• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.


SCUP-43 Wednesday noon

To start off, a couple more points from the first session this morning, that I didn't have to to get to earlier.

July 23, 2008

To start off, a couple more points from the first session this morning, that I didn't have to to get to earlier.

  • Harvard (ahead of most of us in the Green Campus business) now devotes about 25 FTE's (19 full-time staff, plus about 40 part-time students) to its Green Campus Initiative.
  • Their process and standards have gotten to the point that any new capital project on campus can achieve 40 LEED points at no incremental cost. (39 points gets you to LEED Gold.)
  • They're not doing this out of altruism, at least not entirely. Their net annual savings to the university, as a result of energy efficiency and other sustainability-driven improvements, after allowing for the full costs of those 25 FTEs, is about $8,000,000. Every year.

More from that one later, as threatened.

The second presentation was by a couple of folks from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. It told of a sustainabilty modeling seminar, in which four teams of students modeled the sustainability impacts of differing capital improvements on campus. The modeling was done using EMERGY (EMbedded enERGY), a technique which looks at inputs and results systemically, and calculates ratios for economic yield and environmental load. Economic yield (what you accomplish, as a multiple of the energy that's embedded in stuff you purchase) is good, since it means you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. Environmental load (purchased and non-renewable inputs as a multiple of renewable inputs) is negative. What's important, however, is the ratios the model generates. Lots of economic yield (which brings dollar factors into play) divided by low/reduced environmental impact yields high sustainability scores. Using these ratios, campus administrators and planners can objectively determine how best to spend their (limited) sustainability dollars.

We'll probably talk about EMERGY again, in the future. Meanwhile, I'd be happy to hear from any other campuses which are using this, or similar sustainability metrics.

The closing plenary focused on the evolution of McGill University's campus over the last 160+ years, as an attempt to provide a "utopian" environment which (from a sustainabilty perspective) can set the expectations of the alumni. The visuals were very nice, and reasonably informative. Unfortunately, the sound (at least where I was sitting) was poor, so I only got about one word in three. If another attendee would care to share their impressions, I'd be glad to pass those on. (Or, just post them as a comment. It's quicker.)

In a nutshell, good conference. I can tell because, by the end of it, my brain is crispy. I'm gonna take a couple of days to recover, and then pull together some general reflections. The food for thought received, however, will last me far longer than that.

Meanwhile, au revoir from (and to) Montreal.


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