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PSU outlines progress toward climate neutral campus
Author: Campus Sustainability Office
Posted: August 5, 2013

Portland State University’s Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) released last month the 2013 Climate Action Progress Report, a follow up to the University’s first Climate Action Plan (CAP), signed by President Wiewel in 2010.

The CAP calls for PSU to attain climate neutrality—balancing the amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset—by 2040, and identifies emission reduction goals for six areas: buildings and energy, materials, travel, commuting, education and research, and EcoDistrict development.

The recently released report showcases PSU’s climate progress to date and identifies areas for future improvement.

In fiscal year 2012, PSU emitted 46,528 metric tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the annual emissions of 9,693 passenger cars or the energy use of 2,395 homes.

Portland State’s climate action progress since 2010 includes:

  • Hiring of a full-time utilities manager to monitor energy and water use across campus.
  • Installation of a 4,222 square foot solar array to produce 38,000 kWh of renewable energy annually.
  • Partnering with Energy Trust of Oregon to develop a campus energy management plan.
  • Completion of a campus-wide waste audit and improved waste data collection and analysis systems (view audit report here).
  • Implementation of “hold and release” functions on centrally managed printers, saving more than 300,000 sheets of paper in just two terms.
  • Formation of a Sustainable Drinking Water Task Force aimed at reducing bottled water consumption and associated waste.
  • New surveys to identify PSU air miles traveled and establish a baseline for future tracking.
  • New video conferencing technologies that can be promoted as an alternative to travel.
  • Decrease of drive alone trips to campus to 17 percent for students and 26 percent for employees; a 10.5 percent and 7 percent drop, respectively, from 2011.
  • Addition of 78 new secure bike parking spaces.
  • Launch of VikeBikes program, which provides affordable long-term bike rentals for students.
  • Development of a sustainability course identification rubric to catalog sustainability courses.
  • Hiring of an undergraduate research, engagement and creative activities coordinator to connect campus sustainability initiatives and academics.
  • Establishment of a governance structure, an action plan and an engagement strategy for SoMa EcoDistrict.

“This report is a valuable documentation of past work, which will not only strengthen institutional memory around campus sustainability efforts, but help us chart a course for future success in reducing our collective impact,” said Jenny McNamara, PSU’s campus sustainability manager.

Several suggested next steps can be found in the full report (available as a PDF download here). The Climate Action Plan Implementation Team (CAP-IT) has already begun the process of evaluating actions and targets for the next phase of the plan. A larger effort is underway to investigate the possibility of a sustainability strategic plan for the University that could encapsulate all campus sustainability goals, including climate action strategies.

PSU is one of 673 members of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, which calls on the nation’s institutions of higher education to aggressively address climate change through campus operations, research, and education.