CSB president commits to ‘climate neutral’ campus

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June 12, 2007

College of Saint Benedict President MaryAnn Baenninger has joined over 250 other college and university presidents in formally committing to sharply reduce and eventually eliminate all of the college’s global warming emissions. Baenninger also pledged to accelerate the research and educational efforts to equip society to re-stabilize the Earth’s climate.

The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment was adopted today at a summit of higher education leaders in Washington, D.C.

“Being conscientious stewards of the environment has always been an important part of our mission as a college,” said Baenninger, who was one of 103 president signatories in the Leadership Circle, who have agreed to help lead the initiative, promote it and recruit colleagues to join. “The challenge of global warming makes that work more vital than ever, and the College of Saint Benedict is committed to leading efforts to attain climate neutrality and live responsibly.”

The school is in the process of formalizing its plan for the future, including adopting green standards for buildings; requiring ENERGY STAR certification for products purchased by the college; offsetting emissions due to air travel; encouraging public transportation; purchasing energy from renewable sources; and supporting climate and sustainability shareholder proposals through its endowment.

Considered stewardship of natural resources and long-term planning are central to the Benedictine tradition of the school. CSB will make decisions in the future that will reflect the best attempts to reduce the environmental impacts of building construction and operation, while minimizing the loss of green space and other encroachments on the local environment.

These efforts build on the school’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, including:

  • During February 2007, CSB reduced electrical consumption on campus by 2.1 percent, during the “Energy Wars” competition involving other Minnesota private colleges. That reduction came despite a month that was, on average, 12 degrees cooler than the past three years;
  • Baenninger asked CSB environmental studies students to advise her on the selection of a new fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicle for her own use. She intends to make the vehicle decision later this year;
  • CSB uses environmentally-friendly electronic ballast lighting with no PCB’s that use less energy than the old-style ballasts. Also, motion sensors in some buildings have proven to be very efficient in saving energy on campus;
  • CSB plants trees and shrubs that are native to the area. Over the past eight years, over 600 trees have been planted on campus;
  • A bus system known as “the Link” connects CSB to its partner, Saint John’s University in Collegeville, providing public transportation to students and staff and reducing automobile emissions. During the 2005-06 academic year, 852,100 students were transported between the two campuses. This totaled 153,617 miles on the Link buses;
  • A campus-based recycling system at CSB plays a key role in reducing the campus waste stream;
  • Environmental studies students regularly conduct sustainability studies on campus. In 2005, senior environmental studies students at CSB and SJU wrote a campus energy plan. In 2004, environmental studies students wrote a Campus Green Building Plan;
  • In 2004, CSB was awarded the “Energy Conservation Award” from the National Wildlife Federation for its outstanding management and utilization of energy resources. The college has state of the art energy management systems (EMS) that control the lighting, heating and ventilation of all buildings based on demand and occupancy.

The Presidents Climate Commitment is the first such effort by any major sector of society to set climate neutrality – not just a reduction – as its target. This undertaking by America’s colleges and universities is inspired by efforts like the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and other collective efforts by states and businesses.           

“Colleges and universities must lead the effort to reverse global warming for the health and well-being of current and future generations,” said Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University and chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee. “On behalf of all the signatories, I welcome President Baenninger to the commitment. We are honored to have her join us.”

The American College and University Presidents Climate Committee is a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the Earth’s climate. Under the guidance and direction of university presidents, the commitment is being supported and implemented by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Second Nature and ecoAmerica.

You can learn more at www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.