The University's carbon emissions are down 18 percent after two years of a program designed to improve Brown's energy and environmental impact, according to a sustainability progress report presented to the Brown University Community Council Tuesday.
Christopher Powell, director of sustainable energy and environmental initiatives, said the program has seen a reduction that surpasses the goals originally set two years ago by the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee, which called for a 4 percent annual reduction in carbon emissions.
Powell attributed the reduction in greenhouse gases to improved energy efficiency, fuel switching and a switch to a low-carbon electricity supplier. He said the University received approval for a $20 million loan that would enable it to work toward future goals, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 42 percent below 2007 levels by 2020. Powell said the plan for tackling these goals includes incorporating solar-thermal and geothermal technology.
To date, $10 million of that loan amount has been approved, and Powell said the investment will yield over $2 million in savings annually, paying itself off by 2015. The projects funded by the loan are scheduled to be complete in fall 2011, Powell said.
Projects completed or currently underway include upgrading lighting, replacing steam-traps and retro-commissioning older buildings with more efficient technology.
Powell also described other improvements, including a shift that moved Computing and Information Services forms online and Dining Services' collaboration with local farms and processors. He also pointed to an observed increase in Brown's recycling rate to 38 percent in the 12 months ending this past June, up from 33 percent from the year before.
Kai Morrell '11, a co-coordinator of Brown's EcoReps program, said in a presentation that the EcoReps saw potential in the area of recycling rates. EcoReps are also looking at replacing incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs and raising awareness about the harm plastic water bottles pose to the environment.
"Students are only one part of the community, and hopefully EcoReps will expand to the whole community," Morrell said.
The accelerated rate of carbon emission reduction led one council member to ask if the EEAC had "cherry-picked" easy reductions to make first and if future reductions would come as easily.
Powell said the plan was to deal with the easier plans early on because making efficiency widespread would take time.
"The things we can pull the trigger on, like fuel efficiency — it's not cheap, but we can do it immediately," Powell said.
Professor of History Evelyn Hu-Dehart asked whether it was true — as she said she had been told by some caterers — that leftover food from events is simply thrown away. "It's not good for the environment — it's not good for the soul — to waste so much food," Hu-Dehart said.
Gretchen Willis, director of Dining Services, addressed the question from the audience, saying that the perception that Dining Services wastes food "disturbed" her but that she would look into the issue.
BDS is seeking ways to reduce the presence of bottled water on campus, Willis also told the council.
The council also addressed the Brown community's off-campus engagement with Providence. Swearer Center Director and Associate Dean of the College for Community and Global Engagement Roger Nozaki and Assistant to the President Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar '87 MA'90 PhD'09 spoke about the importance of community programs that allow Brown students to reach out to the local community.
They primarily discussed education-based programs like the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence, which is committed to raising a $10 million endowment to make grants to local schools, $1.5 million of which has been raised so far.
Rodriguez-Farrar, a member of the Corporation's Board of Trustees, described how the fund gave out its first grants in May, providing $118,000 for graphing calculators. The fund also gave out three grants for $10,000 to three schools in the district.
The BUCC will meet next on Nov. 17.