A plan to get Bryn Mawr College to carbon neutrality by 2035 was shared by Director of Facilities Nina Bisbee at an event marking Earth Day.
“From the administration investing in things like improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and transportation fleet, to faculty and student-led projects, lowering Bryn Mawr’s carbon footprint has been, and will continue to be, a community-wide effort,” says Bisbee.
As early as the mid-1980s, the College started to take energy conservation into account in planning renovations and construction projects. Reducing the College’s overall carbon footprint became a much more prominent goal in 2010, as part of the school’s Climate Action Plan. At that time, the College made what seemed like an ambitious goal of reducing overall College emissions by 10 percent over the next 10 years and 30 percent by 2030.
“We’ve already far surpassed that goal,” says Bisbee.
In 2020 the College completed an updated greenhouse gas emissions inventory that showed a net greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 49 percent from the baseline year of 2007 despite measuring additional sources of emissions.
“On an apples-to-apples comparison the reduction is 62 percent,” Bisbee adds.
Among the most significant milestones for sustainability occurred in 2014, when the College moved to operating on 100 percent wind power, thanks to the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs).
RECs are sold by renewable energy generators who use the proceeds to fund industry operations and projects. An REC is calculated by considering the renewable fuel source (in the College’s case, wind power), facility emissions, location, and operation and the date the electricity that produced the REC was generated. So while traditional electricity still flows through campus lines, each megawatt hour is offset by an REC.
The College recently took yet another step in sustainable purchasing of electricity. Bryn Mawr partnered with ENGIE Resources and will be supplied energy from a wind farm in Pennsylvania. The agreement takes effect in June 2022, represents 100 percent of the college’s consumption and includes national Green-e certified RECs from unrelated sources. The environmental benefits in this agreement are equal to offsetting the CO2 emissions of 13 million pounds of coal burned, or 27,893 barrels of oil consumed annually.
Other steps the College will take to become carbon neutral include continued HVAC and building envelope improvements and upgrades, select solar panel installations, and converting the College’s vehicle fleet to electric.
In addition, the College this week started a large-scale tree planting initiative on campus and is looking into potential partnerships for an off-site planting project to offset the College’s carbon footprint and serve as a bridge as new technologies emerge, and the College continues to convert to carbon-free technologies and fuel sources into the future.