Human activity is argued to be the main contributing factor in the growing number of carbon emissions released in the atmosphere. Before the time of the industrial revolution, carbon emissions measurements peaked at 250 parts per million for Co2 emissions.
Since the turn of our century we have been on a path that leads to more than 450 ppm. While many organizations and individuals play a role in reducing our carbon footprint, it is important to understand why we should seek a greener world.
According the United Nations guided body, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the temperature across the world will continue to rise into the next century. By 2100, scientists with the IPCC say there will be benefits and negative impacts.
From a positive perspective, information provided by NASA says the frost-free season will lengthen. While this may provide longer stretches for growing crops, particularly in the Western United States, the new heat wave comes packaged with negative consequences.
Due to the rise in temperature, the Arctic ices face a complete meltdown. This will be a contributing factor to the rise in sea level, which is projected to grow between 1- 4 feet over the next century.
This rise in sea level comes with a change in precipitation patterns, which will lead to more flooding through many regions in the U.S. Hurricane forces will also become stronger in the decades ahead, along with more droughts and heat waves. The Southwest states face the biggest challenges in both droughts and heat.
While many people have turned to greener pathways, institutions across America have committed to reducing carbon emissions as well. DePaul University, along with the office of mission and values, has submitted a report to the public. The Carbon Footprint Update Report, outlines a plan to reduce DePaul’s carbon footprint by 80 percent in 2040.
The DePaul Sustainability Network, along with the Student Government Association, leads the way in research and planning for this endeavor. These two important pieces, along with facility operations, have already provided the university with energy efficient lighting and a better waste recycling program.
Some buildings also have been modified to what is called green rooftops, and retrofitting older buildings is in the works.
Carbon offsets is also something the university works on. While natural gas is still used to heat the facilities, LEED certified resources help balance and reduce DePaul’s overall carbon output.
The SGA has concentrated its efforts most notably in the Quad at the Lincoln Park campus. Bike racks, solar panels, windmills, and USB solar powered outlets are just some of the ways DePaul creates a greener environment for the future.
Facility operations maintains its efforts in LEED certified construction as well, which continues to lead to reduced rates in natural gas and electricity annually.
“You’ll notice that If you go into McGowan South they have the double flush toilet systems that help save water,” Dr. Barb Willard, Associate Professor in the College of Communications and Chair of Communication Studies at DePaul, said. “We also have the water bottle refill stations. So, all of that are efforts that have been on the part of facility operations.”
The administration also donated 250,000 dollars to the SGA. The SGA used this contribution for indoor green efforts as well, such as 91 water refill stations across the Loop and Lincoln Park campuses. These stations contribute to tens of thousands of water bottles saved.
These efforts in reducing the university’s carbon footprint are rooted in its deep Catholic and Vincentian values. According to DePaul’s Office of Mission and Values website, the decision to become a more sustainable campus comes from the age old Vincentian questions, “What must be done?” For years, the DePaul Sustainability Network, facility operations and the Student Government association have worked alongside one another to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly campus that can give back to its surrounding neighborhoods and the earth itself.
“If you look in Genesis, right from the very beginning it talks about our relationship of stewardship with the earth,” Dr. Mark Potosnak, an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Studies in the College of Science and Health at DePaul, said. “There is a really strong thread of Catholic faith centered around people that found inspiration for God in the wilderness.”
This strong sense of faith and belief in Catholicism and DePaul’s Vincentian values have led the university to create an Institutional Sustainability Plan called “What Sustains Us? This is the fifth report in a series of sustainability reports for the university. This plan explains DePaul’s purpose and charge for its continuous efforts in becoming a more sustainable and environmentally friendly campus.
The report is framed around the question, “In what ways does the focus on sustainability function to build DePaul’s capacity to be an agent of social transformation?” This is a report where religion and science come together to help with the “social transformation” of becoming a greener campus.
“There is also a social justice angle,” Potosnak said. “Climate change is, again this is an idea central to our faith, to be charitable. Climate change is caused by people that are affluent, but the one’s that feel the effects first are the vulnerable. Essentially, you are robbing from the poor when you produce carbon. So this becomes more of a moral issue that is attached to your faith.”
DePaul is continuing its efforts in creating a more environmentally sustainable campus. It has reconstructed the roof on the student center building to a white roof, which returns the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere. Prior to this, the building had a black tar roof and posed as a large emitter of carbon. DePaul’s new School of Music building on its Lincoln Park Campus will have an environmentally friendly roof and share some of the same features as other buildings such as water bottle refill stations, bike racks and energy efficient lighting.