2030: Hamilton’s New Goal for Carbon Neutrality
Hamilton is taking a major step toward addressing climate change by setting a new goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, 20 years earlier than its initial target of 2050. The College’s Board of Trustees voted to make the change at its spring board meeting in March.
“Hamilton was an early signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment 15 years ago, and remains committed to pursuing a responsible path to carbon neutrality,” said President David Wippman. “We have already made significant progress, and new strategies, technologies, and funding have enabled us to accelerate our initial pledge.”
From student and faculty research to green programs and initiatives, Hamiltonians are committed to protecting and sustaining the environment through institutional processes, management of facilities, and curriculum.
The College plans to invest in energy upgrades to campus buildings, manage parts of campus to increase carbon sequestration in its lands, and continue to study and implement additional opportunities for emission reductions. This work is being led by the Hamilton Sustainability Working Group, a group of faculty, students, administrators, and staff who are updating the College’s Climate Action Plan. The initial date of 2050 was established when the College implemented its first Climate Action Plan in 2009.
“Our community is eager to reduce our carbon footprint in real ways,” says Brian Hansen, Hamilton’s director of Environmental Protection, Safety and Sustainability. “The College is taking innovative steps to manage Hamilton’s resources that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Aaron Strong, who helps lead the Sustainability Working Group, says that while it’s likely Hamilton will also need to purchase a small number of offsets to reduce any remaining emissions in 2030, the College plans to do so in ways where student learning is enhanced through direct participation in the offset projects.
“What is really great about Hamilton’s approach to carbon neutrality is that it focuses on reducing our biggest source of emissions – heating our buildings – and that it involves tremendous opportunities for active student learning and research projects along the way,” Strong says. “Every member of our community has a role to play in acting on climate change. It can’t be done without you.”
Achieving Carbon Neutrality at Hamilton
Here are some key ways the College plans to reach this goal.
Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps
- These heat pumps are powered by electricity that comes from the low-carbon New York State electricity grid, which will soon become a zero-carbon grid.
- The College plans to replace older fossil fuel heating systems with electrically powered air source geothermal heat pumps.
- Geothermal heat pumps are also planned for upcoming building renovations.
- The College is managing forests on nearly 1,000 acres of Hamilton-owned land in order to enhance carbon sequestration in trees and reforest open lands by planting carefully selected new trees that thrive in the area.
- Several students are involved in reforestation projects and research alongside Hamilton faculty and staff.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
- Twenty (20) charge points have been installed on the College campus and are available to use free of charge.
What You Can Do
How can campus community members have an impact and help Hamilton achieve carbon neutrality by 2030? Here are some suggestions:
- Decrease reliance on single-use items (e.g, plastics, paper, styrofoam) by bringing reusable mugs, utensils, plates, etc., to reduce plastic consumption and waste generation
- Walk, bike, or skateboard to work/class/practice/dining halls to reduce carbon emissions; carpool when it’s necessary to drive
- Minimize waste generation; recycle, reuse, and compost when possible
- Turn off lights and all other electronics (e.g., fans, TVs, stereos, etc.) when you leave your living or working space; switch to LED technology and keep your windows closed to reduce carbon emissions
- Use spare boxes from the box co-op outside the Howard Diner when you need to ship
- Understand the carbon intensity of your food choices; consider meat-free, local sourcing, high fiber, fruit, and vegetables
- Buy used items, such as clothing and appliances, to reduce packaging and avoid fuel costs associated with shipping