Electricity is primarily used for lighting and operation of machinery; including computers, lab equipment, and exhaust systems such as lab fume hoods. Electricity is also consumed by air circulation and venting as part of the campus heating systems. The majority of Campus heat is provided by the steam created from burning natural gas in the central steam plant. Although electricity used for campus operations is now effectively carbon neutral, Western paid over $2,400,000 for electricity in the 2010-2011 fiscal years.
As a purchaser of 100% Green Power WWU is included on the EPA Top 20 Green Power Universities list. Western is the only higher-learning institution in the state of Washington to be listed, and is the fourth-largest buyer of green energy among academic institutions in the nation. All electricity purchased to run campus buildings and operations is purchased from green power sources. A student-approved fee of .40 per credit, maximum $4 per quarter pays the difference in cost between conventionally generated power and the “clean power.” Renewable energy offset credits make WWU campus electricity use effectively carbon neutral.
Reducing Campus Electricity Consumption
Meeting the 10×12 goal of 10% energy reduction can provide a net savings of over $243,000.00 dollars annually. In support of this goal, Facilities Management has scheduled a list of energy saving projects and ongoing technical improvements to make our buildings operate as efficiently as possible. Campus IT specialists continue to explore and implement computer settings and lab operations that can reduce electricity consumed. Students have approved the first round of conservation projects under the new Sustainable Action Fund and are researching proposals for pilot and experimental projects that could qualify for funding in the coming year. Students involved in the ResRAP program inspired their peers to reduce electricity consumption in the university residences and succeeded in an average 21.4% reduction per month during the Go for the Green Challenge last year.
The 10×12 program provides information, assistance and encouragement for individual actions that produce energy savings and support operational changes.
Western burns natural gas in the central steam plant generating steam that is used to heat campus buildings. This process, while effective, is expensive and also accounts for about 36% of the total university Greenhouse Gas emissions. On the other hand, burning natural gas is a comparatively clean energy source, producing nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide in lower quantities than coal or oil. In 2008-2009 the university consumed 2,738,032 Therms of Natural gas at a cost of $2,697,930 dollars. Burning less natural gas will save the university money and release fewer pollutants into our living environment.
Energy conservation actions by staff and faculty during the 10×12 pilot successfully reduced heating consumption in one out of the four participating buildings last winter. The reduced heating bill is most notably attributed to having kept lab fume hood sashes closed in the Biology building, reducing natural gas consumption 2.3 to 15% between January and May of 2011. Natural gas consumption in the three remaining buildings either increased or remained about the same as the baseline average.
WWU Facilities Management is collaborating with the Office of Sustainability and the 10×12 Program to achieve a university-wide goal to reduce natural gas consumption, along with other university utilities, by 10% by the end of 2012. A campus-wide heating adjustment is already underway. The standard temperature set-point on main campus is now 68 degrees F. In most buildings this change is 2 degrees lower than set points last fall. The 2-degree change is expected to net a savings of $42,000 dollars annually, recuperating much need revenue and taking steps toward our climate neutral commitment. We can achieve this goal only with active cooperation from faculty, staff and students.
Other scheduled building efficiency improvement measures include: updated utility monitoring technology, window and insulation improvements, installation of sensor-based controls capable of adjusting heating and air circulation, and advanced circulation systems software programming. Many of the energy reduction projects will provide savings from a combination of electricity and natural gas conservation. One long-term strategy for reducing natural gas consumption is converting the university from steam-heat to a hot-water heating system. This would require less fuel but would also require major renovation costs to upgrade the network of pipes that bring heat to each building.
WWU spends more than $375,000 dollars per year for landfill waste disposal, in spite of the fact that the AS Recycle Center diverts over 850 tons of waste from landfill annually. Waste audits of campus dumpsters and outdoor trash cans reveal that 85% of material currently going to landfill could be recycled or composted. According to campus waste audits, recyclable material makes up 48% of WWU dumpster content. Food scraps, food-soiled paper and compostable plastic make up 37%. Landfill waste could be reduced to 15% of current levels, if recyclable and compostable materials were separated throughout the waste stream.
Reducing landfill waste will depend on appropriate sorting at the point of disposal, as well as systems for collection and transport. Appropriate sorting is the responsibility of the consumer as well as individuals employed by recycling collection companies. The AS Recycle Center’s “Blue Barrels” have been on campus since the 1970’s. Newer campus buildings are designed according to LEED specifications and include multi-bin waste sorting stations for recycling and compost. These sorting stations can be found in the Academic Instructional Center, Miller Hall, Communications, and other academic buildings. Arntzen Hall has been retro-fitted with sorting stations that accept compostable food waste and food containers, mixed paper, and various plastics, glass, and metal.
WWU waste reduction efforts are supported by the 10×12 program, with “Put Waste in the Right Place” tools, a classroom waste reduction pilot project in Arntzen Hall, and composting paper towel and non-biohazard waste generated in Biology labs. Facilities Management, The Office of Sustainability and the WWU Air and Waste Management Association are committed to eliminating all recyclable and compostable waste from the WWU Waste stream and purchasing only recyclable and compostable items. Through education, waste analysis, operational changes, and personal action, WWU is committed to becoming a “zero waste” institution.