University News

Carbon reduction programs implemented

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Students working to reduce carbon emissions on and off campus have achieved measurable success — even before spending all of the grant money that created their group.

The Community Carbon Use Reduction at Brown Initiative has completed its flagship project, has three active projects and is looking for future endeavors.

The initiative was originally funded by a $300,000 grant from President Ruth Simmons’ office and the Sidney E. Frank Foundation. The initiative’s goal, according to its website, is to get Brown students involved in enhancing the sustainability of Providence and the surrounding area.

It is a “great opportunity for students to get creative and be innovative trying to think how the greater community can reduce carbon emissions,” said Spencer Lawrence ’11, the initiative’s project coordinator.

The initiative’s flagship project, Project 20/20, successfully surpassed its goal last spring of installing earth-friendly light bulbs in over 5,000 homes. At a cost of $52 per home — which also included money used to pay students, who received an hourly rate of $10 for their work on the project — each house will save an estimated $320 over the four-year lifespan of the bulbs.

In total, the project saved $1.7 million in energy costs and reduced carbon emissions by 4,400 tons.

It was “interesting to see a different aspect of life in the Providence area,” said Matt Severson ’11, who also works on the initiative.

The initiative is currently working on three projects, all of which are funded by the program’s original grant.

In one project, students pump underinflated tires at a local gas station to improve cars’ fuel efficiency. The average tire is underinflated by three pounds per square inch, translating to 104 pounds of wasted carbon dioxide every year, said Danielle Dahan ’11, a student active in the project.

Another project — known as the “Double Green Loan” — installs programmable thermostats in local homes. Through a partnership with a local company, the project gives loans to install the thermostats. The project, which began in the 2008-2009 school year, has now reached just under 200 homes, Severson said.

The third current project works to foster community weatherization. Small projects include improving insulation and caulking leaks. The initiative also provides loans of about $3,000 for professional contractors to do larger or more serious projects. The project, which started last spring, will actually pay for itself in about five years with the amount of money saved from heating costs, Lawrence said.

In addition to these three projects, there is a proposal in the works for a new project, working with the John Hope Settlement House in downtown Providence. This project would involve working with an energy engineer to do things like “weatherizing, changing out some of the equipment and installing a solar wall” at the house, Dahan said. The project is not yet approved but would begin sometime this year.

The initiative is looking to use the rest of its grant this year, Lawrence said.