In 2009, former president Dick Celeste signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, agreeing to make CC carbon neutral by 2020. Four years later, CC is right on schedule.

Current figures indicate that the college will meet, or even surpass, this goal within the designated time frame. Since 2009, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 30 percent, according to Sustainability Manager Ian Johnson.

Renovation of campus buildings has contributed in part to reducing emissions.

Though it is too soon to tell, Energy Manager Ferguson expects that recently renovated Slocum Hall’s “energy savings will become very noticeable as the weather gets colder.” However, due to budget and time constraints, large scale building renovation is not a viable solution to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020.

The college is currently exploring small improvements that will reduce emissions in a relatively short amount of time. The Board of Trustees recently approved funding for a 2MW solar array, which will cut emissions by 25 percent.

The college is also looking at a cogeneration system, which uses the heat as the byproduct of electricity generation to power HVAC and hot water systems. This would further reduce emissions by 80 percent, according to Johnson.

In 2012, 10.9 percent of electricity – approximately 1,481,460 kWh – came from renewable resources, according to Ferguson. Despite the college’s motivation to increase this percentage through the installation of solar panels, Colorado Springs Utilities has made progress difficult.

Last April, the City Council rescinded a tariff that would have provided the $22 million necessary to expand city’s solar garden program. In June, the council agreed to expand the garden by 2 megawatts, lowering the program cost from $4.9 million to $22 million, but significantly decreasing the available supply of solar power.

If solar garden expansion were approved by the City Council, CC would install solar panels and receive a feed-in tariff of $0.14 per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. While this may be an incentive for CC, the higher the feed-in tariff, the less likely the city is to support solar panel installation.

“Solar panels are great, but I don’t think they should be subsidized by the citizens of Colorado Springs,” council member Helen Collins said at a meeting last August.

Despite barriers to progress, Johnson believes that the council’s current perspective is not static. “If more people begin to demand renewable energy instead of natural gas and coal-based energy, Colorado Springs Utilities may be pushed to add more to their portfolio,” Johnson said.

Johnson cited action as the single most important way CC students can influence the community perspective.  “By being conscious of the [environmental, economic, and social] aspects of sustaining our way of life, we can promote a lived ethic that becomes visible for others to see and emulate,” Johnson said.

This commitment has been reinforced by the recently unveiled Strategic Plan, which aims to make CC a “model of environmental stewardship and innovation.”

In an effort to increase eco-consciousness, Johnson is creating objectives for sustainability education across the disciplines. This includes in-classroom education as well as workshops for faculty and staff.

“As sustainability is everyone’s job, I’d love to see an effort to get some level of sustainability responsibility added to all faculty, staff, and intern job descriptions,” Johnson said.

Between renovation and education, Johnson is confident that CC will achieve carbon neutrality by 2020. He hopes CC will eventually become carbon negative, which would provide income for increased sustainable growth through the accruement of carbon credits.

While action is key to change, Johnson emphasized the need to appreciate the good work that has already been done. “We’re very good about taking positive steps, but don’t take the time to celebrate our successes, or to tell the rest of the world what we’ve done,” Johnson said.

Mallory Shipe, Staff Writer

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