A few questions answered

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Details were thin in PrezBo’s announcement regarding Columbia’s decision to curb its carbon habit, which should have dropped in your inbox sometime today. Ever curious, Bwog took its questions to sustainability czar and New Yorker of the Week Nilda Mesa, who made everything a little more concrete.

jkjjWhat data has Columbia gathered on its current carbon emissions? How does the University plan to monitor progress, and are there intermediate targets?

We are in the process of beginning the exhaustive data collection effort.  It involves many departments of the University, and will focus on the areas of energy, waste, transportation and refrigerants. Given the complexity of the University, and that this is new, to get accurate figures will take some time.  We will be in good shape though, with the measures we already began this year to put in systems to collect the data, such as metering the buildings separately at Morningside, Lamont and Baker Field. We will indeed have intermediate targets over the next 10 years.  It’s a very exciting time. 

Where will the reduction in emissions come from?

We will know better once we have an accurate inventory identifying the sources.  We expect our reductions will mirror the city’s patterns, and will come from such initiatives as installing light sensors and more energy-efficient lighting, installing double-paned glass, and purchasing energy-efficient appliances and boilers, some of which we have already begun to do.  Recycling will also be a component, and we are looking at the feasibility of purchasing renewable energy such as wind. It’s a big effort, and we’ll succeed if everyone does their part on even the little things like turning off lights and computers.

How much will this commitment cost the University to implement?

We will know better once the inventory is done and we have a good sense of where the opportunities are.  We expect we will save money in many instances over the long run because fuel costs are so high.


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  1. aim lower

    once students can place trash in the appropriately labeled recycling bins, maybe we're off to a start

  2. what

    about barnard? where do THEY fit into all of these things, eh?

  3. recycling  

    1) nyc does not recycle, because the transportation costs are enormous. recycling only happens when it is deemed that the client will save money (on plastics, paper, metal, etc.), and it just doesn't make sense financially for nyc.

    2) Columbia should definitely integrate an energy efficient plan for the the campus. LEED certification would be nice. But with students running their air conditioners all summer, it wouldn't make much of a difference if students don't care.

  4. thanks

    for teh follow up coverage bwog!

  5. recycler

    it is not true that New York doesn't recycle. (to clear the double negatives, new york recycles: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dsny/html/collection/refuse.shtml)
    It halted the program for awhile, but it is certainly up and running now.

  6. recycling

    new york may recycle, but its trash dumping policy is ridiculous. Large container trucks travel to Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all over the rest of the Mid-Atlantic states to dump New York's trash on a weekly basis. Talk about transportation costs

  7. question

    in the email, they talk about a 'green' dorm. any idea which one that'll be?

  8. Carbon Credits

    Who do I call to suggest that Columbia set up some kind of program to buy CO2 credits to offset yearly dorm room pollution? Other universities do it, and of course one can do it on their own, but it's a relatively simple thing to do for the institution and I think it would be great if we could use flex to pay for it.

    • uh...

      I think you just did.
      In slightly more seriousness, I guess I'd contact someone in an environmentally friendly club or in student council. I don't know how much of a chance your plan has, but those two avenues are the only way I can imagine.
      I could be wrong, though, hopefully someone below will tell us if I am.

  9. carbon credits

    aren't carbon credits complete bullshit? instead of buying CO2 credits and hoping that the seller of said credits uses the money to offset your polluting, why not invest in a greener way of life in the first place? seems like a roundabout way of getting shit done

    • Well

      I'm not saying we shouldn't change our way of life as I personally do so and advocate (gently) the same for others, but I think we should do both.

      I'm not sure if you've done the research, but here are two websites which provide a good cross-section of how it works. I won't give you all the other consumer and watchdog sites which look into the nuts and bolts, you can do that yourself if you're interested:



      One is non-profit and the other is a business, so I considered for a while before deciding 1) if I should do it at all and 2) if I wanted to go with the profit one or the non profit one (I went with non-profit, in case you care, just because of an irrational distrust I have of most business enterprises, but I can't really think of a reasonable reason why a for-profit business couldn't do the same thing just as well or perhaps even better). I think that you're right to be skeptical, but I think this is one case where greed can be employed for good. The biggest polluters are individuals and businesses (as opposed to government, I guess), and I can be responsible for myself, but would simultaneously like to hold industry accountable too. Because credits force major corporations to pay if they want to pollute extra, they may actually behave reasonably and think twice before they pollute, since it involves the bottom lines. It costs relatively little for me, so I think it's worth it for my peace of mind. If you don't, more power to you.

      To answer your question, no I do not think it's complete bullshit.

    • it's obviously  

      not the BEST solution, but it's a start. it means that people are starting to take responsibility for their emissions, and prices are being put on the negative externalities of carbon emission, resulting in a more efficient economy. of course it would be ideal for everyone to invest in a greener way of life, but carbon credits is the next best thing.

  10. NYU did it...


    From the institution's perspective, throwing money at the problem works better than changing your own practices.

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