By Bob Nosbisch
Fighting for Climate Neutrality
Environmentally sound buildings. Reduced vehicle emissions on campus. A continuing search for alternative energy sources. A campuswide task force to address these challenges.
When NMSU President Michael Martin signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment last spring, the university joined more than 200 other institutions around the country addressing global warming.
The university is committed to completing an inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting and air travel, by April 17, and to updating the inventory every other year. Also by April 17, at least 15 percent of the university’s electricity use must come from renewable sources.
By April 17, 2009, the university must buy ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist. Also by this date, a five-point comprehensive action plan for becoming climate neutral must be developed. The plan must establish a target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible; interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality; actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences for all students; actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality; and mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.
The university is well on its way to meeting these goals on several fronts.
LEEDing the way
One mandate of the climate commitment calls for all new construction and major remodeling projects to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Silver standard or equivalent. The rating system is the national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.
Michael Rickenbaker, NMSU architect and director of facilities planning and construction, was named to the board of the Green Building Council’s Chihuahuan Desert Chapter. Rickenbaker’s selection “helps ensure we are extending our reach to the broader region,” said Ben Woods, NMSU senior vice president for planning, physical resources and university relations.
A leaner, greener vehicle fleet
Mobility around campus also is changing, thanks to the addition of three new Aggie Shuttle Service routes. By riding the shuttle, employees and students who leave their vehicles in the parking lots near the Pan American Center now can save a little gas money and a lot of time that normally would be spent trying to find vacant parking spots. As vehicle flow in the inner campus is reduced, so is the amount of carbon emissions from those vehicles.
Last year, NMSU bought 28 alternative fuel vehicles. Electric and hybrid vehicles running on diesel with biodiesel or ethanolblended gasoline now make up about 14 percent of the light-duty vehicle fleet.
“The state requires 75 percent of all new vehicles we buy to run on renewable fuel,” said Barry Law, NMSU’s transportation and equipment services manager. He said 15 percent of the fuel the university buys by 2010 must be renewable. And while compressed natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline, it does not count toward the 15 percent.
Alternative energy research
NMSU researchers are continuing their efforts to provide energy through alternative or renewable sources. Solar panels placed on top of a parking structure by the Student Health Center provide energy as well as shade. Solar energy also can be used to purify water. Wind turbines are increasing. And while some researchers are working on hydrogen fuel cells that convert chemicals into energy, others are working on turning cattle manure into energy.
All-encompassing task force
Another mandate of the climate change commitment calls for the university to “create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan” within two months of the signing of the commitment. This was created when the Energy Task Force was re-established as the Sustainability and Climate Change Task Force (SCCTF). Led by College of Education Dean Robert Moulton, the task force expanded to include NMSU’s two-year campuses. The task force also includes student government.