Note: I’m a few hours early with my Blog Action Day post, because I’ll be on the road tomorrow. Ironic, isn’t it, that I’ll be traveling, emitting carbon, on a day when so many of my blogging colleagues will be promoting awareness of climate change. But at least I’ll be off the grid, which may help offset my emissions for the day. And maybe posting this early will earn me some brownie points in the metaphysical realm. Whatever. Happy BAD.
I’m no expert on climate change, but today (Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009) is Blog Action Day, and bloggers all over the world are devoting time and bandwidth to this year’s topic, which is global warming. That’s a huge issue, and it’s going to affect me whether I’m an expert on it or not. Given this fact, it would be rather picayune to post my usual fare about some new trend in social media or how to fine-tune your marketing strategy or how I still don’t have a Google Wave invite.
So. Climate change.
What a huge issue. Where to begin?
OK, let’s start locally, and with something I know a little bit about.
I work at a university that has signed on to the Presidents Climate Commitment. That’s a pledge — signed by presidents or chancellors of more than 650 colleges and universities — to take meaningful steps toward a carbon-neutral existence. I’m glad our institution is part of this collective effort, because colleges and universities should be among the leaders on issues of social responsibility — not just climate change, but that’s a start.
But as many institutions have discovered during this economic downturn, it’s one thing to make a pledge and quite another to carry out the work. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last spring (subscription required), many of the signatories to the Presidents Climate Commitment have yet to follow through on their pledge. Most campus leaders blame the economy for scaling back on their plans to attain carbon neutrality. As for our campus, we’re still putting together our initial plan. In the meantime, though, we’re working on trying to reduce our carbon footprint. We have what we consider some pretty ambitious goals for the current fiscal year — to reduce fossil fuel consumption of university-owned vehicles by 10 percent this year, and to reduce energy consumption by 3 percent per square foot of our physical plant. But we know that that is only a start.
Our campus’s green committee, which I serve on, has a lot of great ideas on how individuals can help our campus meet our goals for this year. Many of these ideas translate to personal steps each individual can take — at home, on campus, wherever you work. They include:
- Cut back on business travel; opt for teleconferences whenever possible.
- Turn off lights in unoccupied offices, classrooms and bathrooms.
- Turn off computers and printers at the end of each day.
- Close shades or blinds during summer and winter months to reduce solar heat from the sun and to keep offices warmer during the winter.
- Turn off power to appliances at night to reduce phantom power drainage.
No-brainers, right? Yet, I’m amazed at how many people leave office lights on, keep their computers on overnight, etc.
In its entirety, climate change seems insurmountable. But looking at what each individual can do, it is possible to make a difference. Energy conservation is one area in which we can all make a difference. So, I challenge you, as we go into the late fall and winter months, to do what you can to reduce your energy use. Turn down the thermostat and put on a Snuggie. Carpool as much as possible. Skip that trip to a sister campus and teleconference instead. Turn off your computer when you’re not using it.