Aug. 6, 2007
By Amy Nordrum
Ohio University students, faculty and staff have taken the first step toward climate neutrality by beginning the data collection process for a complete greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
The effort is part of the university's first-year requirements under the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and will culminate in a comprehensive record of how many tons of greenhouse gases are emitted as a result of Ohio University operations and use. The inventory is under way on the Athens campus, and other campuses will be included in the future.
A small committee of students, faculty and staff has been reviewing and collecting data throughout the summer, according to Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus. The completed inventory will be the result of a wider collaboration between groups and individuals on campus throughout the upcoming academic year. Marcus expects the inventory to be completed by March.
"The greenhouse gas emissions inventory is absolutely central to our efforts to address climate change here at Ohio University," she said. "We can't effectively develop strategies to reduce our carbon emissions without having a reasonably good idea of what those emissions are and how they are produced."
The inventory will include data on emissions from every sector of campus, including energy, transportation, solid waste and refrigeration. The Ohio University team is making use of a "calculator" developed by Clean Air-Cool Planet, a nonprofit organization that seeks and promotes solutions to global warming. The calculator is essentially a complex spreadsheet that includes formulas for computing emissions for each data set. Once complete, Ohio University's greenhouse gas emissions inventory will serve as a baseline for discussion and proposals aimed at reducing and offsetting emissions.
"I hope it will really increase interest in our environmental impact across the university community," said inventory team member Amanda Annis, a sophomore philosophy major.
Annis also sees personal benefits in the experience she is gaining through her participation. "The inventory involves so many different areas of operations, so the work I am doing now is applicable to any other large-scale institutional context that I might be dealing with in the future," she said.
Additional students will have an opportunity to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions research and data collection through a seminar planned this fall by members of Faculty Senate's Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee. The committee is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the university's physical environment and promoting energy conservation among faculty, students and staff.
Faculty interested in having their students participate in the seminar should contact Marcus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-593-0026. Additional information on the Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee is available from Kim Brown, assistant professor of environmental and plant biology, at email@example.com or 740-593-0405.
Also this fall, the university will host a Climate and Energy Workshop in early October to help other colleges and universities with climate neutrality issues. Co-sponsored by Inter-University Council, a coalition of the state's college and university presidents, the workshop will provide a forum for representatives of Ohio's two- and four-year colleges and universities to ask questions, discuss problems and share insights related to climate change initiatives and energy conservation measures. Six other higher education institutions in the state also signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and are facing similar challenges.
A Web site focusing on Ohio University's commitment and progress has been developed and is accessible through the Office of Sustainability site, as is a blog where inventory participants are recording their data collection progress.