College working to decrease carbon footprint
Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey has put her signature to a document that commits the college to increasing energy sustainability and making WNC campuses carbon neutral. The document was approved at a college-wide meeting held to kick off the fall semester.
Although the signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment is the college's formal obligation to the program, WNC has a history of taking steps to lessen its impact on the environment.
For years WNC has had a recycling program, and it is now working with Truckee Meadows Community College on a request for proposals from vendors to find ways to save energy and to generate alternative power through solar, wind or geothermal technology.
"The staff came to me more than a year ago to see if I would make the climate commitment, and I said I wouldn't sign it unless there was grassroots support among the staff and faculty to make sure we could honor each one of those actions," Dr. Lucey said.
Many faculty and staff members enthusiastically supported the idea, and a 12-member sustainability committee was created that includes college employees, a student, and representatives from NV Energy and Southwest Gas.
The commitment calls for developing a plan to:
• Achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible,
• Initiate two or more tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while a comprehensive plan is being developed, such as requiring a LEED silver standard or equivalent on new building and purchasing a greater percentage of renewable energy, and
• Create an action plan and post periodic progress reports publicly through the Association of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Daniel Neverett, vice president for finance and administrative services for the college, said the age of some of the campus buildings, which date to 1974, can be a challenge, because promoting energy efficiencies was not as large a factor then. As an example of current efforts in this area, the college just completed a major retrofit of the heating and cooling system in the Bristlecone Building on the Carson campus.
Neverett said a study is being made of the college's carbon footprint, and that should be available late this fall.
"The effort to do this is not just the college and university president's group. The Nevada System of Higher Education also has an energy and sustainability policy that we are following.
"A lot of these projects will depend on our budget and return on investment," he said. "If we put solar cells on one of our buildings, the payback will be over eight to 15 years. There are other things the institution can do, such as purchasing energy-efficient equipment, that can have an immediate effect."
The vice president said the college will be looking for matching grants from utility companies, stimulus money and other sources to make the college's investment in sustainability go farther.
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