability sponsored the first-ever Dorm Energy Competition in fall 2008, Novick said. The winning residence hall, Walsh, reduced electricity consumption by 30 percent, according to the report.

Novick said the Office of Sustainability hopes to release the report every year to demonstrate the University’s sustainability achievements and hopes to publish it at the end of each summer.