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GU Takes Steps to Keep Reducing Carbon Footprint

December 9, 2008 – Continuing a commitment to sustainability, Georgetown recently developed a greenhouse gas inventory that has determined the university holds a calculated carbon footprint of 17.

The 17 calculation, gives the university a stellar ranking amongst its peers: Harvard University holds a 13; Yale University, 18.5; and Johns Hopkins University, 20.5, just to name a few.

The calculation, which indicates the university’s impact on the environment, measures the amount of greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels for day-to-day operations in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per 1,000 square feet. This includes the amount of fuel burned by the campus’ utility plant, buildings and vehicles; indirect emissions from purchased energy; business air travel and commuting, among other contributors on Main Campus and at the Medical Center.

The results come after the facilities office monitored the university’s usage over a four-year period – 2003-2007.

“Most of the success is due to the staff who have initiated programs and managed the utilities,” said Karen Frank, vice president of facilities and student housing.

Officials said recycling and energy efficiency definitely have played roles in reducing Georgetown’s carbon footprint.

This fall, the university began participating in a renewable energy credit program to further offset its carbon footprint. The credits are tradable environmental commodities that represent proof that one megawatt-hour of electricity is generated from an eligible renewable energy resource.

“We get our power from different sources on the grid, but we’re also making our own contribution to the grid,” Frank said.

Once the new business school is complete, it will use 100 percent of its power from renewable energy credits for two years as a part of the building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirement. LEED is the “green” building rating system that is used nationally as an accepted benchmark for construction, design and operation.

The university will likely use 3,800 tons of solid waste this year, and 30 percent of that is being recycled by separate systems that include glass bottles, plastic, paper and cardboard.

The percentage of recycling against total waste on campus stood at less than 10 percent for the 2006-2007 academic year, and it rose to 26 percent for 2007-2008.

“Aside from the recycling of standard commodities like paper and cardboard, we’ve enhanced the system for collecting other materials such as scrap metal,” said Bill del Vecchio, the university’s recycling manager. “We’ve started an electronic recycling system where we collect computers and office electronics from throughout Main Campus.”

The facilities office plays a large role in the reduction of the university’s carbon footprint, but it’s a campus effort. They work with student groups such as Campus Climate Challenge, The Corp and EcoAction and faculty and staff initiatives including the Center for the Environment and the Sustainability Committee.

“Our students in particular have taken the lead to develop creative programs designed to get the campus community engaged in our recycling effort,” Frank said. “It’s going to take all of us to improve our environment.”

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