Strategic Sustainability Plan aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050
    Northwestern will seek to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan released on the University website earlier today.

    The plan, the first of its kind at Northwestern, categorizes its goals into five major areas relating to resource conservation, sustainable energy use, and green transportation. As University president Morton Shapiro noted today in the announcement, ““We have an obligation to future generations to reduce our carbon footprint, yes – but also a tremendous opportunity to contribute to global climate solutions.”

    But how will students be affected by the plan? Here are four of the University’s most ambitious goals with regards to sustainability, and how they may impact student life:

    1. Reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020

    If you haven’t shaken the habit of leaving the lights on in your dorm room in your hurry to get to class, now might be a good time to do so. Northwestern intends to reduce its energy consumption by 20 percent of the established 2010 baseline in the next three years. In order to reach this goal, all new construction and renovations will be outfitted with heating, refrigeration, and air-conditioning systems that use far less energy that the industry standard.

    2. Increase bike commuting by 10 percent by 2021

    The seemingly endless barrage of construction on Sheridan Road may prove worthwhile yet, as Northwestern has committed itself to increase biking rates by 10 percent from the 2016 baseline in the next four years. With bike safety likely to be improved by the implementation of a desperately-needed bike lane along the main road of campus, it makes sense that the University might push for sustainable travel via biking.

    3. Increase landfill diversion rate to 50 percent of total waste by 2020

    By 2020, the percentage of food waste that ends up in landfills will be reduced to half of total waste. The Strategic Sustainability plan doesn’t specify where the remaining waste will be deposited, but composting and recycling are likely suspects. Expect to see a big push towards recycling on the part of NU beginning this year – and really, with single-stream recycling on campus, how hard is it to be kind to the planet?

    4. Reducing Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent (from 2012 baseline) by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

    The University’s commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is by far the most long-term goal outlined in the Strategic Sustainability Plan. Additionally, a few years before the halfway point between now and 2050, the University aims to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (according to the EPA, Scope 1 emissions refer to directly owned emissions such as vehicles, equipment, and stationary sources, while Scope 2 emissions refer to indirectly owned emissions such as purchased electricity, purchased heating, and purchased air-conditioning.)


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