Boise State’s green mission substantial, vital

PHOTO COURTESY OF MCT CAMPUS

Boise State has been striving to decrease its carbon footprint and increase its use of green, Earth-friendly energy sources for a few years now. Students can see evidence of the university’s efforts all over campus — aluminum, paper and plastic recycling bins are abundant in the buildings, and literature about paper consumption is posted on bathroom walls. There is also a lot the university is doing behind the scenes.

John Gardner, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for the Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) Energy Efficiency Research Institute (CEERI) and is a professor of mechanical engineering at BSU. His work transcends Boise city limits and reaches into Idaho’s higher education system. CEERI focuses not only on Boise State, but also on other universities and institutions in the state.

“(CEERI) is a state-wide partnership with Idaho National Lab, BSU, U of I and ISU,” Gardner said. “The (CEERI) administration has tasked me to spend more of my time on the ‘energy research’ part of my mission.”

Gardner is also involved with Energy Research, Policy and Campus Sustainability and BSU’s Sustainability Club.

“One of the main things we’ve accomplished is the development of the Campus Sustainability Advisory Board (CSAB), which is a group with broad representation across campus,” he said. “This group shares best practices and helps set priorities across the campus with an eye toward sustainability.”

Some of those best practices include the use of solar energy to heat the pools of the new Aquatic Center and Solar PV (photo-voltaic) technology, the first of its kind to work on campus. This use of solar energy is important because it shifts the burden off using natural gas. These innovations take huge steps toward sustainability and significantly reducing BSU’s carbon footprint. Boise State is setting a positive example for other businesses and institutions.

“On a per capita basis, Boise State has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the country when compared to institutions of similar size and mission. The main reason for this is that we’ve evolved as a campus to be very efficient in our use of resources,” Gardner said. “In this way, Boise State is a real leader in the campus sustainability movement.”

Though it will still take several years, the new Micron Business and Economics Building, the Morrison Center, the Multipurpose Building, The Interactive Learning Center, the Math/Geosciences Building and the Administration Building will eventually use geothermal energy.

“In the buildings that are hooked up to the system, geothermal energy will take the place of natural gas, which is how we currently heat the campus,” Gardner said.

Sustainability Club President Jenna Duffin is glad BSU is using this more efficient energy source.

“I think it’s really important to Boise, because we have such a good resource,” said Duffin, a junior geosciences major.

Duffin and the students who comprise the Sustainability Club work on events and campaigns throughout the year in order to practice Earth-friendly habits. They have hosted and funded Sustainability Week, Earth Week, a campus garden and are currently writing a Green Building Policy, which would set standards to increase energy efficiency.

Ultimately, Boise State has a strong initiative to make the campus a better consumer of Earth’s natural energy sources. This focus is extremely important — recycling does make a difference. According to the 2010 Sustainability Report by Republic Services, 3.3 million tons of material were recycled in 2009, which is the equivalent to conserving 511,984 households’ annual energy consumption or conserving 9,468,086 barrels of oil.

Clearly this is an enormous impact. Boise State is doing what it can — and more — to add to these efforts. Sustainability would not be possible without student and faculty initiative to reduce waste and hold environmentally friendly missions.

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About the author  ⁄ Christine Ritchie