At today's meeting of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the board adopted a resolution to fully support the university's climate action commitment — an important step for the university to take in order to become a national leader in campus sustainability.

After a year of community input and review, Virginia Tech has now adopted a 14 point Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan which calls for, among other things, to pursue LEED Silver certification or better for all new buildings and renovations, a 35 percent recycle rate by 2012, specific targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in electric usage, improvements in transportation efficiency, and many other measurable sustainability goals.

To ensure progress towards goals are met, the university will conduct annual assessments to measure actual progress each year and release these reports publicly.

One year ago, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger established and charged the Committee on Energy and Sustainability to develop a campus sustainability plan aimed at reducing global warming emissions in everyday campus operations.

“President Steger’s charge to the committee resulted in a lengthy and complicated governance process to develop the commitment and plan, but it was far more effective than if he had simply signed the generic national president’s climate commitment,” said John Randolph, professor of urban affairs and planning and chair of the subcommittee that prepared the plan. “Many universities which have signed the commitment, have little to show for it, but we have our own commitment and a comprehensive plan reviewed and endorsed by the entire university. As a result we are immediately on track toward implementation in three areas: greening our facilities and saving energy, emissions, and money; greening campus culture through student programs, residences, and dining halls; and better coordinating and making more visible our academic programs related to sustainability.”

“It is critical that everyone understand why we made this commitment to environmental sustainability, said Angie De Soto, a senior majoring in environmental policy and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the university’s first sustainability planning intern. “When we first met with President Steger, we explained that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and that environmental sustainability is the future that Virginia Tech should be striving to invent. Solving these global challenges will ultimately require the participation of every person on this planet. I hope that seeing Hokies take steps to do their part will inspire individuals across the nation to do their part”

Effective immediately, the university will adopt the following 14 goals and action items:

  1. Virginia Tech will be a leader in campus sustainability.
  2. The Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan will become a part of the university’s broader strategic plan.
  3. Virginia Tech will establish a target for reduction of campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 percent below 1990 emission level by 2050, and interim targets from 2006 emissions of 316,000 tons consistent with the Virginia Energy Plan, the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, the Town of Blacksburg, and the federal administration: for 2012, 295,000 tons; for 2025, 255,000 tons; and for 2050, 38,000 tons (or 80 percent below 1990 emission level).
  4. Virginia Tech will work toward these emission reduction targets though improved energy efficiency, reduction of energy waste, replacement of high-carbon fuels, and other measures identified in the climate action commitment and sustainability plan.
  5. Virginia Tech will establish an Office of Sustainability to coordinate programs, oversee the implements on the plan, monitor annual energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and work with faculty with faculty and departments manage a campus-wide student internship and undergraduate research program using the campus as a sustainability laboratory.
  6. Virginia Tech will pursue LEED Silver certification or better for all new buildings and major renovations.
  7. Virginia Tech will improve electricity and heating efficiency of campus facilities and their operations, including the heating and cooling infrastructure and operation, lighting efficiency, controls and operation, and equipment efficiency and controls.
  8. The university will adopt at least four reduction measures in the waste minimization component of the national RecycleMania competition. Virginia Tech Recycling will adopt a goal of 35 percent recycle rate by 2012 and 50 percent by 2025.
  9. Virginia Tech will require purchase of Energy Star related equipment, maximum practicable recycled-content paper, and other low life cycle cost products, with exceptions for special uses.
  10. Virginia Tech will engage students, faculty, and staff through education and involvement to reduce consumption of energy, water, and materials in academic and research buildings, dining and residence halls, and other facilities.
  11. Virginia Tech will improve transportation energy efficiency on campus through parking, fleet, and alternative transpiration policies. Alternative transportation use will increase from the current level of 45 percent to a goal of 52 percent in 2015 and 60 percent in 2020.
  12. The university will create and support a virtual Virginia Tech School of Sustainability or similar mechanism to coordinate, develop, and communicate related instructional, research, and outreach academic programs.
  13. The university will monitor energy use of greenhouse gas emissions as well as changing internal and external conditions, prepare an annual report card sharing progress toward targets, and periodically re-evaluate targets, making adjustments to targets as appropriate based on changing internal and external conditions and evolving technologies.
  14. With regard to all the items in this resolution, major personnel, and investment decisions, including capital projects associated with implementing the climate action commitment and sustainability plan, will be based on a joint review of costs and benefits by university financial and facilities staff and be subject to the availability of funds. Virginia Tech will provide funding to support sustainability programs through a variety of sources, which might include saving from reduced electricity and energy fuels, E&G funds, loans, a Green Development Fund from private sources, and a student Green Fee.

“President Steger’s intent was to develop a climate action commitment that is unique to Virginia Tech and achievable,” said Denny Cochrane, sustainability program manager for the Office of Associate Vice President for Facilities Services. “The 14-point plan pushes the envelope with realistic and achievable goals, and we are already on our way in meeting some of them. For example, the Office of Sustainability was recently established in the facilities services department and includes the sustainability program manager, and energy manager, and a graduate assistant. The successful implementation of the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan should position the university to be a leader in campus sustainability.”

At the board meeting, Steger praised the many students, faculty, and staff that served on that committee as well as the many student organizations that offered input and support to the planning process.

Listen to related podcasts:

Share this story