Lara Shore-Sheppard, Professor of Economics
This year, CEAC worked in four areas: sustainability in building, non-building-related carbon emissions, waste reduction, and sustainable food. In building, the committee focused primarily on two ongoing issues: the sustainable building guidelines policy that the College follows for new construction and renovation and the process for assessing whether a building should be renovated or replaced. In the guidelines’ current form, large projects that might impact energy use are required to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification and the building must meet an Energy Use Index (EUI) target determined by the Zilkha Center. In light of the cost of acquiring LEED certification and the uncertainty about the implications of the new standards involved in LEED v4, the committee examined whether the benefits of maintaining a LEED Gold requirement for all large projects are worth the costs. The committee decided not to recommend any changes to the building guidelines policy, at least until more is known about the difficulty of achieving Gold certification under the new LEED standards. The committee also discussed the process for assessing whether a building should be renovated or replaced, recommending that when possible, decisions about renovation or replacement should include a life cycle analysis of the carbon embodied in the existing structure, enabling the direct comparison of the carbon implications of new construction versus renovation. In addition, the committee recommended that the College constitute a committee to study the historical and cultural values of buildings on campus whose condition places them high on the Facilities list for renovation or replacement so this can be factored into the decision to renovate or replace.
In the area of non-building-related carbon emissions, the committee examined possible standards that the College might adopt for carbon offset purchases and reporting. The committee wrote draft guidelines for carbon offset standards, although more information is needed before such guidelines can be finalized. The Provost’s office and the Zilkha Center are working on obtaining some of this information over the summer, so the guidelines could be finalized next year. The committee also discussed ways in which enhanced reporting of emissions progress to the campus community might be improved to increase campus engagement.
Members of CEAC and others engaged in a waste audit, and based in part on the results, members of CEAC and the Zilkha Center are proposing the College’s first waste diversion goal, increasing the percentage of waste diverted where diversion is measured as (recyclables + compostables) / (recyclables + compostables + trash). In addition, CEAC is recommending that the College work to reduce plastic bag and paper towel waste. Various actions are already being taken to address the problem of food in the waste stream, including piloting composting bins in some student residences, adding composting at the Eco Café, updating compost signs at dish return stations and adding a compost sign at Lee Snack Bar, among other composting initiatives.
Finally, members of CEAC and Dining Services pursued a variety of activities and initiatives to increase the sustainability of the food served on campus. Some notable achievements include menu updating and working with our food distributor to increase the percentage of food from local sources, and a 50 percent reduction in use of industrial beef.