Chapter 2: Our Climate Commitment

Plymouth State University’s Environmental Commitment: A Brief History

Plymouth State has long history of commitment to the environment and energy conservation. The university has employed an energy management system for the past twenty-seven years, and has been cogenerating its own electricity for over fifteen years. More recently the university built a new Gold LEED certified 347 bed residence hall and has continued a commitment to energy efficiency. The cold weather environment of northern New Hampshire poses significant energy challenges for the campus, both environmentally and financially. As the cost of providing heat and electricity using fossil fuel has increased at a high rate, the university has been retrofitting buildings with new roofs, added insulation, new windows, and lighting systems. These efficiency improvements will continue to be on-going projects as funding and new products become available. In addition to campus infrastructure the university is also engaged in continuing efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of its operations. For example, in 2009 the university made a new commitment to using paper with increased proportions of recycled content, and recycling on campus has increased steadily over the last five years. These efforts represent only as few examples of the ways the university continually renews its commitment to reducing its environmental impacts.

The efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of the operation of Plymouth State have been accompanied by curricular changes that empower students to be future stewards of the environment in their professional and personal lives. New interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate Environmental Science and Policy programs have been created in the last ten years, and the Center for the Environment and the Center for Rural Partnerships now actively engage students in environmental research that serves the residents of New Hampshire. A new EcoHouse facility was created in 2008 to provide a student-directed living laboratory for classes and workshops on sustainability, and to provide a home for the Office of Sustainability to coordinate and share PSU’s continuing steps towards a more sustainable institution. Residence Life and many other student and campus services, including Sodexo Food Services, continue to make efforts to reduce their environmental impacts and frequently involve students in their endeavors. Student organizations are also active on environmental issues, and as a whole the university community and academic programs continue to improve their commitment to sustainability.

Plymouth State University’s Commitment to Reducing its Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Plymouth State seeks to attain a place of leadership in environmental stewardship and sustainable ecologies on our campus and in the larger community of which we are a part. We will bring proactive vision, intellectual intensity, and high ethical standards to our pursuit of environmental leadership with research and teaching, institutional operations, and our relationship with the community.

With support from across the campus, in late spring 2007 President Sara Jayne Steen signed the President’s Commitment (Appendix I). Beginning in the fall of that year the President’s Commission for Environmental Sustainability began by identifying Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP) as the system we would adopt for collecting data and measuring the university’s green house gas (GHG) emissions. In addition the university is also committed to the following:

  • PSU is committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 50% no later than 2025 and 100% by 2050.
  • The university is committed to developing and implementing a plan to assure that all students better understand the issues of sustainability.
  • The university will maintain a positive and proactive role in communicating its environmental activities and performance.
  • We are committed to supporting interdisciplinary environmental scholarship and research, increasing faculty and student awareness of environmental issues, and enhancing environmental educational offerings.
  • Plymouth State will comply with all relevant environmental laws and regulations and go beyond the requirements for compliance by integrating the values of sustainability, stewardship, and resource conservation into our activities and services.
  • The university will make decisions with the goal of improving the long-term quality and regenerative capacity of the environmental, social, and economic systems that support the university’s activities and needs. All new campus buildings will obtain a Silver LEED certification or equivalent and Energy Star equipment will be the standard when available.
  • We are committed to assessing the environmental impacts associated with our activities and services, for which we will develop and track measures of our progress.
  • PSU is committed to our region. The university is committed to playing a constructive and collaborative role as a responsible environmental citizen in the life of the surrounding community and the region and to continuing to offer research and development activities through its Center for the Environment and the Center for Rural partners.

This Climate Action Plan provides the campus with a road map for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and also provides a plan for increasing the focus of sustainability across the curriculum to enhance research and community interaction. Without providing a method for measuring our current future GHG emissions, we would not be able to measure our successes. The CA-CP calculator was selected as our partner for collecting, storing, and interpreting data for a number of reasons:

  • They are a New Hampshire firm located in Portsmouth.
  • They are a nonprofit supported by grants and offer the calculator at no cost.
  • The calculator has become the standard for most of higher education and is currently accepted by the EPA and other regulatory agencies that will soon be requiring this data.
  • They provide excellent support and regular updates.
  • The calculator is an excellent tool for identifying and measuring the financial and emissions impact of future projects and activities.

Moving Forward to Reduce Plymouth State University’s Carbon Footprint

The rest of this document presents the results of the university’s carbon inventory conducted to determine the contributions of its operations to climate change and outlines a plan for reducing them through innovation and behavioral change and offsetting the remainder. Because there are still many unknowns, it is important that this document become a part of the university’s ongoing planning process for strategic and master planning. There needs to an annual review of the CAP plan along with a measurement of our progress and a reassessment of our goals and actions, and this plan will be continually refined as this process continues.