By LAURA GURFEIN
COLLEGE PARK (Oct. 27, 2009) - Fall foliage may be burning red, orange and yellow these days, but the University of Maryland, College Park is turning green.
UMCP's 2008 Strategic Plan laid a course for the university to become a national green campus model and carbon neutral by 2050. The plan set a benchmark goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2015.
There's evidence that its efforts are paying off.
The university has reduced its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 4.2 percent between 2005 and 2008, to 307,681 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to a survey for the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card.
That figure is equivalent to roughly 7.3 metric tons emitted per full-time student in 2008, down from 7.8 metric tons three years ago, the survey showed.
"The University will take responsibility for the future, with dedication to enhancing the quality of life of all people, sustaining the natural environment, and reinforcing the capacity of Maryland's citizens to thrive and prosper in a diverse, ever-changing, globally competitive environment," the plan says.
University President C.D. Mote Jr. announced the University Senate's approval of the 73-page Climate Action Plan to the campus via e-mail Oct. 1. To ensure the climate plan's implementation, a University Sustainability Council of students, faculty, and staff was created "to advise the Office of the President and the campus community," Mote said in the e-mail.
The university will also unveil two green buildings later this fall: The John S. and James L. Knight Hall, housing the Philip Merrill College of Journalism; and South Campus Commons 7, an apartment-style dorm. Both meet LEED green building certification and are awaiting official recognition upon completion. The U.S. Green Building Council designates both new and existing buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design identification.
Most recently, the university won the participation category of the America's Greenest Campus contest Oct. 14 with 2,257 members pledging to reduce their environmental impact.
Campus coordinator Joanna Calabrese said recruiting through classes and student groups was not very difficult.
"It was just a matter of pulling together the coalition of green groups on campus," about 10 groups in total, said Calabrese, a senior environmental science and policy major and director of environmental affairs in the student government.
Students, faculty, staff, and administration participated by calculating and pledging to reduce their carbon footprint on Climate Change, a web site offering individual sustainability advice, which sponsored the contest along with the nonprofit clean-energy company Smart Power.
UMCP had impressive membership compared to its competition. Second-place George Mason University had 1,930 participants, while University of Massachusetts Amherst came in third with 1,018 participants.
"We wanted to foster pride that our university is a green campus," Calabrese said.
Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz., won for reducing its carbon footprint by 4.4 percent with 524 participating members during the contest's seven-month span. Those participating for UMCP reduced their collective carbon footprint by 1.29 percent in that same time.
Calabrese said the contest "was a good foundation to pave the way" for individual sustainability. "It makes people feel proud of the fact that they can go green," she said.
Winners received a $5,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to put toward sustainable efforts on campus. Maryland's prize money will go to the Student Sustainability Committee, part of the Student Government Association.
Calabrese said the committee has been very busy promoting sustainability efforts recently, including making university events such as SGA's annual Crab Fest, held on Oct. 22 this year, waste-free.
"We teach attendees to compost their waste," Calabrese said. The committee hopes to extend the zero-waste initiative to catered events at the university, she said.
Calabrese added that the committee is working on eliminating the sale of bottled water on campus by installing water filters and planning for Earth Day events on McKeldin Mall.
Mote is one of 654 presidents to sign the American College and University President's Climate Commitment. Drafted in 2007, the commitment emphasizes the role of college and university campuses in global warming and outlines what campuses should do to reduce their carbon footprint.
Information about other sustainability issues on campus is available at www.sustainability.umd.edu.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.