The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

University's Climate Action Plan draft now available online

Trey McDonald, the University's Sustainability Coordinator, has been working to implement the Climate Action Plan on campus.
Trey McDonald, the University's Sustainability Coordinator, has been working to implement the Climate Action Plan on campus.

University of Richmond officials are continuing their efforts to reduce the school's carbon footprint through a Climate Action Plan (CAP), which details the administration's strategy to become climate neutral - a net zero carbon footprint - by 2050.

The first draft of the CAP is now available online, and the campus community can participate by offering feedback and suggestions during the public comment period, which ends Dec. 4.

"The plan focuses on climate neutrality within a targeted amount of time," said Trey McDonald, sustainability coordinator for the university. "[The year] 2050 dovetails nicely with the U.N. recommendations through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)," he said. "They recommend 80 percent reduction [of greenhouse gases] by 2050. We are going to be a little more aggressive than 2050."

Some schools have been more aggressive by focusing on renewable energy sources as a way to limit greenhouse gases, but the sustainability working group, which oversees the CAP, hopes to change how the university operates before focusing on renewable energy, which is too expensive to implement campus-wide, McDonald said.

"One strategy that a lot of people want to see is renewable energy sources on campus," he said. "The key to that however, is to make sure that the buildings on campus are as energy-efficient as they can be, so that the sizing of the installations of the renewable energy can be smaller and therefore less expensive."

The plan is made up of five subgroup committees that focus on different aspects of the campus: transportation, building energy use, administration, education and material management.

Each subgroup is already in the process of making changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help improve the university's carbon footprint.

"One of the things that will help the university a lot are the new federal policies that are coming out," McDonald said. "By 2020, we should have about a 25-30 percent increase in fuel efficiency based on those federal changes alone. "

Older vehicles are also being replaced with new hybrid or biodiesel models, he said.

Weinstein Hall, and all new construction projects, will satisfy the standards put in place by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)/Green Building Rating System, which makes the buildings more environmentally friendly.

The administration has been supportive as well, McDonald said. In 2007, President Edward Ayers signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, which set in motion the process to create the CAP, he said.

"[The university has a] longstanding history of innovative sustainability efforts," Ayers said. "With the implementation of the ACUPCC and in cooperation with organizations like the Association for Advancement of Sustainably in Higher Education, we are well on our way to being a more sustainable, environmentally friendly university."

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During recent years, the campus community seems to be more receptive toward green improvements, said senior Zach Sussman, a member of the Sustainability Working Group.

"It helps knowing that the administration is driving this, and that it has become an important aspect of the school itself," he said.

McDonald said he hoped people would provide feedback on the plan.

"People just do not know the initiatives that are going on right now and this is a chance for the community to learn about that as well as to offer their ideas," McDonald said. "We want as much interaction, and as many ideas and suggestions from the community as we can get because this is going to affect everyone."

Contact reporter Stephen Utz at

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