The university’s annual carbon emissions dropped to roughly 14,200 tons, an 11 percent decrease from 2010-11. “This is the equivalent of taking 185 homes off the grid for the entire year,” said Energy Manager Jesse Freedman.
Overall, Hollins has reduced its carbon footprint by 19 percent since President Nancy Gray signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007, exceeding its goal of achieving a 15 percent reduction by 2014. Through the ACUPCC, Hollins joined colleges and universities across the nation in pledging to sharply reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions on their campuses. The university’s carbon emissions per thousand square feet are 7.5 percent less than the average emissions for its peer institutions.
Freedman said Hollins’ dramatic reduction in emissions came primarily from the university’s decrease in electricity consumption, which was down more than one million kilowatt hours, or 8.8 percent, in 2011-12. “We did it by setting back buildings at night, resetting thermostats in classrooms and offices, and optimizing steam and chilled water production,” he explained, adding that changing individual behaviors was crucial in lowering energy use.
“Our first annual residence hall energy challenge, in which five residence halls competed to reduce usage of electricity and water, and an event called ‘Low Power Hour,’ where the everyone was encouraged to lower their energy consumption one day for 60 minutes, helped bolster awareness and empower students, faculty and staff,” Freedman said. “We know we can’t reach our carbon reduction goals without the active participation of the entire campus community, and our progress shows the entire Hollins campus has embraced this initiative.”
Another big step toward Hollins’ goal of carbon neutrality is the completion this summer of a new geothermal well field that serves Tinker Hall, the university’s largest student residence. A geothermal system offers improved temperature control, better indoor air quality, lower energy costs, and greater efficiencies overall than an air source heat pump.
Freedman said Hollins is now looking ahead to its next big milestone: a one-third reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2020.
“It may sound daunting, but we are already more than halfway there.”