September 14, 2001
Liz Davey believes Tulane can help improve the environment, save money, and become a global partner in addressing pressing environmental issues. All this she says, plus provide students with hands-on experience in environmental research and activism.
On Sept. 20, Davey, Tulane's environmental coordinator, and four students will present a paper at the Greening of the Campus 4 conference at Ball State University. The paper, entitled "Connecting Campus Life to Global Climate Change," recounts the process and results of a greenhouse gas inventory undertaken last spring by the group.
According to Davey, the inventory is a catalyst for growing environmental awareness on campus. "We wanted to measure Tulane's contribution to global warming," said Davey, who supervised the four student energy-and-climate change specialists who documented the different fuels used on campus and the amount of gasses causing global warming that are emitted into the atmosphere by Tulane as a result.
The students, whose salaries were funded by the Center for Bioenvironmental Research, each took the lead on a particular component of the project.
Shelley Kahler is a sophomore who did most of the work on the actual greenhouse gas inventory; Alana Paul is a sophomore who estimated potential energy savings from computer power management, as well as surveyed students on their understanding of global climate change; Maureen Devery is a senior who studied the number of appliances in student rooms and how much electricity these rooms used in a 24-hour period; and Jennifer Karam compared student refrigerators to the most efficient models available.
Through their efforts, said Davey, the students were able to make policy recommendations for Tulane's campus. Among the most striking is that the university can save approximately $300,000 a year in energy costs if the more than 6,000 Tulane-based computers were regularly turned off at night.
According to the report that will be presented at the conference, that would equate to a five-percent reduction of Tulane's annual greenhouse gas emission. A major source of campus greenhouse emissions, according to the report, is automobiles. Commuting contributes more than 20 percent of the uptown campus greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the largest draws of electricity is residence-hall room refrigerators. Student Karam estimates that the university could save more than $10,000 a year if more efficient models replaced residence-hall refrigerators.
Also, the report indicates an average of 11.3 electrical appliances per room. The report documented that electrical consumption in student rooms contributes three pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per person per day. Michael Crago in Facilities Services provided the students with much of the campus energy data, and his collaboration with the project continued in the summer.
Crago and Davey recruited a number of campus offices and departments to set occupancy schedules for their buildings, so air conditioning could be reduced at night. Air conditioning scheduling in Newcomb Hall cut the buildings nightly electricity use in half. In June, the monthly use of electricity to provide heating and cooling on the Uptown campus was 40 percent lower than last year, a result of building air conditioning scheduling and increased use of an absorber, a cooling unit that runs off of steam from the new co-generation power plant.
Among the most interesting developments from the study is the Energy Star Showcase Dorm Room that will be officially unveiled this fall. The students came up with the idea of creating a model energy-efficient dorm last spring, and over the summer Energy Star, an EPA program in Washington, D.C., enthusiastically endorsed the project. Kahler and Paul, who worked on the initial project, live in the Willow Street Residence Hall suite with Meredith Younghein, another sophomore.
Manufacturers have donated appliances that bear the Energy Star label, said Davey. Energy Star was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products, in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Appliances with Energy Star designation run more efficiently and use less energy.
"This will be an EPA pollution-prevention program," said Davey. The EPA is taking this on as a national promotion and has requested that their Energy Star contacts make a donation of products. According to Davey, Energy Star sees the model room a chance to reach a younger audience across the country. "They want to see our students in Rolling Stone," she said.
The room will be ready for Homecoming/Parents Weekend (Oct. 12-14), when it will be available for tours. The students also will create a brochure that offers information about the room, products and energy-saving habits. The brochure will be distributed to visitors and incoming freshmen before they move into residence halls. The brochure also will be made available to other institutions over the Internet.
"I hope that through this we can reduce Tulane's greenhouse gas emissions," said Davey. "I hope this leads to saving money for the university. With a few changes we can save hundreds of thousands of dollarswithout buying anything."
Anyone interested in the greenhouse gas study, the Energy Star Showcase Dorm Room, or other environmental-related topics, should send their browsers to http://green.tulane.edu. For information on Energy Star, visit www.energystar.gov.
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