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Renewable Energy at Harvard

By Jessica Woolliams

Over the last 30 years, the Arctic icecap has melted by 15-20 percent—and the melting is apparently speeding up, according to a new report by an eight-nation group bringing together the work of 250 scientists under the title of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

Often individuals feel powerless to make a dent in such complex environmental problems as climate change. However, members of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and its Longwood campus now have the chance to do just that. By participating in Go Cold Turkey 2004 between Nov 12 and 24, students, staff and faculty at FAS, Harvard Medical School (HMS), Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harvard School of Dental Medicine can notably decrease the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of their on-campus energy use. More than that, they have the chance to help Harvard be the number one higher-ed purchaser of renewable energy in the country.

This year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranked Harvard number three among higher-ed green power purchasers in the country. With the upcoming Go Cold Turkey competition, if enough buildings win, Harvard could push this to number one.

This is an important opportunity for Harvard to lead the nation. The pollution from energy generation is a critical environmental and human health issue. The EPA says electricity production is the largest industrial polluter in the U.S. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the wide-scale emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is among the chief factors driving global warming and climate change.

“It’s the right thing to do, let’s go for it,” said Jane Garfield, director of facilities at HMS. The Medical and Dental Schools expect at least a few buildings to meet the 50-percent participation rate. HMS has committed to purchasing a quarter of successful buildings’ electrical energy from renewable sources.

HSPH, which this year purchased half of its campus-wide electrical load from wind energy, is also keen on achieving a strong turnout. HSPH buildings that meet the Go Cold Turkey challenge will have their wind energy commitment extended for another fiscal year, helping to power those buildings into 2006.

“The School of Public Health’s mission to disseminate health information, and increase awareness of public health as a public good and a fundamental right, naturally drives us to provide leadership in environmental and human health,” said HSPH Manager of Operations, Energy and Utilities Daniel O. Beaudoin. “We recognize the negative health, economic, and environmental impacts associated with the inefficient use of energy. Lets practice what we preach by taking this pledge and demonstrating our commitment to health through conservation. We expect 100 percent participation.”

If 50 percent of the occupants of an eligible building pledge online to reduce their energy use (at http://www.greencampus.harvard.edu/coldturkey), renewable energy will be purchased for that building. This is a revenue-neutral way of moving towards being climate neutral, because the money saved from energy conservation goes into funding the renewable energy certificates.

The list of eligible buildings is posted on the website as are other important contest rules. The success of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative relies on the involvement of many people at many different schools and departments. To get more involved, please go to the website to find ready-made posters, sample emails and other materials to help participants promote the contest in their buildings.

“If the trends from previous years’ competitions are any indication, we should be able to avoid one to ten percent of FAS’ greenhouse gas emissions this year,” said Antje Danielson, Go Cold Turkey organizer and FAS Computer Energy Reduction Program (FAS-CERP) manager. “This could amount to $140,000 in savings which could be used to fund more campus sustainability initiatives.”

It takes 30 seconds to pledge, and the conservation measures we are asking you to take are painless. Turn off a light when you leave the room, turn off your computer at the end of the day. If you have control over the heating and cooling (as in the dorms), turn the heat down when you’re not there. If you work in a laboratory with fume hoods, close the sash when you are not at the hood. Nationally, the average chemical fume hood uses the energy of three and a half houses. Closing the sash can cut that energy waste by over 50 percent.

In the end, it will be the thousands of staff, students and faculty making the big and small changes in how they think and behave that will enable Harvard to achieve the vision outlined in our new Campus Sustainability Principles,” said HGCI Director Leith Sharp. So please take a stand this week, turn it off and Go Cold Turkey.

Jessica Woolliams is the Manager of the Longwood Green Campus Initiative—a partnership between Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Green Campus Initiative.

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