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Coming Clean: Universities Reduce Carbon

Photo of a wind turbine

Universities are racing to reduce carbon. Solutions can be costly, but leading institutions are doubling down on their reputations for progressive solutions and showing us what can be done — and how effective these solutions are. Harvard University and Cornell University, for example, are pioneering efforts for large scale alternative energy sources (mostly geothermal, wind, and solar) reduced carbon emissions, and more efficient building design. Harvard made great strides by switching the fuel of it’s Blackstone Steam Plant from oil to natural gas, and is also one of the largest purchasers of wind-generated energy in the northeastern US. Cornell has reduced carbon emissions by 30% in 8 years using a 20 point initiative aimed at engaging the campus community.

No matter how many LEED Platinum buildings go up, the biggest area of improvement for universities is their laboratories. The energy and water intensive equipment found in research labs is an easy place to start, whether you unplug seldom-used devices, turn down freezers, adjust workflows to run autoclaves when full, or upgrade aging, ailing equipment. Recent studies out of California show that targeting your energy and water hogs in the lab, such as freezers and autoclaves, will have the most immediate impact on carbon reduction. University labs all over North America and the UK are making the switch to research-grade autoclaves, including Rutgers University and Queen’s University Belfast. The University of California at Riverside data shows that the utilities savings with a new research-grade autoclave could pay for the unit over the course of its lifespan. Another no-brainer.

[Photo credit: Reflection Photographers, CC BY 2.0]