University of Virginia officials are using the opportunity of Earth Week, which begins Monday, to announce its action plan for reducing UVA’s greenhouse gas emissions.
This plan, to be released Tuesday, will fit well with the theme of this year’s Earth Week observation, “Awareness to Action.” The week will feature programs, activities and presentations about the environment and sustainability across Grounds.
The University’s Board of Visitors pledged in 2011 to reduce UVA’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 2009 levels by 2025. To date, UVA has reduced emissions by more than 11 percent since 2009, despite significant growth in enrollment, employment and physical space. The board also resolved in 2013 to reduce the University’s nitrogen footprint and signed on to the federal Department of Energy’s goals of reducing building energy use by 20 percent below 2010 levels by 2020.
“The UVA community is incredibly supportive of sustainability and active in collectively moving UVA toward a more sustainable future,” said Andrea Trimble, UVA’s sustainability director. “UVA’s greenhouse gas plan, created with input from dozens of stakeholders, provides a tangible roadmap for even deeper reductions in UVA’s environmental footprint, with a role for virtually everyone at UVA.”
Under the reduction plan, the University will seek to change energy generation and distribution, shift to renewable energy sources, employ conservation measures in existing buildings, shift to “green” labs where equipment efficiencies are increased, employ green building standards in new construction and major renovations, improve efficiencies in transportation and create awareness of individual actions – resulting in a reduction of between 126,000 and 216,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide generated each year.
Among the energy changes planned is improving the efficiency of the heating plant, the chiller plants and their distribution systems, and shifting to alternate energy technologies.
In one example of incorporating renewable energy, the University has installed a solar array atop Clemons Library that feeds directly into the building and will generate about 15 percent of the library’s annual electric draw, offsetting about 92 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year that will not be generated. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Pat Hogan, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, will symbolically cut the ribbon on the project Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom. The University has leased additional rooftops on Grounds to Dominion Virginia Power to house solar arrays feeding into the electric grid.
The University also has agreed to purchase the entire electric output generated at a 160-acre Dominion solar farm in Hollyfield, reducing the carbon footprint of the University and the Darden School of Business by about 18,000 metric tons per year.
University technicians will work on existing buildings, improving and updating the controls and systems technologies, performing enhanced maintenance refinement and training in improving building efficiency.
In research laboratories, where intensive energy use is often necessary to maintain state-of-the-art equipment, the University will seek to improve and update equipment and make infrastructure modifications to reduce energy use.
Green building standards will be used in major renovations and new construction, with a goal of reducing the energy impact of new buildings.
The University is also looking into increased efficiencies in its vehicular fleet, including its bus system.
Another element of the plan is to increase awareness of sustainability among University employees and students, promoting modifications in their daily routines that could cumulatively add up to a reduction in greenhouse gases.
Earth Week Activities
Some of the activities planned for Earth Week are:
- April 17: UVA Farmers Market, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the McIntire Amphitheater
- April 18: Earth Week Expo and Solar Ribbon Cutting, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom
- April 19: SustainaBanquet, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Newcomb Ballroom
- April 20: SustainaPitch Night: Social Justice Edition, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Open Grounds
- April 21: Academical Vintage Market and Clothing Swap, from noon to 4 p.m. at 1515 University Ave.
- April 22: Earth Day of Action. Volunteers engage in service, share their voices and commit to green living.
- April 23: Charlottesville Eco-Fair, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Downtown Mall and Pavilion.
All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. For the full schedule and event descriptions, visit sustainability.virginia.edu.