COLORADO SPRINGS– In 2008, Colorado College had mulled over the idea of committing to become a carbon-neutral campus. They didn’t have a choice after one student gathered 1,500 student’s signatures supporting the college to make it happen by 2020.
“I started a petition with a few friends of mine that got over 70 percent of the campus,” said David Amster-Olszewski, a now graduate of the college.
Amster-Olszewski brought the petition to the President of the College’s board of trustees. Soon after the goal was adopted even though the plan wasn’t as certain.
“We didn’t know how to get to the goal but we knew that by setting a goal we would create this momentum to find the answers to those questions and sure enough, we did,” said Amster-Olszewski.
Amster-Olszewski went on to create his own company, Sunshare Community Solar. It is now in several states creating community solar gardens.
“What is the impact I want to have in my life? It is to leave the world a better place and that means making the planet a better place for future generations and that means stopping this path of destruction that we’re on with greenhouse gasses.”
Tutt Library is now the largest academic library to be carbon neutral. The campus expanded solar panels, built geothermal heating systems for buildings, and ensured they were well-insulated.
“By taking the low hanging fruit, and sometimes the less-than-low hanging fruit, by putting our resources to cut that energy use is how we’ve done it. Those cuts are real and quite deep,” said Alan Townsend, the provost, and professor of environmental sciences at Colorado College.
The college is saving $6.6 million in energy costs with the changes.
Townsend said they’ve cut more emissions than universities typically do to become carbon neutral.
He says, any university that can become carbon neutral should do it and carbon offset credits. Those are essentially investments into renewable energy and other greenhouse gas reduction programs. In the grand scheme of addressing climate change, Townsend said it’s more about the message Colorado College is sending with this change.
“For us alone, you can’t even detect it. It doesn’t matter, but where it matters is the only way that we’re going to move forward on this issue is going to have entities like ours whether it’s individuals, whether it’s companies, whether it’s institutions of higher education,” said Townsend. “By us showing it’s possible, it’s possible to do quickly, it’s possible by moving fast and you can do it by saving money is a pretty big deal and we hope we can inspire others to do the same.”