Via the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), over 665 institutions have pledged to pursue climate neutrality in their operations, over 600 have publicly reported their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and over 400 have published climate action plans.
Reducing Campus Carbon Footprint
Northern-Indiana-based Goshen College is one of 91 charter members of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The college has dedicated itself to reducing its “carbon footprint” while at the same time providing the education, research, and community engagement needed for the rest of society to do the same.
Environmental commitment can take many forms—building design, material use, food sourcing, and more. College campus environmental commitment plans include a diverse number of activities, from recycling programs to carpooling to landscaping plans. Most experts agree the greatest impact can be felt in the area of energy conservation.
Goshen College has exercised its commitment to the climate and to ACUPCC by measuring and monitoring its energy consumption to determine inefficiencies. As part of a campus-wide sustainability project, the college looked at geothermal energy, solar and wind, LED lighting, and thermal destratification.
Thermal destratification was identified by the Carbon Trust as the primary opportunity for reducing energy consumption. The world’s leading authority on climate protection and sustainability, the Carbon Trust notes that “there have been many products available to reduce energy in buildings—LED lighting, efficient HVAC systems, sub metering, variable speed drive units and improved building fabrics. The fastest growing and most simple energy reduction initiatives—for both existing and new build facilities—is thermal destratification, one of the top carbon reducers for any type of building.”
For Goshen College, thermal destratification is a winning strategy for another reason beyond energy saving—it actually solves problems. Goshen College uses destratification fans from Air-Row Fans in its gym and some of its classrooms. Glenn Gilbert, the director of facilities, notes that the fans were added to resolve problems with hot, stale air. Gilbert says the fans have resolved the air issues and have also helped them save energy at the same time.
Destratification fans, according to Air-Row’s founder and president, Tom Noonan, gather air trapped at the ceiling and push the air down below to equalize the temperature. The savings comes in allowing the HVAC system to cycle down. “We take what is already there— air trapped at the ceiling,” Noonan says, “and treat that air while pushing it down to the floor. We normalize the temperature from floor to ceiling, and allow your expensive HVAC units to cycle down.” It’s a win-win, according to Gilbert: “We solve a problem and we save energy at the same time.”
The college has achieved a 37% decrease in overall energy consumption since 2005, according to Glenn. In fact, Gilbert reports that despite 60% more space on the campus, the college’s energy consumption today is nearly 40% less than what it was in 1992. Toward their climate commitment, this success goes a long way in reducing the college’s “carbon footprint.”
A “carbon footprint” is commonly used as shorthand for carbon dioxide (CO2) and is the total amount of greenhouse gases released as the result of a given activity. We reduce our “carbon footprint” or how much carbon dioxide is created by the choices we make in our homes, our travel, the food we eat, and what we buy and throw away.
Efforts to reduce a carbon footprint are varied and can include electric light efficiency, wind energy, solar, bike programs and carpooling, farming and food sourcing, materials use and recycling, landfill dependence, computer efficiency, building construction, and landscaping.