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December 2008 - January 2009

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Lee Capristo
Director of Publications
Anne Arundel 100

Campus Committee Seeks Energy-cutting Ideas

Energy ideas 

by Christophe Bornand, Sustainability Committee Coordinator

With St. Mary’s College’s energy expenditures topping $2 million in 2008, “going green” can mean staying out of the red. Rising energy costs coupled with an uncertain economy have made sustainability and budgetary conservatism unlikely allies in resource conservation.

This school year, St. Mary’s College students and the administration have joined together to prove that sustainability is a powerful tool to respond to environmental and economical challenges. The College Sustainability Committee, composed of students, faculty, and staff, has identified the College’s energy use as its most important and pressing target this year. The College’s consumption of energy has been on the rise, a result of increased student enrollment, several new buildings, and, of course, the record-high prices of electricity, oil and propane (the three main College energy sources). High costs combined with increased consumption mean energy is having a larger-than-ever impact on the College budget.

Perhaps most important to the global community, the College’s energy use has a significant environmental impact. Electricity generated in remote power plants for use on campus, as well as oil and propane burned on campus to activate boilers and other mechanical systems, are direct sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global climate change. In fact, on-campus energy use constitutes the vast majority of the College’s carbon footprint – many times more than transportation and solid waste combined.

So, what are we doing about it? Recent efforts to reduce the College’s carbon footprint have included an energy performance contract, construction of the LEED-Silver certified Goodpaster Hall, a geothermal heating system for the new River Center, and the student referendum to create a “green energy fund.”

This year, the Sustainability Committee has been constantly reminding the entire College community to reflect on how energy is used daily and to contribute ideas for ways to reduce energy waste. The suggestions collected by the Committee range from small-scale, low-cost ideas to very ambitious propositions that include researching and funding the production of renewable energy on campus. Further, the suggestions do not focus only on upgrading campus infrastructure. Many ideas propose either an adjustment of campus operations (for example, optimizing the hours of operations of some buildings) or a change of behavior (turning off our computers when we leave).

The Committee is currently assessing these saving ideas for their benefits, cost and impacts. Final recommendations will then be presented to and vetted by the College community. Implementation of these energy conservation initiatives will certainly necessitate some adjustments in daily life and effort from everyone in the campus community. This seems to be a small price to pay for cutting energy costs by thousands of dollars, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of tons every year, and moving well on our way towards a more sustainable future.

Green New Year’s Resolutions

1.  Turn off lights and appliances when you don’t use them. Even better, unplug.
2.  Replace your light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs.
3.  Use your home thermostat. In summer, set the thermostat between 78 and 83 degrees. In winter, set the thermostat between 65 and 68 degrees during the day and between 50 and 60 degrees at night, and when you are away.
4.  Save energy when doing the laundry. Only do laundry when you have a full load.
5.  Make sure your refrigerator is set on the correct temperature.
6.  Make efficient use of hot water. Take shorter showers! Install efficient shower and faucet heads. Set water heater on “low,” or approximately 120 degrees, which is perfectly adequate for most home use.
7.  Only heat or cool the rooms you need. Close vents and doors of unused rooms.
8.  Weatherize and insulate. Seal and weather-strip windows and doors to plug leaks. If possible, install storm windows, doors.
9.  The sun’s energy is free! Take advantage of this free energy by opening window shades on sunny days on south-facing glass in the winter. In the summer, do the opposite: close shades and blinds.
10.  When shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label.