By EAG Member Nya Jackson
As Shavon Jordan, a sophomore psychology major, thumbed through her $222 Information Technology 103 book, she felt sick to her stomach knowing it would be thrown away at the end of the semester. “I’m mad I won’t get any money back, but it’s also wasteful because the book is going to end up in the garbage since I have no use for the book after I’m done with the course.”
Jordan is not the only one thinking about George Mason University’s wasteful behavior. The Office of Sustainability (OS) has been considering how to reduce wasteful consumption and increase sustainability on campus. The OS is implementing a multi-level Climate Action Plan that will ideally lead Mason to climate neutrality.
Recently, the OS held two town hall sessions to engage the Mason community. According to Lenna Storm, Mason’s sustainability coordinator, “With 15 participants — staff, graduates, undergraduates and faculty — and input from all aspects of university operations, the seminar resulted in a list of over 300 projects aimed at reducing emissions.”
While all of these projects were not included in the Climate Action Plan after their costs and benefits were determined, many are ready for immediate implementation, or at least for further research and the possibility of future implementation. The projects for the Climate Action Plan are organized into four categories: Siemens, Large-Scale Strategies, Small-Scale Strategies and Education and Behavior Campaign.
According to Storm, who is the chief compiler and author of the Climate Action Plan, the Siemens category includes projects that can be accomplished through investment in energy-efficiency strategies through Mason’s contract with Siemens, an international energy management company.
Large-scale strategies include solar panel installation to generate heat and electricity, and other projects that will require large-scale resource mobilization. Small-scale strategies include adjusting the default setting on printers in the Johnson Center to double-sided to reduce the amount of paper used on campus.
According to the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, when Rutgers University made double-sided printing the default option for its lab printers, they were able to save 7,391,065 sheets of paper in the first semester alone, or roughly 1,280 trees for the academic year.
Danielle Wyman, a research assistant in the OS, believes small-scale sustainability projects, such as making double-sided printing the default option, can have a large impact on the university’s carbon emissions.
“These projects are easy to implement and can help in reducing Mason’s emissions levels, so it’s important to pursue small-scale projects in addition to larger-scale projects such as solar energy,” said Wyman.
The OS has outlined other small-scale projects including a phased replacement of all standard washers with front-loaders, which have been proven to be more energy-efficient. This makes cold washes the default option on washers to reduce energy consumption, and reduce cogeneration.
The education and behavior campaign identifies several personal adjustments a person can make to reduce emissions, which cannot be achieved through technological fixes.
Colin Bennett, the outreach coordinator for the OS, believes, “Through peer-to-peer education, seminars, social media networks and service learning, the education and behavior campaign will create a university-wide, cultural shift towards more sustainable behavior.”
The OS is not the only one excited about Mason’s commitment to climate neutrality and the Climate Action Plan. The OS has received enthusiastic support from various Mason departments, offices and groups including Mason Transportation, Mason Dining, the Environmental Science and Public Policy Department, the Grounds Shop and the Organic Garden Association.
Mason’s Climate Action Plan was published in January of this year. While all of the projects have not been implemented yet, many of them are already being undertaken in addition to new projects not included in the plan. While the OS compiled and wrote the Climate Action Plan, they have engaged the university throughout the process to create an understanding of the ecological goals of the university.