University plans to reduce emissions to 1990 level by 2020
The University announced its campus Sustainability Plan on Thursday, pledging to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The effort is also outlined in the University’s new 10-year Campus Plan.
“We feel that we have an obligation as an institution to create an environment where students, faculty and staff can see the institution trying out new technologies ... or trying to change behavior,” Executive Vice President Mark Burstein said.
Though the Sustainability Plan only outlines means by which to cut 75 percent of target emissions, the University hopes to develop methods to cut the remaining 25 percent as well, Sustainability Manager Shana Weber said.
“What’s so encouraging is that we’ve set the bar higher than we can easily achieve, which means we have to push ourselves,” she added.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the University will require all new construction to use 50 percent less energy than required by current codes. These restrictions will apply as the University expands by two million square feet and completes the Lewis Library and Streicker Bridge.
Likewise, the restrictions will apply to the construction of elements of the new 10-year Campus Plan, including the Lewis Center for the Arts, a satellite building for the Princeton University Art Museum, the new Dinky Station and the neuroscience and psychology buildings.
The Sustainability Plan has been developed over the past year and a half with input from the Office of Sustainability, students, faculty and staff. Ten working groups examined the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, resource conservation and community education and addressed issues such as Dining Services, construction methods, and grounds and landscaping.
The Sustainability Plan was “thoroughly integrated in the Campus Plan,” Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee ’69 said.
“Certainly achieving the expected reductions in emissions will be a real challenge, especially as the university continues to expand rapidly,” Mark Smith ’09, a member of the Carbon Dioxide Working Group for the Office of Sustainability, said in an e-mail.
“If you’re talking strictly about global warming and our carbon dioxide emission ... the most important parts of the plan revolving around using power more efficiently ... that’s where our biggest carbon footprint is,” Weber said.
Yale proposed a similar plan in 2005 that required a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 90 percent of 1990 emissions by 2020.
“Implementing this plan will cost more than it will save,” Burstein said, adding that “some of [the] investment will be paid back with lower energy costs.”
The Sustainability Plan will likely cost tens of millions of dollars, Burstein told The Times of Trenton.
The University, however, will not have to bear the cost of the plan alone. The High Meadows Foundation, which supports environmentally friendly projects, will contribute funds to help offset the costs. The High Meadows Foundation also funded two freshman seminars last fall and funds fellowships that place new graduates in firms that work to improve the environment. The fellowships are administered by the PACE Center.
The plan also calls for a 10 percent reduction by 2020 in the number of cars used to commute to campus every day.
The plan recommends allocating funds for commuter use of public transportation, expanding the campus shuttle system, creating incentives for walking and biking to campus, and replacing University vehicles with low-emissions ones.
“I’m proud of Princeton for making this step,” Connor Cobean ’08, a member of the Transportation Working Group, said. “Princeton has been reluctant to commit to a goal, but we’ve done that now, and I think we’re on the right road.”
The experimental laboratory
The Sustainability Plan recommended using the University’s campus to test new environmental techniques to find better ways to cut emissions. This includes the use of “green roofs,” which include covering roofs with a waterproofing membrane, soil and vegetation to reduce energy costs.
“One of the things that I think is interesting ... is that we’re going to have some opportunities to do some testing of ideas,” Durkee said.