An Hour Well Spent

Posted on July 16, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Our new fiscal year at Rice began on July 1, and with it, a new reality of energy prices that have blown a multi-million dollar hole in our budget. Like many of you I’m sure, we’re now drafting a campus energy policy, we’re identifying and implementing various energy conservation measures, and we’re preparing a set of proposed conservation projects for the next capital budget cycle. Running parallel is the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to draft a climate action plan. Sound familiar?

Not long ago, being the standard-bearer for sustainability meant flying into a strong headwind. My observation is that the winds shifted direction for many of us over the past couple of years, and we’re instead being propelled by a robust tailwind. We’re now awash in opportunities, and yet ours is such a young profession that we’re still learning how to run campus sustainability offices and how to function effectively in our roles. With so many of us in similar places on the learning curve, we are quite fortunate when we can tap the knowledge of one of our few counterparts that has actually been working in this business for a decade or more.

One of the true leaders in energy conservation in higher education is Walter Simpson, the University Energy Officer for University at Buffalo, in the SUNY system. Walter was the featured speaker in a recent free APPA Webinar entitled “Reducing Greenhouse Gases & Achieving Climate Neutrality” that originally streamed on June 18, 2008. In his talk, he presented twenty “programmatic ingredients” as part of a “recipe for success” for saving energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, many of which were discussed in-depth, with valuable lessons offered. The presentation is still accessible online (click here). If you too are engaged in the twin efforts of energy conservation and greenhouse gas reductions, do consider devoting a quiet hour of time to learn from Walter’s experiences.

Afterwards, explore the web site of the playfully-named UB Green office, including their You Have the Power energy conservation campaign. Finally, give some serious thought to what it means to have saved a university over $100 million in cumulative energy costs – and the associated emissions and environmental impact prevented – as Walter has done. If AASHE ever develops an award for lifetime achievement for campus sustainability professionals, my nomination for first recipient would be Walter Simpson.


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