Monday, January 26, 2009

Stay on Target

I'm still riding the wave of energy brought on by Obama's inauguration speech. Classes have started for the spring semester at Lasell College and I am more fired up than ever. Students are coming to class with more passion and energy for the environment than ever before. If I can just enable these students and step out of their way good things will happen at Lasell.

2008 was the 9th warmest year on record despite a strong La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean (strong La Niña events typically cool the global temperatures). The warming trend continues as does the urgency with which we need to change our consumption patterns. While global temperatures are trending up, the economic climate is trending down. We are facing high variability and a large degree of uncertainty in our economy.

What does this mean for sustainability efforts at Lasell? While there is uncertainty in the economy, we cannot wait until the economy recovers to implement sustainability programs. The planet continues to warm at an alarming rate and we must do our part and act as fast as we can to address this issue. It has never been our intention to reach our greenhouse gas reduction goals through the purchasing of offsets. Our plan relies on implementing programs that will change the green culture of Lasell, reduce waste, and increase energy efficiency.

The Green Campus Task Force produced a report in 2007 outlining over 50 measures we could take to reduce our environmental footprint. By the end of the year, I hope to produce with the Environmental Sustainability Committee a Lasell College Climate Action Plan. By having a long term plan in place, the College will have a stable document with which to fall back during tough times. We need to take the measures recommended by the Green Campus Task Force and evaluate how much they will cost, what will the impact be on greenhouse gas reductions, and how much effort will it take to sustain program. With that information we can put together goals for the next five years.

Given the current economic climate, I would advise that we pursue low cost, high impact, high effort projects first. Implementing low cost projects does not ensure success though. These types of projects typically require a sustained campus wide effort. Good old sweat equity is needed to make these projects work. Whether from students, faculty, or staff, the success of these projects will depend on our efforts and creativity.

We must continue to make progress towards our sustainability goals despite economic uncertainty. The stakes are too high not to meet our sustainability commitment. By shifting our priorities we will be able to stay on course without having to invest heavily in energy conservation projects. It won't be easy though and we are going to need help from every corner of campus. The projects are going to require an enormous amount of energy!

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