DENVER – As long as humans have inhabited the planet, we have relied on natural resources to live and flourish. We also have become more aware of the limitations of our earth’s resources, which prompts us to embrace sustainability through conservation and alternatives.
“Sustainability can be defined in many different ways,” explained University Sustainability Officer Jarrett Smith, MPA, LEED Green Associate, “but commonly refers to using physical resources in a wise and efficient way today so that those resources will be here for future generations. The energy we use to heat and cool our buildings, the water we use for our lawns and indoor plumbing, the fuel we use for our vehicles all are finite resources and the quantity and quality of those resources will dissipate if we do not take action now to conserve them.”
The university has made several commitments that are driving sustainability on our campuses:
• The American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), signed June 2007, is an effort by institutions of higher education to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
• Chancellor’s Task Force on Sustainability to serve the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus and its current and future generations by working toward more conservative and more efficient methods of resource use for our campuses and for our students, faculty and staff. Co-chaired by Associate Vice Chancellors Mary Coussons-Read and Dave Turnquist.
• The Greening of Government Executive Orders D011 07 & D012 07 were issued in 2007 and charge state government agencies to reduce energy consumption, increase the use of renewable energy sources, increase the energy efficiency and decrease the environmental impact of the state vehicle fleet, implement environmental purchasing standards and reduce waste and increase recycling.
Since recognizing and prioritizing sustainability efforts, the university has achieved reductions in energy and water consumptionas well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Such efforts have netted consumption and cost savings during the past 5 years. “These results have put us ahead of schedule on some of our 2020 goals,” said Associate Vice Chancellor Dave Turnquist.
As a signatory of the ACUPCC the university developed a comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CAP). This includes a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory to measure and define our yearly contribution to climate change. In partnership with the university’s IGERT Program in Sustainable Urban Infrastructure, we developed a comprehensive GHG Inventory (.pdf).
Recently, the university joined several hundred other institutions in signing on to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).This pact will generate measurements of our overall sustainability-related efforts. Smith sees STARS as a significant opportunity to move our sustainability efforts forward in areas including gaining and nurturing student involvement with university sustainability projects and to create or provide possible scholarships. Progress through STARS can cross areas of curriculum and research, as well as in the management and operations of our facilities; and planning and engagement of students, faculty and staff. ,
As part of the university’s overall sustainability efforts activities we’re most likely to notice include recycling services. Other examples of progress include the School of Dental Medicine’s introduction of a program for recycling used batteries. Yet another example of university partnerships is the rideshare program Zimride.
“We have met and exceeded many of our sustainability commitments,” said Smith. “But we have a long way to go to see an actual culture of sustainability take root. This can only happen when more people are involved and when sustainability planning becomes central to how we go forward.”
In considering the work ahead to continue our sustainability goals, Smith acknowledged, “we’ll need to find new ways to fund our campus energy and emissions reductions projects, as well as to realize efficiencies in our research labs.”
To learn more about how you can support sustainability on our campuses, contact [email protected].