In light of the international Paris climate talks later this week, we as an institution need to reevaluate our commitment to sustainability and our action on sustainability promises.
Furman signed on to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2009, pledging to champion sustainability both in and out of the classroom. Another promise associated with the pledge is to reach carbon neutrality by 2026, Furman’s bicentennial.
While most of the sustainability initiatives have already been reached or are current works in progress – all food in the Dining Hall and leaf waste is composted, every residence hall and apartment is provided with a recycling bin and all new buildings are required to be LEED certified sustainable, to name a few – the question of greenhouse gas emissions needs to be addressed on a larger scale to reach Furman’s carbon neutrality promise within ten years.
Carbon neutrality will be reached by a multi-strategy approach to reducing or offsetting campus greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change. The current plan involves offsetting emissions from international travel with carbon credits as well as a volunteer home-retrofitting service and diversifying energy profiles using geothermal and solar energy.
Considerable strides have already been made to reduce emissions. However, most purchased electricity comes from coal supplied by Duke Power. Reaching carbon neutrality will require more electricity supplied from renewable resources and less from fossil fuels.
Furman has successfully reached low-hanging sustainability fruit, and we have been recognized as a national leader because of it. This undoubtedly should be celebrated, but previous success and vigilance does not necessarily equate to future success in our sustainability promises. Furman should reevaluate our primary energy source and strive to provide more electricity from renewable sources. Our ongoing status as a national university sustainability leader hinges on carbon neutrality, and thus hinges on clean renewable energy sources.