Nov. 12, 2009
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU president signs American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment; outlines SRU efforts in greening, sustainability
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Robert Smith, president of Slippery Rock University and a longtime proponent of environmental sustainability, today signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment saying, "Slippery Rock University is committed to helping lead the region in reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, starting with our own campus."
"Slippery Rock University has long been a leader in modeling sustainability issues. Joining with presidents of other American colleges and universities is a natural step as we accept the challenge to become even more sustainable," Smith said.
Launched in 2007, the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitmentis a network of signatory schools, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 660 institutions have signed the ACUPCC. This high-visibility effort to address global warming garners institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education in an effort to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate.
The ACUPCC is led by a steering committee comprised of more than 20 university and college presidents. The lead supporting organization of the initiative is the national nonprofit Second Nature, based in Boston, with additional key support provided by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
"We are proud of our decades-long greening efforts which have already proven successful. We are proud of the graduates of our master's in sustainable systems program and their work in the region and across the U.S. in expanding and creating new sustainability solutions, including building support for buying locally grown produce and promoting organically grown foods, while simultaneously reducing carbon footprints. We also realize there is much more to accomplish," Smith said.
"By becoming a party to the President's Climate Commitment, I am signifying that Slippery Rock University will expand even further its greening and sustainability efforts. We have a 600-plus acre campus with more than 8,600 students supported by more than 1,000 faculty and staff. We must find ways to help reduce the impact the University has on the environment. To that end, we will continue to explore and implement opportunities to reduce greenhouse gasses, reduce and recycle waste and improve efficiencies that lead to a reduction in the University's overall environmental impact," he said.
The University is currently developing its Strategic Plan that will set the institution's course and mission through the year 2025.
"Our new Strategic Plan will incorporate steps that allow SRU to continue its leadership role in both sustainability and greening and will bring new projects to campus that help ensure our graduates have the skills, experience and leadership qualities necessary to continue to identify and solve issues related to the environment," Smith said.
Smith was joined at the signing ceremony in Old Main by a number of students and faculty supporting the University's greening efforts.
"Our students have clearly been at the forefront of our greening programs, and we thank them for their leadership," Smith said. He cited The Green Fund, a student-initiated program that seeks project ideas and steers funds to green and sustainable programs on campus and in the community as one example of where students were the driving force.
This year's projects included funding for trash/recycling containers, electricity usage monitors, support for the Student Government Association bus project allowing greater efficiency in routing and fuel consumption, renovations to Harmony House at the Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainability Education and Research, and purchase of a recycling bailer, as well as other projects.
"Our students have stepped forward to create the Green Bike Initiative, which allows students to share bicycles and helps reduce the number of cars on campus, and our students have attended numerous workshops and programs, including the annual PowerShift Conference, that promote environmental issues and understanding. It is clear SRU students understand that greening and sustainability are issues important today and in the future, and I am particularly proud of their work and their research," Smith said.
In addition to student and faculty initiatives, Smith pointed to SRU' academic programs in environmental studies programs, including geology, geography and the environment, and the University's programs in environmental education programs offered by the parks and recreation department.
SRU also serves as the administrator for the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education and the McKeever Environmental Learning Center in Sandy Lake.
Using a series of slides, Smith said that while the campus square footage in buildings has increased from 1.9 million in 2003-04, to just under 2.5 million in 2008-09, total energy use has decreased, primarily through a 44 percent reduction in coal usage over the last five years and through increased efficiency and better use of insulation and energy-efficient windows.
The University's annual Btu energy use per square foot of building area stood at 187,714 in 2003-04, and was down to 142,498 Btus last year. "The other side of that coin, however, is that actual energy costs for suppliers, which are beyond our control, have continued to climb, and are having a dramatic impact on our overall budget."
The University has pursued an ESCO process to decrease the Btu/sq.ft. -consumption of energy on campus by 1.5 percent each year. The ESCO project is guaranteed to save $3,657,085 during the 15-year service life of the project and save 549,482 kilowatts per year. For FY '07-'08, BTU/sq.ft. - consumption decreased 33.13 percent versus the base year FY '04-'05 and decreased 8.70 percent versus FY '03-'04.
"Information we have shows that at peer institutions, energy usage has also decreased, down about 5 percent on average, while at SRU, energy usage is down 25 percent," Smith said.
As part of its greening efforts, SRU makes use of natural cleaning supplies where possible and the SGA Bookstore offers natural cleaning and hygiene products and recycled school supplies to the campus community. At SRU's spring 2010 graduation, graduates will wear caps and gowns made from 100 percent, post-consumer recycled plastic - another small step toward greening.
According to the ACUPCC, most colleges and universities across the nation will likely develop plans with many incremental steps and strategies for revision of the plan over the 20-40 year time period they cover. These plans offer specific, good faith steps the institutions expect to take to reach climate neutrality. Many schools are also outlining innovative ways that they are re-orienting their educational offerings to prepare students to meet the massive challenge of climate change they will face after graduation.
As part of SRU's entry to the Climate Commitment, the University will submit its own plan within two years.
"SRU, like other University, faces a number of serious environmental problems, including finding adequate funding to implement plans to reduce our carbon footprint. Some of the solutions are simple, but possibly at an increased cost. Our heating plant, which supplies steam for heat and hot water to our campus, including our residence halls, makes use of a coal-fired system. We have steadily decreased our dependency on coal and have drastically reduced emissions. We are in the process of installing of a very expensive baghouse system to further decrease emissions. Despite the cost, we are going ahead, because it is the right thing to do. Are we where we want to be, no, but we are committed to finding a cost-effective solution. At the same time, we are implementing programs to help reduce use of electricity as the price of electrical power continues to increase."
Greening efforts have been under way on campus for more than two decades, starting primarily with the ALTER Project created by the late Robert A. Macoskey, SRU philosophy professor for whom the on-campus Robert A Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research is named.
The Macoskey Center serves as a laboratory and demonstration center for numerous greening projects, including a photovoltaic array that turns sunlight into electrical power and a wind turbine that generates electricity. Straw-bale building techniques have been taught by the center along with community, organic gardening projects.
The University has a robust recycling program. In total, the University annually recycles more than 273,000 tons of material that would have been sent to landfills. In addition, 16 tons of pre-consumer food scraps are taken from campus dining halls and combined with leaves collected on campus and from the community to make compost that is then used for campus beautification projects.
SRU also recycles its electronics (computers and televisions) through the state prison system which dismantles the units making parts and other components available for reuse.
The University's six new residence halls, built in collaboration with the Slippery Rock University Foundation Inc., are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified and the University has declared that all need construction and renovation projects must meet LEED standards.
The new halls include motion detectors that provide lighting on demand as well as computer-controlled heating systems that monitor outside air temperature as a way of efficiently providing heating or cooling as needed within the halls. In addition, the University launched a campuswide program to automatically move computers to "sleep mode" when not in use.
Water conserving sink faucets and automatic flush toilets have been installed where feasible and are helping the University conserve water - and money. A massive office and classroom lighting retrofit was completed in 2002 and is showing considerable electrical energy saving for the campus.
For more information, visit www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.