Elon completes Climate Action Plan

Elon University has finalized a blueprint for shrinking its carbon footprint and promoting conservation in the coming decades by addressing energy use, transportation, solid waste and other sources of emissions on campus. The Climate Action Plan includes recommendations for incorporating sustainability and climate change into education, research and community outreach.

The strategies and goals outlined in the university’s plan will, by 2037, reduce emissions from what the university produced in its 2008 baseline year. Those reductions are expected even as the campus increases its building square footage through future projects.

The plan identifies emission reduction strategies and goals in four categories: energy, transportation, solid waste and other sources such as fertilizer application, refrigeration and wastewater.

“We are glad to complete this Climate Action Plan and expect that it would be an important tool to guide us in our quest to attain carbon neutrality by our target date,” said Gerald Whittington, Elon University’s senior vice president for business, finance and technology. “This is a milestone for the university and demonstrates our commitment to this global issue.”

Elaine Durr, the university’s sustainability coordinator, led the Climate Action Plan development in collaboration with the Physical Plant, Technology and the Environmental Advisory Council, among other groups.

This initial plan focuses on reducing emissions from energy and transportation and lays the groundwork for research into future strategies,” Durr said.

One strategy is to utilize renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic panels, solar thermal systems and geothermal systems for campus energy needs. The goal is for renewable energy to reduce Elon’s estimated 2037 emissions from energy consumption by 30 percent.

Energy efficiency and conservation in existing buildings is also included with a goal of reducing projected 2037 emissions from energy consumption by an additional 20 percent.

The Climate Action Plan calls for reducing estimated 2037 commuting emissions by 20 percent through alternative transportation, which will be encouraged in a number of ways including a carpool or ride-share program.

There are many factors, internal and external, that could affect Elon’s path to carbon neutrality, Durr said.

“The plan is a flexible document,” she said. “It will undergo periodic reviews and be revised as appropriate for new technologies and developments.”

The plan also includes recommendations for further incorporating sustainability and climate change into education, research and community outreach to create a culture of sustainability on campus.

Some of the recommendations include investigating the development of a peer education program on sustainability for faculty and staff, investigating the feasibility of a new major in sustainability or sustainability science or studies, creating an award for outstanding research in sustainability-related research and strengthening and further developing community service opportunities related to climate change and sustainability through the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement.