Climate Action Plan to be updated this spring

The University’s Climate Action Plan, signed into action by President Mary Ellen Mazey in November 2014, is due to be updated this spring.

The purpose of the plan was to achieve institutional carbon neutrality by 2040, according to the University’s campus sustainability website. This would mean that by 2040 the University would produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions.

To reach carbon neutrality the plan calls for the execution of three primary goals:

1. Reduction of emissions through energy efficiency and renewables

2. Waste reduction and resource conservation through recycling and re-use initiatives

3. Education, awareness and outreach through student involvement and programming

Since the plan’s initiation in 2014, the University has taken tangible action toward accomplishing its stated sustainability goals.

“The University serves as a role model to the surrounding community and the national and global communities,” Assistant Professor of Sustainability, Nathan Hensley, said. “By taking the steps outlined in the BGSU Climate Action Plan, the University not only positions itself to help reduce the collective carbon footprint of our institution, but also it helps to spark the passion and awareness necessary for others to do the same.”

In February 2015, the Student Green Initiatives Fund and University Capital Planning and Design joined together to carry out a complete study of the University’s infrastructure to look for ways to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint, according to the University’s sustainability website.

To pay for campus sustainability projects, the University often draws from the Student Green Initiatives Fund, which is a pool of money that is funded by an opt-out $5 per semester fee that only undergraduate and graduate students have access to.

“We can always do more, and I am energized by what actions I have seen taken so far. I do think that more cross-curricular connections to the Climate Action Plan and to sustainability need to be made throughout the University, and I have a lot of hope for what can still take place.”

Nathan Hensley
Assistant Professor of
Sustainability

In the past, the fund has allowed for the installation of LED lights in the Perry Field House, according to the University’s sustainability website. Since LED lights are more efficient at using energy than traditional overhead lights, they save the University about $13,000 while also reducing its carbon footprint. The fund also paid for the installation of LED light strips in the coral tanks in the Marine Biology Lab, replacing the lab’s metal halide lights, which were much less efficient and cost the University $9,000 more each year.

The fund will soon be coming in handy yet again, as the University plans to hire an engineering firm to determine the feasibility of renewable energy technologies on campus.

To help with the waste reduction element of the Climate Action Plan, the University uses a single-stream recycling system, which involves collecting all recyclable materials in all-encompassing bins labeled “recycling.” This allows people to recycle more efficiently without needing to sort their own recyclables and place them into separate bins.

“We can always do more, and I am energized by what actions I have seen taken so far,” Hensley said. “I do think that more cross-curricular connections to the Climate Action Plan and to sustainability need to be made throughout the university, and I have a lot of hope for what can still take place.”

To track the University’s progress toward carbon neutrality, sustainability experts take an annual inventory of the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the institution. According to the inventory, the amount of greenhouse gases produced has been steadily decreasing each year since 2009.

In terms of becoming more energy efficient, the University is largely dependent on the City of Bowling Green. Half of the University’s carbon emissions are derived from electricity provided to the city by American Municipal Power (AMP), according to the University’s sustainability website.

On Feb. 2, AMP announced in a news release that its 20 megawatt Bowling Green Solar Facility had achieved  commercial operation in January, making Bowling Green home to the largest solar facility in Ohio. The facility will be receiving a dedication ceremony this spring. The completion of this large-scale renewable energy source means drastic reductions in the University’s carbon emission levels.

According to Hensley, it is too soon to say for sure whether the University will successfully achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 as projected, but there’s no indication that it’s not possible. With AMP’s movement toward a greater renewable energy portfolio, the University is exactly where it needs to be in terms of reducing its carbon footprint and staying on track to accomplish this goal.