Students and faculty are reshaping the campus so Loyola can combat climate change better by focusing on renewable energy.
Loyola has been seeking alternative methods of energy that has a renewable source, such as solar energy, since 2008 in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, which is the amount of carbon dioxide someone emits. Loyola releases 45,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
Loyola’s goals for reducing it’s carbon footprint are outlined in the Climate Action Plan (CAP), which states Loyola wants to be one of the first universities to eliminate their footprint entirely — becoming carbon neutral.
To reach carbon neutrality, Loyola must not only reduce its overall energy consumption by 30 percent, but it must also begin producing energy only through renewable sources and not carbon based fuels.
To achieve this, Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) has designed aggressive policies in the CAP. By 2025, Loyola hopes it will get all of its energy through both off-campus and on-campus wind turbines and solar panels, according to the CAP.
“We did a very large energy audit in the early 2000s that set out immense energy conservation projects on campus and projects to better the LEED buildings we already have,” said Aaron Durnbaugh, director of the IES.
Although Durnbaugh said the costs of the project could not be estimated, some of it is offset by the energy efficiency buildings, which have saved the university about $3 million per year in energy costs, according to the CAP.
Student and faculty projects are finding better ways to obtain clean energy on campus.
“A group of students were really interested in solar thermal technology, so we got some funding through student sustainability fund,” Durnbaugh said.
Solar thermal technology harvests energy from the sun to generate heat.
Durnbaugh said that if this project is successful, they will be able to provide hot water in the bathrooms of all the buildings on campus through solar energy.
“There’s also a group that wants to explore rooftop solar panels,” said Durnbaugh. “They put a proposal together and we’re now working with facilities to put together a purchasing process.”
The proposed solar panels would be set up above the Gentile Arena and the Damen Student Center.
Loyola also hopes to continue to reduce its energy consumption. Older buildings will be retrofitted with new physical improvements to lower energy consumption, such as energy efficient windows that lessen heat flow, and any future buildings will be designed to have the lowest energy consumption possible.
“In the past, we took down Damen Hall and made Cuneo Hall, one of the most energy efficient classroom halls in the country,” said Durnbaugh. “The easiest way to update the older buildings is to just take them down and build new ones.”
Deciding when buildings should be using energy is also important. Shutting buildings down when there are less students on campus can help conserve energy.
Managing energy consumption and obtainment is only part of the battle. To achieve carbon neutrality, it also takes the individual effort of the student. Loyola plans an all-out effort on education and research regarding climate change, hoping to push students and faculty to individually take responsibility in decreasing one’s carbon footprint.
“We all have a role in sustainability,” said Durnbaugh, urging students to responsibly use energy.
First-year Loyola student Stefano Favuzzi said he actively tries to cut down on his energy use.
“I take public transportation whenever I can,” said the environmental engineering major. “I also unplug my chargers when not using them to avoid wasting any energy.”
Biology major Evlina Eddings said she also tries to be conscious of her energy use.
“I turn off all the lights when I leave rooms and I take quick showers,” said the first-year student.
The CAP has also provided steps for adaptations to protect the campus from extreme weather due to climate change. This would include the installation of new green infrastructures. Already, Loyola has permeable paving on sidewalks which promote the water cycle and green roofs on all the buildings on both the Lake Shore and Water Tower campus that reduces stormwater runoff.
“We already can see the climate changing around the planet,” said Durnbaugh, “We need to be building and planting for what it’s going to be like 50 to 100 years from now to protect Loyola and the communities around it.”