During last night’s SGA meeting, everyone had one thing on their minds: sustainability. Senior Staff Writer Ramisa Murshed caught all the action, including some guest speakers and special presentations on keeping Barnard and Columbia sustainable.
After all of the SGA reps gave their respective announcements, including that the 616 computer lounge and Hewitt reusable takeout boxes are back, two representatives from the Roosevelt Institute arrived to give a presentation on their campaign to get Columbia to commit to carbon neutrality. Carbon neutrality, which can be defined as releasing net zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere, can be achieved through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and offsets. As of 2017, Columbia has achieved a 33.1% absolute greenhouse gas reduction since 2006 and a 28% carbon intensity reduction. Columbia has not, however, made a commitment to carbon neutrality.
The Roosevelt Institute representatives then compared this to institutions similar to Columbia such as NYU and UPenn, who have already made commitments to achieve carbon neutrality. The main reason for this presentation is that the Roosevelt Institute hopes to get Barnard’s SGA, in addition to CCSC, ESC, and GSSC, to pass a resolution in support of Columbia’s formal commitment to achieving 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality in its 2020 Sustainability Plan. Although it’s a big economic investment upfront, they argued, there are many potential returns and savings, and the university will lose a lot of money if they continue to use nonrenewable resources.
Following the Roosevelt Institute’s presentation on carbon neutrality, Sandra Goldmark, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre and Director of Sustainability and Environment at Barnard took the mic to talk about Barnard’s sustainability efforts. She began by describing the various groups of people on campus who are participating in sustainability, including the Sustainable Practices Committee, Campus Services, Facilities, Dining Services, other offices or departments that may have sustainable initiatives or services, academic departments, and student groups.
She continued with some of Barnard’s sustainability highlights. Academics at Barnard are becoming further saturated with coursework and research on sustainable initiatives, Barnard has switched to using 50% wind energy for electricity, and Barnard has divested from climate science deniers. On campus, food scraps are now being collected in 4 academic buildings, 25 departmental offices, all dining halls, and in 616.
Prof. Goldmark then discussed the future of sustainability at Barnard. “Climate action at Barnard needs to be inclusive,” she says. The working groups for 2018-19 include Consumption and Waste, the Local Environment, Carbon Pricing, Buildings and Energy, and Curricula and Research. Through these working groups, Prof. Goldmark hopes to progress in sustainability by doing things like incentivizing sustainable behaviors and “taxing” non-sustainable ones, creating less waste across campus, and making courses on sustainability more accessible to all students. She concluded her presentation with an announcement about a community walk that is taking place on October 26 from 3 to 5 pm in Inwood Hill Park. All students, faculty, and staff are welcome. You can sign up here.
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