Getting To Carbon Neutrality- March 13, 2012
Students at CU Boulder should feel especially dignified in their efforts to reach carbon neutrality. In 2007, the CUSG made a pledge to reduce the net emissions of greenhouse gases by 15% for the three largest student-run facilities on campus. These three buildings – the University Memorial Center, the Recreation Center, and Wardenburg Health Center – have all implemented energy-efficient solutions to reduce our most used resources, such as electricity and water. You’ve noticed the dual-flush toilets in the UMC, and the new solar panels installed above the parking lot at Williams Village. The most recent effort has been put into a Carbon Neutrality Forum, where students had the opportunity to engage in conversation with professors and other professionals about what communication work is necessary to initiate student participation. It’s this type of energy planning that has allowed CU to make the progress that we’ve made thus far.
But according to the panel for the Carbon Neutrality forum, we are far from our goal of substantially decreasing our carbon footprint. As much progress as we’ve made, the CUSG in collaboration with the CU Environmental Center are making a great effort to decrease carbon emissions by 20% before 2020. Yet this is obviously a great challenge, considering they are on a mission to change the everyday ritualistic habits of around 30,000 students.
The first step to making significant change requires an understanding of what contributes waste, and which factors we control. There are three types of carbon emissions. Scope one includes all direct greenhouse gas emissions, such as emissions from combustion in owned controlled boilers, furnaces, and vehicles. The electricity generated by companies such as Excel categorizes scope two. These types of emissions are under the control of the entities that emit them, as opposed to the third scope. This scope includes indirect emissions that are out of our control, such as consequences of activity by a business.
According to Carly Robinson, of the CU Student Government, it is important to focus on what is within our control. Most fundamental is prevention through conservation and efficiency, or “pre-cycling”. Cutting our energy load and using energy resourcefully are two ways to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. On a large scale, these solutions mean upgrading buildings. Yet on a smaller scale, we can upgrade lighting, appliances, heating appliances and cooling technology with high efficiency light bulbs, water pressure caps and more energy efficient equipment.
As a consumer, we can make certain purchasing decisions that not only boosts our local economy, but lowers our dependence on diesel gas and other packaging and energy used to transport produce. Buying our groceries close to home can mean a lot, because our food does not need to travel as far, does not need to be stored in cold temperatures, and is way more fresh! When shopping, it is also important to keep a product’s life-cycle impacts in mind. If we buy only products whose impacts are minimal, this can help us save energy, reduce emissions, and increase the market for high performance products in the future.
Another primary contributor to our carbon footprint is the emissions that are derived from transportation. The first option is to get rid of your fuel dependence altogether, ride your bike, and work those calves. CU and the city of Boulder has made it more convenient to ride bikes – even more so than cars – by widening sidewalks, creating extensive bike paths, providing adequate bike racks, and rewarding bikers. Many programs in Boulder make it so you can receive free food just for using energy efficient transportation! If biking isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you need to sell your car and buy a new hybrid; try using public transportation and carpooling as often as you can. You have a free bus pass, now use it! The RTD goes pretty much anywhere, and will save you money on gas in the long run. And a big plus: you won’t have to deal with Boulder drivers.
Fundamentally, getting involved through local community activism can make the most paramount difference. At times it may seem that our efforts are ineffective in the large-scale climate problem, but this simply is not true. As students, you have the power to change policies and demand action from the University. You make up almost one-third of the City of Boulder, deeming you a great catalyst for larger-scale change within the Boulder County legal system. All we have to do is take the next step, and go from eco-awareness to eco-action.
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Article by: Daniele Rosenthal