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JCC wants to be “carbon neutral”

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Jefferson Community College is making a long-term commitment to the environment: becoming carbon neutral within 86 years.

Director of Facilities Bruce Alexander has measured five years’ worth of JCC’s carbon emissions to try to comply with the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which was signed several years ago.

“The goal is to be carbon neutral,” Mr. Alexander told the Board of Trustees on Wednesday. “That’s a big bite to chew, but we’re going to attempt it.”

He said carbon neutral means not emitting more than they generate.

So far, 665 colleges have signed the climate commitment, according to a website tally at http://presidents climatecommitment.org/.

His presentation stated that in 2012 alone, 71 percent of greenhouse emissions, 3,060 metric tons, were due to gasoline consumed and carbon emissions released commuting to and from campus. Electricity accounted for 15 percent, or 655 metric tons of emissions, and natural gas made up 14 percent, or 621 metric tons. He said he used a “carbon calculator” to measure the emissions.

“I’m comfortable with this because we don’t have residence halls,” said Mr. Alexander. “Everyone commutes.”

Annually, he said JCC students, faculty and staff drive 7,394,000 miles to get to and from campus.

After the meeting, President Carole A. McCoy said the college began reducing its carbon footprint before she signed the climate commitment.

During a recent energy management project, the college replaced its boilers and lights to be more energy efficient. The college also plants trees on campus and uses recyclable containers in the cafeteria rather than Styrofoam.

“The tricky part is to document it,” she said.

Although college officials are still in the process of creating the plan to further reduce their carbon footprint, Mr. Alexander suggested commuting be tackled because it is a “low-hanging fruit” by giving students and staff incentives for carpooling or taking the bus to school.

To decrease energy emissions — and bills — the college could also lower heat settings, raise cooling settings and add solar panels.

Submitting the official climate action plan within the next six months is the next step, said Mr. Alexander, and would include a timeline and date.

Mrs. McCoy said the college can choose a year before 2100 to become carbon neutral.

“Most of it will require policy writing and purchasing decisions,” she said. “These are very long-term plans.”

Mr. Alexander said everyone on campus is going to have to commit to the plan once it is in place for it to work.

“Is it even realistic?” he asked. “Well, who knows what technology we’ll have in the future.”

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