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BHSU continues to reduce its carbon footprint


 Established in 2008, the Black Hills State University community garden has been generating produce for the campus and is one of many initiatives that establish the University as a leader in sustainable efforts. 

Black Hills State University is continuing to make progress on its sustainability practices achieving a ten percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per square foot of campus and increasing recycling to 35 tons. The University has a goal of meeting the carbon neutrality by 2050.

 “Our campus has grown over the past few years, but our carbon footprint hasn’t,” said Katie Greer, BHSU sustainability coordinator. “The 2012 carbon footprint report shows a 9.7 reduction in emissions per square foot of campus building space and a 12.2 percent reduction in emissions per full-time equivalent number of students.” During fiscal year 2012, BHSU also recycled more than 35 short tons of materials that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill, Greer said.

BHSU completed its most recent carbon footprint report which showed that emissions as a result of University activity in 2012 totaled 13,279 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This represents annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2,766 passenger vehicles or 4,973 tons of waste sent to the landfill.

Reporting the University’s carbon dioxide emissions is a requirement of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp signed the President’s Climate Commitment in 2007, pledging that the University will work toward carbon neutrality by the year 2050.  BHSU was the first South Dakota university to sign ACUPCC, a consortium of hundreds of universities across the nation dedicated to addressing global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emission, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to quip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

The first step in achieving the goal of carbon neutrality is accounting for the carbon emitted by the University. BHSU records the carbon dioxide emissions in three scopes. The first is from direct emission sources which includes the natural gas used to heat buildings. The second scope is from purchased emissions such as electricity, and the third scope covers several indirect sources of emissions including waste sent to landfills; commuting by faculty, staff and students; paper purchases; waste water; and University-funded travel by air, ground or bus.

“We work to bring these numbers down by such things as retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient and diverting waste from landfills by recycling,” Greer said.

BHSU has completed several sustainable initiatives since joining the ACUPCC including having two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings. The David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union is gold certified and was the first state building to earn a LEED certification. BHSU has also recently enrolled in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, known as STARS to help assess progress in meeting sustainability goals.

In addition to the highly visible sustainable efforts such as the wind turbine and the campus garden, BHSU students, faculty and staff are embracing a multitude of sustainable initiatives. The Outdoor Education program teaches technical skills that reduce the impact of outdoor activities on the environment, the art program uses recycled materials to create art projects, and BHSU chemistry students are working with faculty members on a research project that could lead to the development of less expensive, more efficient solar cells.

Last fall, the University implemented a Master of Science in Sustainability degree which has been in demand and is resulting  in worldwide impact. The online degree prepares individuals to think broadly about opportunities to change practices and create a sustainable society. Greg Wilson, one of the students in the program, is starting a nonprofit that designs, builds, installs, and educates about water purification systems. His first project is near Arusha, Tanzania where nearly half of the population does not have access to clean drinking water.

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