Section: News

Kenyon to go carbon-neutral

Kenyon to go carbon-neutral

Kenyon purple? More like Kenyon green.

President Sean Decatur signed the Second Nature Climate Leadership Pledge, which commits Kenyon to creating a plan for becoming carbon neutral as soon as possible, at an event in Peirce Pub on Tuesday.

Second Nature, the organization formed by the union of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and the Alliance for Resilient Campuses (ARC), defines carbon neutrality as having “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.” 

According to Laura Langner ’16, an intern in the Office of Green Initiatives, the office will inventory all aspects of Kenyon’s energy usage, including water and electricity usage in dorms, students flying to and from campus and the choice of building materials for future Kenyon buildings.

Information gathered from this study over the next two years will be used to create a plan spearheaded by Green Initiatives Director Dave Heithaus ’99 with concrete steps toward achieving carbon neutrality on campus.

The pledge to reach carbon neutrality comes largely as a result of student efforts. Last year, Environmental Campus Organization (ECO) members Matt Meyers ’17, Sarah Oleisky ’16 and Lauren Johnstone ’15 undertook an independent study to explore the potential for enacting carbon neutrality at Kenyon, with the aim of presenting their work to Decatur and the Board of Trustees.

“I’m excited to see how it moves forward,” Johnstone said. “It’s a big step for Kenyon.” 

At the signing, Decatur thanked the students, especially Johnstone, for their initiative in starting the project. Decatur highlighted increased sustainability as important to Kenyon’s mission as a liberal arts institution and its leadership in the local and global community. More than 300 other colleges and universities have signed the pledge.

“It’s part of the educational process here to think about how our own lives, our own actions, are incredibly linked to the folks around us,” Decatur said at the event.

Some steps toward making the Kenyon campus more environmentally friendly are already underway.

On Feb. 17, the Office of Green Initiatives launched a three-month green challenge called “Green Rooms and Green Lifestyles,” which challenges students and faculty to take steps to reduce their carbon footprints by filling out a brief survey about their eco-friendly habits. The challenge encourages participants to make small lifestyle changes, including walking rather than driving and taking shorter showers.

“One of the main things that we’re focusing on is really increasing personal responsibility,” Langner said. “People will be thinking about the impact they have and making environmentally conscious decisions.”

Other goals for the Office of Green Initiatives under the new pledge include making the new library LEED-platinum-certified, the highest level of sustainability attainable by current standards, according to Langner. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, provides an internationally recognized rating of building sustainability based on water efficiency, air quality, waste management, availability of recycling and amount of pollution produced by construction, among other factors.

The Office of Green Initiatives will continue to encourage students to take individual responsibility and work to make recycling more widely available on campus, while planning for a carbon-neutral future.

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