Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Greenhouse gas audit results

Results from Whitman’s second annual greenhouse gas emission audit were presented to the administration on Monday, May 3. A team of 15 students participated in the audit and presented their report, as well as recommendations for the college to further reduce emissions.

The audit found that the college emitted 5.38 megatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent per member of the campus community for the fiscal year 2009. This is down from the 10 megatonnes found in last year’s audit, but senior Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Curtis stressed that this difference is largely due to changes in methodology. For example, this year’s audit decided not to count student travel to and from campus, an area which was included last year. The rationale behind this decision was that students have to get to campus somehow, so these trips can’t feasibly be eliminated as part of a strategy to reduce emissions.

President George Bridges pledged to consider the results of the audit seriously and make an effort to follow the audit team’s recommendations.

“I can assure you that this will not sit on a shelf and get dusty. It is a report that we will look at very carefully,” he said.

Though the audit team is still in the process of making recommendations, they highlighted several areas which the college could focus on. Solid food waste was responsible for just over 10 percent of the college’s total emissions, and implementing a campus-wide composting program would help divert a large amount of this waste from landfills. In addition, they recommended that the college create more incentives for students to reduce waste, by having incentives for bringing bags to the bookstore and reusable mugs to campus cafés.

“Recycling has taken the front space and reducing and reusing are kind of on the back burner,” said sophomore Katie Radosevic, who helped with the audit.

A number of recommendations concerned making future audits easier for the students doing them. Students presenting data said that they often had to rely on guesstimation because college records aren’t kept in a useful format. For example, the college keeps track of the amount of money spent on school-sponsored faculty travel, but doesn’t keep records of miles traveled, making an emissions audit difficult. Bridges said he hopes to work to solve this information gap.

“We need to find a way to do [the audit] that isn’t so burdensome that people don’t want to do it,” he said.

To avoid this problem in future audits, each group involved in the audit created a form for the data they needed, which will be sent to the appropriate contact on campus. In addition to making future audits easier, this will help ensure uniformity and reliability of data.

“One of the problems with the audit is that methodologically, we’re measuring things differently each year,” said Jed Schwendiman, associate to the president and co-chair of the Conservation and Recycling Committee. “At this point, I’m not confident that the results from last year can be compared to the results from this year.”

He said that the college will focus on two or three large-impact areas when considering steps to reduce emissions in the coming year. In particular, measures that will save the college money will be carefully considered.

“If there are ways we can conserve resources and save money, we’re going to be more motivated to do those things,” he said.

President Bridges is confident that the audit results can be used to improve Whitman’s carbon footprint, and to make future audits easier.

“We will continue to push this agenda. I expect that we will have a report next year with better findings and less footprint,” he said.

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  • K

    karlisMay 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    The numbers are calculated in MTeCO2 or metric tons of CO2 equivalent, not megatonnes 😉

    Also, the report link does not work, but you can find the whole report and its supporting documents on the Sustainability Wiki: