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March 29, 2007

Dawgs go green: UW becomes charter member of group to address global warming

News and Information

The UW has become a member of the Leadership Circle of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, by which the University agrees to adopt policies that minimize global warming emissions and integrate sustainability more firmly into the curriculum, and also to provide leadership in encouraging other universities and colleges to join in the effort to address global climate change.

The commitment involves all three UW campuses. Chancellors at both UW Bothell and UW Tacoma have signed the commitment, along with UW President Mark A. Emmert.

“By signing this commitment,” says Emmert, “the University of Washington agrees to develop a plan for achieving climate neutrality in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. We know that this commitment will pose some challenges. But the UW students, faculty, and staff are up to this challenge. We are already recognized as a leader in adopting sustainability practices on campus. Our faculty is recognized internationally for their work in studying climate change. It is time for us to fully embrace the responsibilities that our own research calls for.”

By becoming a signatory to the Commitment, the UW agrees to create institutional structures to guide development and implementation of the plan for achieving climate neutrality, completing an inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions, and taking short-term tangible steps toward reducing greenhouse gases through changes in construction policies, purchasing policies, travel policies, transportation plans or investment policies.

The UW already has a strong track record in developing far-reaching plans for reducing energy consumption. It established an Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee and adopted a Policy on Environmental Stewardship in 2004. The statement says, in part, “The University is committed to practicing and promoting environmental stewardship while conducting its teaching, research, and service missions as well as its facility operations in all of its locations.” The committee is charged with developing measures of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the impact of activities in the area of environmental stewardship.

“There are many individuals and organizations at the University of Washington that devote a significant share of their time to thinking about how the UW’s activities affect the environment,” says Sandra Archibald, dean of the Evans School of Public Affairs and chair of the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee. “Reaching these ambitious goals will require great creativity on their part, as well as the support of the entire UW community.”

The UW also is a founding partner of the Seattle Climate Partnership and has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 to seven percent below the levels in 1990.

Between 2000 and 2005 total UW direct greenhouse gas emissions (which includes the UW power plant, off-campus building fuel, Tacoma and Bothell building fuel, and fleet vehicles) declined nine percent, even as the campus population climbed seven percent. Greenhouse gas emissions related to electricity purchased from Seattle City light, Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma City Light are down 68 percent over the same period. All the electricity the UW purchases from Seattle City Light is carbon neutral.

The UW’s UPASS program has been recognized nationally for its achievements in reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips to campus. Despite a 22 percent growth in the UW’s employee and student population since 1990, University-related peak hour traffic in 2005 was below levels of 15 years ago. More than 75 percent of the campus population commutes in something other than a single-occupancy vehicle.

In compliance with state legislation, the UW currently meets LEED-NC Silver requirements on publicly funded new buildings and major renovations, and, in addition, several privately-funded buildings that are outside of the state’s LEED requirements. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System through the U.S. Green Building Council is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED-CS designation applies to the “core and shell” of buildings; LEED-NC applies to new construction and major renovations.

The UW has recently received a LEED-CS Gold — a level above Silver – for the Benjamin D. Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building project, adding to its previous accomplishments of two Silver and one Certified-rated new constructed buildings that were in design and construction phases before state requirements were in place. The UW is currently in the registration, construction and approval process for six LEED-NC buildings with additional buildings soon to be added to the list. The UW has over 50 LEED-accredited professionals who are nationally certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

In addition, the UW provides knowledge and educates students who will help the country — and the world — achieve climate neutrality. The Program on the Environment offers interdisciplinary environmental education and is a focal point for information exchange on environmental education and research opportunities. The Earth Initiative encourages innovative partnerships to address environmental and natural resource challenges. By focusing on problem-specific environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, the initiative brings together faculty, students, and community partners to create collaborative research, teaching and scholarship.