~By Rachel Merriman-Goldring
In 2010, the College of William & Mary emitted more than 84,000 metric tons of CO2. The majority of this energy was purchased energy, but more than 10,000 metric tons were due to personal commuting, college-related business travel, and travel to study abroad programs.
W&M’s recently revitalized Carbon Offset program will allow faculty, administrators, and students to offset such emissions through funding energy projects on the William & Mary campus.
Carbon offsets are a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide, intended to offset emissions in other sectors. Carbon offset programs typically fund projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. This can be in one of two ways: creating better energy or using less energy. Projects can either help phase in more renewable forms of energy, or reduce the overall quantity of energy used in a particular process.
The W&M carbon offset program is unique in that it’s on-site. Most other offset programs involve sending money to outside providers, who conduct offset programs in locations around the globe. While such programs are an important part of increasing environmental consciousness, they have their flaws. These programs provide less education and outreach, less accountability, and spend more of the funding on administrative costs. The W&M offset program spends 100% of its donations on offset projects.
The W&M offset program is uniquely equipped to fulfill its mission. Says Eileen Nakahata, head of the Carbon Offset Working Group (colloquially referred to by some of its goofier members, including yours truly, as COWG), “The Committee on Sustainability is different than other student organization in that it works with the administration and faculty. This gives it a lot more potential to act on environmental issues on campus. The Carbon Offset Working Group is a good example of this, because a student organization could not do a program like this on their own.”
Currently, the group’s 7 members, Akshay Deverakonda (‘15), Meghan Frere (‘17), Rachel Merriman-Goldring (‘17), Eileen Nakahata (‘17), Abigail Simon (‘17), Danya Abdel Hameid (‘18), and Tommy Griffiths (‘18), are working on a variety of tasks. These include finding potential projects, revamping the website, and gaining access to necessary accounts.
The Carbon Offset Working Group recently received a $3000 Green Fee from the Committee on Sustainability. The funding will allow the working group to phase out more than 300 incandescent bulbs in professors’ desk lamps, and to replace them with LEDs. The Green Fee grant will serve as a test case, to allow the working group to implement its first project, and to do calculations of the quantity of carbon offset.
Future carbon offset projects will be more long-term and larger in scale. The committee’s first project will fund the replacement of parking lot lights at the William & Mary Law school with high-efficiency LEDs. This project is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by more than 380,000 kg of CO2 over the lights’ estimated 10-year lifespan. The Carbon Offset Working Group currently has $3,597 of funding for the project, and the Committee on Sustainability has funded $7,669 of this project through the Green Fee program. The working group aims to raise an additional $10,878 to fully fund this $22,144 offset project.
A solar project is the next initiative on the docket. The working group is talking with Matt Goetz (‘15) who conducted an assessment of the feasibility of photovoltaics on campus rooftops. Currently, the working group hopes to place solar panels on one of the Campus Rec’s eight slanted rooftops.
The working group continues to update its infrastructure. The website, http://offset.wm.edu/, is undergoing renovations. By the end of May, William & Mary faculty, administrators, students, and visitors will be able to donate money to offset their travel, heating/cooling, electricity use, and other emissions.