The Columns

W&L Completes Climate Action Plan

— by on March 26th, 2010

Washington and Lee University has submitted its climate action plan (CAP) with a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 to the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio is one of 667 signatories to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

“We are making progress in our efforts toward meeting our commitment of a sustainable campus,” said Ruscio, who designated sustainability as one of five major institutional goals for 2009-10. “The plan that we have submitted is realistic but still challenging. We are fulfilling our institutional mission, articulated in our motto, to be “not unmindful of the future.”

W&L’s CAP focuses on four broad areas:

The timeline of the Climate Action Plan sets short, intermediate and long-term goals. Each phase includes a comprehensive educational program, plus upgrades to the physical plant, all designed to improve efficiency and reduce consumption. The currently established goals on the timeline:

The plan takes into account the return on investment that various projects will provide. Projects that pay for themselves quickly will receive priority, while others with longer payback periods will be the subject of careful financial planning. A number of projects may be packaged together to generate the shortest payback period.

William Hamilton, professor of biology and chair of the University Sustainability Committee, emphasized the essential role that members of the community play in achieving the goal.

“We intend to develop and cultivate a culture of sustainability on the campus so that students, faculty and staff share in the responsibility of reducing our carbon footprint,” said Hamilton.

“The plan that we have produced is designed to be fluid and flexible,” Hamilton added. “We now have a baseline from which we will move forward, but we are well aware that the pace of change in this area means we may shift course as new technologies or opportunities emerge. The key is that we have firmly stated the commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050, and that will remain a constant.”

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment is an effort to address “global climate disruption undertaken by a network of colleges and universities that have made institutional commitments to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations, and to promote the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.” The effort began in 2006