Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ithaca College’s Ultimate Test of Sustainability: Carbon Neutrality

Ithaca College consists of 25 academic/administrative buildings, 31 residence halls, and 22 circle apartment complexes; totaling to roughly 2.3 million gross square feet of floor space.

Those 78 buildings take up a significant amount of energy. They each need to allow for the occupants to plug in lots of equipment; not to mention be heated, lighted, and cleaned.  Each room in each building has different resource demands:-some need to have computers, photocopiers, or printers running for most of the day.  Other rooms such as the bathrooms need to have a constant supply of water.  And the waste that each building generates is a whole topic within itself.  The dining halls alone produce thousands of pounds of waste each day (please note, though, that all of the food waste IS composted).

Long story short is, Ithaca College is a huge establishment and it takes A LOT of energy to run it.  And most energy comes from fuels such as coal, oil, and gas.  However, the downside to these sources of energy is that they produce greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are toxic to our environment in large amounts, and they contribute to climate change.  With the majority of energy coming from coal, oil and gas in the United States, think how much greenhouse gases are being emitted…

What is IC going to do about it? In 2007, then-President Peggy R. Williams signed the American College and University President's Climate Commitment.  This commitment stated that Ithaca College would create a plan that would lead IC to carbon neutrality at some point in the future. In 2009, the Ithaca College Board of Trustees approved the Ithaca College Climate Action Plan.  This plan offered a 40 year action strategy to attain 100% CARBON NEUTRALITY BY 2050! To do this, the College will need to reduce greenhouse emissions by an average of 2.5% every year until 2050. 

The question now is, can IC go from 33,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions to zero in 40 years? The answer is YES!! But we need each and every student, faculty and staff member to pitch in.  Yes, that means all 8,000+ of you!

So far, Ithaca College has been focusing on reducing demand for energy, and increasing efficiency.  There are actually a few LEED certified buildings on campus, such as the business school, Williams Center, and hopefully soon the A+E center. (For more info on LEED certification, see ).

Sodexo has also contributed to the plan for carbon neutrality by increasing the efficiency of dining hall operations.  As part of our commitment for Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Plan, we pledge to (1) source and promote sustainable equipment and supplies, (2) reduce our carbon intensity across all operations and clients’ sites and (3) reduce organic waste generated at our sites and in our operations; along with others (for our full 14 commitments, visit ). 

In 2009, Ithaca College and Sodexo partnered in order to conduct a thorough energy audit of the campus dining facilities including site interviews, inspections, billing date and utility program reviews.  The team identified nearly $140,000- almost a third of current energy spending- in savings just by switching off, powering down and upgrading mechanical systems.  For instance, you know those toasters that we have in the dining hall? They are the replacements of the old toaster that we used to have.  These new toasters can reduce energy usage by up to 75%.

In addition, Ithaca College Dining services composts ALL pre and post consumer waste.  In other words, all of the food that you do not eat, or that is produced in the kitchen, gets sent to Cayuga Compost, not to the landfill! And one ton of composted material kept out of the landfill saves TWO tons of carbon emissions! Go composting!

Even though our equipment is getting more efficient, we still need everyone on campus to become more efficient.  What does that mean?  Well, here are a few things YOU can do to decrease both IC’s and your own carbon footprints!
-          Eliminate “vampire load” by turning off AND unplugging computers when not in use.  Doing this can save one kwH of electricity.
-          Take a slightly shorter shower, and save one gallon of hot water.
-          Reduce the amounts of gasoline you burn by biking, walking, or carpooling.
      When eating at the dining hall, take only what you can eat.  You can always go back for more if you are still hungry.  If every student did this, we could significantly decrease food waste.
      Speaking of waste, try to only take one napkin at a time.  Our napkin dispensers are designed to encourage a 'one-napkin-at-a-time' behavior.  Multiple napkins per student per meal really adds up fast!

Want to find out more ways to reduce your carbon footprint (which in turn, will reduce IC’s carbon footprint)? Check out this awesome carbon footprint calculator:

Learn more about IC 2050! View the Climate Action Plan at:

And for general info about sustainability at IC, visit 


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