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Update on Catawba's Commitment to Climate Neutrality

January 15, 2010

Category: Environmental Science


Climate CommitmentMuch has been going on behind the scenes since June of 2007 when Catawba College joined close to 300 other colleges and universities nationwide in supporting the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Today, Catawba submitted its completed Climate Action Plan to the ACUPCC.

The plan, formulated over several months by a Presidential Climate Commitment committee, consisting of faculty, staff, students and a trustee, sets 2030 as the goal date for Catawba to achieve climate neutrality. That goal is achievable, committee members agree, if the institution's carbon footprint is reduced by five percent each year.

Since it was established in the summer of 2007, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling has had the responsibility of gathering data on Catawba's carbon emissions. That data has been used graphically in the Climate Action Plan to create a snapshot of Catawba' current carbon footprint.

In addition to providing a current look at Catawba's carbon footprint, the plan outlines  efforts underway to both educate the campus and broader community about how individuals can help the institution achieve climate neutrality. It also outlines current efforts underway on campus to mitigate carbon emissions. It includes a financial section and recommends some institutional strategies that may be implemented to help achieve the plan goal by the 2030 deadline.

Members of the Presidential Climate Commitment (PCC) committee who collaborate to create the plan include Mr. David Najarian, Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling Coordinator and Chair of the PCC Committee; Mr. Greg Alcorn, member of the Catawba College Board of Trustees; Dr. Jim Beard, Professor of Chemistry; Mrs. Tonia Black-Gold, Chief Communications Officer; Dr. Sue Calcagni, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science; Ms. Lisa Howard-Cardwell, Office Manager and Assistant Coordinator for the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling; Ms. Rebecca Chinnis, student; Mr. Henry Haywood, Director of Facilities (no longer with the institution); Mr. Richard Pickel, Network/PC Engineer; Dr. Joe Poston, Associate Professor and Chair of Biology; Mr. Dan Robertson, Outreach Specialist, Center for the Environment; Mr. Devin Rodgers, student; Dr. John Wear, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and Director of the Center for the Environment; and Mr. Chuck Williams, Vice President of Business and Finance.
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The ACUPCC was officially launched June 11 and 12, 2007 at the ACUPCC Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. Participating institutions of higher education agreed to "exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality."

According to then Catawba President, Dr. Robert Knott, the commitment which he and his peers have signed in 2007 was more than "just a gesture."

"While the title reads as if this is a coalition of college and university presidents working together on common environmental issues, the commitment required actually involves the entire institution. There are some substantial changes that Catawba and other institutions are pledging to make based on this commitment," Knott said. "This is a policy decision which will require some expenditures to make good on our pledge which is why we sought approval from our board of trustees.

"Catawba prides itself on the leadership role its Center for the Environment has taken in our region and state. Our participation in this commitment is simply another way to serve in a leadership role as we pursue ideas and methods to assure and promote sustainability and environmental stewardship in the 21st Century. We are saying to our students and to those in our community that we don't just talk the talk, we walk the walk."

Participating institutions pledged to develop "a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible."  Within two months of signing the agreement, they were required to "create institutional structure to guide the development and implementation of the plan."  Within one year of signing the document, these same institutions had to  complete "a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, community, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter."  The schools also set target dates and goals for achieving climate neutrality, expanding research into that area, and implementing mechanisms that measure the progress towards climate neutrality.

Additionally, member colleges and universities had to "initiate two or more of the following tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gases while the more comprehensive plan is being developed":

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  • Establish a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver standard or equivalent.
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  • Adopt an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of ENERGY STAR certified products in all areas for which such ratings exist.
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  • Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.
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  • Encourage use of and provide access to public transportation for all faculty, staff, students and visitor at our institution.
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  • Within one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15% of our institution's electricity consumption from renewable sources.
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  • Establish a policy or a committee that supports climate and sustainability shareholder proposals at companies where our institution's endowment is invested.
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Catawba's Climate Action Plan, like those created by other participating institutions, will be "publicly available" through both its institutional website and through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHR) which both posts and disseminates those plans.

For more details on the ACUPCC, visit www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.


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