PMC's Carbon Footprint Reveladed

In May 2010, graduating senior Aneesah Cameron and junior Wislande Cherenfant presented President Gloria Nemerowicz with a three-inch thick binder containing all their work on Pine Manor’s carbon footprint. The binder summarized their search for data, their input in the carbon footprint calculator program, and their results.

A carbon footprint is defined as the total quantity of carbon released into the air as a function of the College’s activities. The carbon footprint calculator, which was provided by our partner Citizen’s Energy, is a comprehensive spreadsheet that asked the students to provide concrete data about all of the sources of carbon emissions for which PMC is responsible. These sources include the obvious -- such as heat, gas and electricity - and the less obvious: staff and commuter students’ transportation, fertilizer, and waste disposal.

Finding these data was a daunting task because the College had no system to locate exact numbers of, say, gallons of fuel or diesel oil, and the number of miles expended by our students in transportation could only be estimated. To obtain reasonable data for the carbon footprint calculator, Aneesah and Wislande examined all the paper receipts for each vendor and added them manually -- and to their great credit they were able to find sufficient data.

The College did not anticipate the need to retrieve these data prior to President Nemerowicz’s signing of the American Association of College & University Presidents’ Commitment (AAUPC) in 2008, signifying the College’s intention to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels and to seek ways to reduce, reuse and recycle, as well as the College’s understanding of the impact of Global Warming.

The bottom line of the project was that in academic year 2008 Aneesah and Wislande estimated (because we don’t have all the data) that we put out about 12MTCO3e or 12 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per full time student. This huge number represents the total amount of CO2e expended by all members of the College community.

What we do know is that through our partnership with Citizen’s Energy and the advocacy of President Nemerowicz, we have reduced the CO2e number has been reduced by a further 9% for academic year 2009. We have changed out almost all lighting at the College to compact fluorescents, a savings of 9.1%; the showers and sinks have water conservation aerators, a savings of 63%; and the gas consumption in the academic buildings and residence halls is now governed by a computer system that sets both heating and cooling temperatures as appropriate for any given room, at any given time of the day, for a further savings of 7.4%. This has efficiently reduced our use of heating fuel and electricity and thus our carbon footprint. More importantly these saving together represent a cost reduction of $242,000.

According to Peter Mills of Citizen’s Energy, “Pine Manor College is working hard to be in line with some of the major colleges and universities in the country in terms of emissions per FT student.”

As a result of their study, Anessah and Wislande, seconded by Peter Mills, recommended: (1) continue the relationship with both AAUPC and Citizen’s Energy; (2) devise a simple spreadsheet that will capture, enter and track appropriate billing information to determine the College’s on-going CO2e; (3) investigate the scope and cost of the College’s waste disposal system, and (4), consider purchasing “offsets” that would reduce carbon emissions beyond making operational changes.

At the end of the students’ presentation, President Nemerowicz reiterated her commitment both to the AAUPC and to the continued reduction of the College’s CO2e. This commitment has a two-fold advantage: any energy reduction in the operations of the College will result in a decrease in expenditure, and, equally importantly, reduction of CO2e means a lesser burden on our planet. The students concluded by saying that this commitment should be a clear and defined piece of the cornerstone of Pine Manor College’s Centennial celebration.

The work on the carbon footprint project by Aneesah Cameron’10 and Wislande Cherenfant’11 was an eleven-month internship sponsored by Dr. Elizabeth Gardner.