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Furman Creates New Process for Campus Energy, Climate Action

09.03.2010
Clean Air-Cool Planet, a leading organization dedicated to finding and promoting solutions to global warming, has featured Furman University in a case study that recognizes Furman’s unique approach to planning for sustainability initiatives on campus and beyond.

The organization says that Furman's unique approach to planning has resulted in efforts that are integral to the school’s master sustainability plan and can serve as a model for other colleges and universities.

Across the country, colleges and universities are leading the way in taking up solutions to global warming, from reducing energy use and educating tomorrow’s leaders about energy and climate to leading research on new energy technologies.

Those most successful in integrating climate work into campus life, the curriculum and the institution’s broader community do so based on a comprehensive plan of action, often starting with calculating the institution’s overall emissions in order to identify ways to cut carbon emissions from the physical plant, says Clean Air-Cool Planet (CA-CP).

Furman is one such school with an exemplary approach to planning, resulting in climate action that is integral to the master plan.

“Furman’s process featured both top-down impetus and convening other institutions for counsel on developing a campus-wide and deep focus on climate action,” says Jennifer Andrews, who heads CA-CP’s campus program. “It is truly one of the most creative and productive ways we’ve seen for getting from an inventory of emissions to a plan of action that can be assimilated into the life and the policies of the institution.”

This week Furman had a week-long celebration of the institution’s efforts on sustainability, including the work on climate, according to Dr. Angela Halfacre, professor of political science, who directs the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman.

In conjunction with the dedication of the Shi Center for Sustainability, Furman welcomed Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to campus as a Visiting Fellow with the university’s Richard Riley Public Policy Institute. Furman also had a panel discussion moderated by former New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin examining the emergence of sustainability as a national phenomenon.

In addition, on Thursday, March 4, Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and chief economist for President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, spoke in Greenville to a group of business and opinion leaders on energy transition and related U.S. economic and national security issues at a lunch co-hosted by Furman University president David Shi, Furman’s Riley Institute and Clean Air-Cool Planet.

The week’s activities also included a workshop on Climate Action Planning for representatives from about twenty colleges and universities.

Furman’s goal with these varied events and experiences was to further educate the campus and community about the range of opportunities that a commitment to sustainability and climate action can provide a campus and its surrounding community.

The Furman case study (available at http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/information/pdf/Furman_final_2-19-10.pdf) describes the rationale and the process Furman used to generate its climate action plan, beginning with formation of a formal climate-action steering committee.

Described in detail is the three-day workshop Furman convened with sister schools and guests (including Andrews) to share their experience and expertise.

Lessons learned reported in the case study include the importance of engaging senior administrators and the value of external financial support for the planning process, making possible “sharing across institutions.”

Among the benefits, it “provides a forum for sharing lessons learned; accommodates the need for neighboring schools to understand the role that their shared public utility plays in their carbon footprint; creates a collegial environment in which initiatives can be explored and adopted through collaboration; and encourages schools to promote their campuses as a microcosm for society–a literal learning laboratory for communities of all sizes,” according to the CA-CP.

Concludes Andrews, “Furman has taken a leadership position in crafting an inclusive and responsive process for gathering, evaluating and integrating the best approaches to reduce energy use, save money and cut greenhouse gases. We offer this case study in the hope that other campuses will be able to replicate this process and benefit from it. Furman is eager to help other campuses generate similar results.”

Angela Halfacre | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.furman.edu/sustain

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