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Creating a sustainable campus is not only the “in” thing to do; it’s the right thing to do. As more attention is given to what we produce, consume, and waste, sustainability has changed from an abstract concept to a necessity on many colleges campuses across the country. To better meet its sustainability goals, Gallaudet continues to take bold actions toward achieving a “greener” campus and preserving the environment.

On February 29, President T. Alan Hurwitz signed a pledge with Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and eight other local university presidents to work together to make Washington, D.C. the “Greenest College Town in America.” The District of Columbia Mayor’s College and University Sustainability Pledge (CUSP) is the first of its kind in the nation. As a whole, Gallaudet and the other universities that signed the pledge have committed to reducing their collective energy usage in buildings by 69,000 MMBtus (a system of measuring energy consumption) annually. That’s enough energy to power 720 U.S. households for an entire year! They also committed to improve the District by taking a more sustainable approach to climate change, water systems, waste, green education and training, research and innovation, landscaping, transportation and procurement.

Each university also selected specific initiatives each would undertake as part of CUSP. Gallaudet pledged to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification or equivalent in all new construction projections and major renovations; reduce energy usage in all campus buildings; increase energy usage from renewable sources, increase water conservation efforts; and publish a sustainability report, including measurements of progress on CUSP goals.

Gallaudet is currently forming a sustainability committee, which will be tasked with overseeing the university’s sustainability efforts, including those pledged in the CUSP. Per the CUSP, a Sustainability Plan must be published by the end of 2012 and implemented by the summer of 2014, along with a progress report on the commitments selected by each university.

Prior to the CUSP, Gallaudet contracted with Johnson Controls, an international company that develops products and services to optimize energy efficiency in buildings, to conduct an energy study. The six-month long project produced a 1,000-page report with recommendations about how the campus can reduce energy usage. Many of the recommendations are underway, funded in part by a $40 million bond issue that was initiated in 2011. Gallaudet anticipates saving $2 million per year by taking the recommended measure to limit water, electrical, gas and diesel fuel costs. The Johnson Controls initiatives should be completed by the end of 2012.

Gallaudet is also using the bond issue to finance a new environmentally conscious dorm, the Living and Learning Residence Hall 6 (LLRH6). The residence hall, to be completed in July 2012, has sustainable design strategies that will be used to obtain LEED Silver Certification, such as water-saving and high efficiency fixtures, recycled and regional content and materials, the use of mechanical (HVAC), electric, and plumbing systems, and a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The geothermal system is a natural, stable source of renewable energy. The system makes it easier and cheaper to maintain a comfortable temperature and has fewer moving parts, which reduces maintenance costs. The geothermal system will save nearly a $250,000 in energy costs each year just for one building.

The university’s Facilities Department is working to install environmentally friendly fixtures, such as low-flow toilets, more efficient shower heads and faucets, and meters for the irrigation system for campus lawns and gardens to reduce waste into the city’s sewage system.

Facilities is retrofitting light fixtures to incorporate reduced-wattage light bulbs and tubes that use less energy. The department is also installing motion detectors in classrooms and other public areas that shut off the lights after a pre-determined period of time if no one is using that space.

Gallaudet’s fleet of service vehicles are also getting a “green” makeover. The university is buying hybrid vehicles whenever possible, reducing the overall fleet of service vehicles, and using a lighter grade of diesel fuel.

These conservation measures may seem small individually, but together they make a significant impact. Each year, the university anticipates cutting campus energy usage by 24 percent, emitting 10,000 less tons of greenhouse gasses, reducing more than eight million kilowatt hours of electricity usage, and cutting 659,000 therms (a unit of heat energy) of natural gas. The amount of money estimated to be saved is staggering: up to $24.2 million in utility and operational costs over the next 10 years.

For the past two years, the Facilities Department has ensured that Gallaudet has gone Carbon Neutral on Earth Day, April 22. On March 31 of this year, Gallaudet also marked Earth Day by participating in “Earth Hour” on campus, a global event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature, which encourages households and businesses to turn off non-essential lighting for one hour to raise awareness about climate change. On campus, non-essential lighting was turned off for one hour between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in nine buildings, on the football field, and on the street in the historic area of campus.

Gallaudet is also committed to protecting the planet by reducing the carbon footprint made by employees. Most of Gallaudet’s employees commute to campus from homes located outside the District. To encourage employees to move closer to campus, Gallaudet offered a Live Near York Work program this spring. Live Near Your Work (LNYW) is a home ownership grant program created by the District of Columbia Office of Planning. The Office of Planning teamed up with Gallaudet to offer grants of $12,000 for selected employees to use toward the down payment and closings costs for the purchase of a home within 1.5 miles of Gallaudet. The response from Gallaudet employees was tremendous and the grant money was awarded to the maximum number of staff and faculty members.

Plans for a Capital Bikeshare station are currently underway on campus at the entrance at 8th Street and Florida Avenue, NW, inside the front gate of the university. Capital Bikeshare has gained tremendous popularity in the District and provides convenient bicycle access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With the recent proliferation of bike paths throughout the District, Bikeshare is quickly becoming the most convenient way for people on campus and off to get around town, to the Metro, to restaurants, shops, etc., instead of driving.

When it comes to food services, Gallaudet contracts all of its food services with a company that cares about sustainable principles. Bon Appetit uses seasonal, regional, sustainably raised, and organically grown products whenever possible. It also only purchases pork, liquid eggs, and veal from producers who follow humane animal agricultural practices.

In addition, Gallaudet uses compostable containers for to-go food items. A community garden provides the university with a supply of fresh herbs and vegetables for the cafeteria and also serves as a reminder to students where the food on their plates came from.

Looking into the future, Gallaudet will continue to expand its sustainability efforts, as noted in the 2022 Campus Master Plan. A 10-year Master Plan is required from each university in D.C. by the district’s Zoning Commission. Designs for the campus plan include improved land use by increasing the density of the university spaces. Through the sustainability committee and Gallaudet students, staff, and faculty, the 2022 goals of the university include: building a culture of sustainability on campus, developing a measurable and enforceable sustainability plan; ensuring sustainability goals are achievable and agreed upon by a consensus; and the development of a comprehensive approach to sustainability.

It is during the next decade when Gallaudet will celebrate its 150th anniversary, in 2014. It is more important than ever for the university to be committed to conservation in order to ensure that Gallaudet University is here to serve deaf and hard of hearing students for another 150 years and far beyond.

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