The University and William and Mary College hosted a webinar on Tuesday to discuss plans to become carbon neutral by 2030, in line with executive order 77including the University’s 2030 sustainability agenda Planwhose implementation began in June 2021.
Schools hope to balance carbon production with carbon removal so that there is zero net carbon change. Coupled with a host of sustainability goals, a drive for carbon neutrality puts schools in a position to significantly reduce negative impacts on the environment.
The University and William and Mary hosted the joint webinar with the aim of sharing plans for these ambitious goals with their respective student bodies. The two schools’ sustainability teams aim to partner to communicate their actions and support joint infrastructure changes.
During the webinar, interns and student leaders from the University’s Office of Sustainability presented various ways the University has worked towards the goal of carbon neutrality. Next, student leaders from both universities also presented personal choices students could make to live more sustainably.
Madeline Bertagnolli, a senior at William and Mary, presented at the webinar and has been involved in the school’s sustainability journey since her freshman year. Being the greenhouse gas student, in particular, put her in a position to execute this event.
“The joint webinar is cool, because I think a lot of students don’t know [what we do]said Bertagnolli.
To engage students in sustainability efforts, the University runs an Eco-Leaders program that assigns one or two students to advocate on their individual dorm association councils. College freshman Emily Horn is an eco-leader in her dorm and has seen first-hand the impacts of climate change and pollution – as discussed in the webinar.
Horn said she believes the University’s 2030 plan is important in addressing these challenges.
“Over time, I have been able to see how pollution and climate change [are] affecting wildlife in the wild which I love very much,” said Horn.
The webinar made the case for sustainable practices that lead to less harmful waste – such as compostable items – and an overall decrease in waste. Examples of these sustainable practices include composting, decreasing single-use plastics, and environmentally friendly production options for products. In canteens, plastic-based utensils and cups have been replaced with commercially compostable alternatives.
Jesse Warren, Sustainability Program Manager for Buildings and Operations in the Office of Sustainability, has focused his career on helping the University’s sustainability goals from a different perspective – designing and redesigning buildings. By optimizing electrical systems and implementing more sustainable, electric heating and cooling, Warren’s team was able to make the University’s buildings more efficient without complete demolition.
“What I think is most transformative in the decade I’ve been at U.Va. is the path…we’re largely moving toward electrification and moving away from fossil fuels,” Warren said.
The measures taken by the two universities range from educational changes to infrastructural changes on property owned by the university. In particular, new majors, such as the interdisciplinary Environmental Thinking and Practice major, and courses, such as the academic seminar, Designing a Carbon Neutral Future, that highlight eco-responsible and sustainable thoughts, practices and communication have been created. to enable students of all disciplines have access to these resources.
The University’s 2030 sustainability plan has phases that will take a decade to complete, including reducing waste, adjusting food suppliers and emphasizing sustainability in the classroom. It has four facets: Governance and collaboration, Engage, Discover and Intend.
As part of the 2030 Plan, Tuesday’s webinar aimed to encourage students to take individual initiatives in their personal lives to live more sustainably by composting more, reducing consumption and eating more sustainably. The webinar also encouraged students – like Horn – to get involved with the Office for Sustainability through classes, internships and events.
“In order to preserve any aspect of the planet, we have to be sustainable,” Horn said. “Sustainability impacts everyone in a personal way.”