The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Carbon emissions down, goals remain high

By Kaity Arctander

Macalester’s carbon emissions are down eight percent from the 2004 to 2005 school year, according to campus sustainability activist Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09. Additionally, heating intensity (the amount of heating used per degree of coldness) is at the lowest level in at least thirteen years. Electricity consumption is at its lowest since 2001. “In 2005-2006, our carbon dropped, but it was mostly from an unusually warm winter and the rise in oil prices from Hurricane Katrina that caused us to burn low-carbon natural gas” Timothy said. “This past year, the weather and oil prices were more similar to other recent years than to 2005-2006, yet we still continued to drop, indicating that campus actions are making an impact.”

Upon entering Macalester, Den Herder-Thomas initiated the college’s participation in the Campus Climate Challenge, a national initiative to reduce carbon emissions on college campuses. The initiative has come to include 540 schools aiming to find solutions on campus to global warming that can be applied across society.

Two years ago, Den Herder-Thomas began taking a rough “carbon inventory” based on heat and electricity consumption at Mac. The news that the college’s carbon emissions are down comes from the 2006-2007 inventory.

Over the past two years, carbon emissions from electricity and heating have dropped 8.21 percent, more than doubling the annual percentage goals set by Campus Climate Challenge, and putting the college on target to meet the organization’s initial national goal of a 95 percent overall reduction by 2030.

Den Herder-Thomas noted a number of possible causes for the reduction, including an energy-saving project initiated by Facilities Management in which the ventilation, lighting and other energy systems in Olin-Rice were re-commissioned to make them more efficient. Previously, Olin-Rice had led campus buildings in electricity consumption, but the efforts at efficiency have cut those consumption numbers roughly in half, according to Facilities Management.

Another reason for the drop is the college’s current lack of an athletic building. Though the carbon inventory cannot account for any electricity used during construction, the old field house was poorly insulated, and its absence has cut down substantially on heating costs. Better insulation in the new athletic facility, which will open next fall, should ensure that heating consumption does not jump significantly.

The Campus Wars competition for emissions cutbacks between Minnesota colleges also contributed significantly to energy reduction, according to Den Herder-Thomas. The campus saw noticeably lower energy usage numbers starting in February, he said. “There’s no way to tell how much each action saved, but all of these changes helped out.”

“Four percent a year is manageable if we keep going the way we’re going,” Den Herder-Thomas said.

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