Campus Sustainability Day was celebrated on Oct. 24 throughout the United States. At Colorado Mountain College, we are one of hundreds of colleges and universities making a difference where sustainability is concerned. Recently, the college submitted our Climate Action Plan to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. We were told it was one of the most comprehensive plans submitted.
Here is an interesting fact: CMC has reduced its energy usage by 13 to 15 percent since 2010. Most of this reduction is from the retrofits of our buildings and installation of renewable energy sources, like the solar farms at our campuses in Leadville and Rifle. Also, we have just installed ground-source heat pumps in our new academic and student support services building in Steamboat Springs. The ground-source heat pumps are supplying all the heating and cooling for this building. The energy savings will soon be calculated into our overall usage.
In 2009, Colorado Mountain College President Stan Jensen signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The year before that, the college entered into an energy performance contract with the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office. Since then, across our 11 learning locations, we have invested $3.6 million to support our commitment to sustainability.
Those funds have been prudently targeted to save us money over the long term; a lot of these improvements occur when we include conservation features as we build new buildings, or when we replace old boilers and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. So far, we have installed energy-efficient lighting, occupancy sensors, condensing boilers, monitoring meters for electric and gas usage, solar domestic hot water, more efficient windows, among other improvements.
Our goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050. That means we are committed to reducing our energy usage by 2.5 percent each year. We can do this!
Our campus started observing Campus Sustainability Day with a small idea of turning off our monitor screens. What we heard from our colleagues throughout the college was that this was too modest a goal, that many of them were already doing this, and much more.
Other campuses, such as Edwards, held a “Food Day” on Oct. 22, featuring healthy and educational food booths. This ties into our sustainable cuisine program there.
Here in Rifle, we screened the movie, “Watershed,” on Oct. 24. It deals with Colorado River water issues in the western United States. It is produced by Robert Redford and includes a few Garfield County residents, including former Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, who joined us to speak before the movie.
As we celebrate Sustainability Day, take a moment and think about how you, your campus, your community and your community college can make a difference!
Nancy Genova is Colorado Mountain College’s vice president at the Rifle campus.