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College to go carbon neutral

College to go carbon neutral

Photo by Kristen Huffman

Carbon neutrality is in the future for Kenyon.

At Sunday’s Student Council meeting, President Sean Decatur announced that in the coming weeks he would sign a pledge sponsored by the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) to set a path for carbon neutrality at Kenyon. He will follow in the footsteps of over 685 other college and university presidents already committed to carbon neutrality.

Carbon neutrality is defined by the ACUPCC as “having no net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Upon Decatur signing the pledge, Kenyon will have two years to put in place a plan for carbon neutrality, the timeframe required by the ACUPCC.

The pledge was designed in 2007 by the ACUPCC, which aims to unite colleges and universities in the fight against climate change. Many of Kenyon’s peer institutions, including Oberlin College and the College of Wooster, have already signed on.

The initiative for carbon neutrality at Kenyon has been largely student-led. Last semester, three members of the Environmental Campus Organization (ECO) came together in an independent study to develop a plan for Kenyon to go carbon neutral.

Last spring, the three students, Matt Meyers ’17, Sarah Oleisky ’16 and Lauren Johnstone ’15, presented their proposal to the board of trustees and Decatur.

Last week, Oleisky and Meyers met with Decatur, Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman and Director of Green Initiatives Dave Heithaus. Decatur said he would be willing to sign the pledge after he is presented with a timeline and list of what the College would be required to do during the next two years. Heithaus, Meyers and Oleisky plan to work on the timeline in the coming weeks.

Heithaus will spearhead the plan over the next two years, though students will be heavily involved. Meyers plans to work with Heithaus next summer to conduct an emissions inventory tracking the College’s emissions, a step required by the ACUPCC.

Meyers said emissions generated by the College include much more than just the College’s electric and heating bills, such as student travel to and from Kenyon.

After the emissions inventory is completed the plan will be designed by  Meyers, Heithaus, ECO and the sustainability advisory council,  a collection of students, faculty and staff pursuing sustainability projects.

The cost of going carbon neutral is currently unknown, according to Heithaus, though by signing the pledge Kenyon agrees to pay $2,000 in dues annually to the ACUPCC.

Though Decatur’s pledge requires Kenyon to make a plan of action, carbon neutrality is still years away. 

Decatur said the College had much work to do, but in terms of actually going carbon neutral, “in principle, one can set an infinitely long timeline.”

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