NPR Recognizes Penn State As Leader In Sustainability, For Emissions Reductions

It turns out that all the little things Penn State has been doing to help eliminate its environmental footprint have been working, and people beyond Happy Valley are starting to take notice.

This past Friday, NPR published an article detailing some of the tactics Penn State has been utilizing to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions while still saving money in the process.

The climate action program, currently led by senior director of engineering and energy Rob Cooper (not that one), has helped Penn State reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by about a third since 2004, according to the article. That number is expected to rise to 50% by the end of the year and to 80% by 2050. There’s even been talk about eliminating all emissions on campus.

“You’d be surprised what you find when you tune up a building’s HVAC system,” Cooper said in the article. “It’s one of the shortest paybacks. It’s consistently three to five years [to recoup the costs] on every building that we go into.”

The movement to start changing things around campus originated in the mid-90s when biology professor Christopher Uhl started Penn State’s first environmental movement, “Greening Penn State.”

Uhl and other climate activists teamed up with university administrator Ford Stryker to petition Penn State’s budget and finance offices in order to show how current funding to streamline energy processes will pay for itself by significantly reducing future power bills.

Gathering metrics on airflow, tuning up air-conditioning systems, changing windows, and a slew of other efforts have added up to produce some amazing environmental results. In return, the university has faced lower energy bills.

Penn State switched from burning coal to burning natural gas as its main energy source and is in the process of incorporating solar energy into its plan, which will save even more money and cut down even more on emissions.

Although tremendous work has been done, there’s still a lot left to do. It’s easy to be optimistic about the future, but no one is really sure how Penn State — and the rest of the world — is going to achieve necessary global footprint reductions in time. Penn State hopes to act as a blueprint for the rest of the world, but it’s not always easy to apply tactics used by a university to a larger city or town.

“We need to [reach the goal of going carbon neutral]!” said Shelley McKeague, who monitors the university’s greenhouse emissions. “Do we have a concrete plan to get there? We do not, and the reality is, the country doesn’t either.”

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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