Sustainability task force to meet this month

by Alex Fredman | 9/22/16 12:41am

A new sustainability task force of students, faculty and administrators will have its first full meeting this month. The task force is focused on reducing Dartmouth’s carbon footprint and developing the College’s existing sustainability initiatives.

The task force, announced by College President Phil Hanlon on April 22, Earth Day, will meet several times over the coming months.

Andrew Friedland, an environmental studies professor and a co-chair of the task force, said that the goal is to have a draft of recommendations done by March for a final report next April. Friedland said the task force will focus on the following areas in which sustainability can be achieved: energy, materials, water usage, food and food systems, waste and transportation.

On July 14, the task force met for the first time to set agendas for future meetings, roughly designating one of the aforementioned topics to each gathering. Because this previous meeting was held during the summer term, not all members could attend. The task force’s first full meeting is slated for Sept. 29.

Friedland said that this meeting’s goals include reading a consensus on carbon dioxide emission reduction dates and numbers in addition to ways to shift away from using No. 6 fuels.

No. 6 fuel oil is known for having especially high levels of carbon, and the College uses 3.8 million gallons per year. The Board of Trustees voted in 2014 to begin transitioning away from No. 6 fuels. Though no timeline was formally adopted, campus planning and facilities vice president Lisa Hogarty said that the College would no longer use No. 6 fuels by around 2018. The College has the largest carbon footprint per student in the Ivy League.

Friedland said he hopes the school will transition away from oil toward alternative sources of energy, but he cautions against switching directly from oil to burning wood chips — an alternative option that is being considered. He said that a move toward energy sustainability will also have to involve new methods like photovoltaic panels, wind-generated energy and heat pumps.

The creation of this task force comes at a time when Dartmouth has been making increasing efforts at improving its sustainability. Since 2011, Dartmouth has reduced its consumption of fuel oil by nearly one-third while simultaneously adding 300,000 square feet of building space, according to an earlier College press release about the task force.

“I’m delighted that President Hanlon recognizes energy as one of the most pressing issues of our time,” said Judith Colla, vice-chairwoman of the Upper Valley Sierra Club. Even though the Sierra Club is not officially affiliated with the task force, Colla said that cooperation between the two would be mutually beneficial.

There have been several task forces related to sustainability in previous years, and Friedland hopes that this one will tie together much of the research undertaken by those previous groups. He said he is optimistic that the task force is not “starting from point zero,” but is actually starting far along in the process.

Members of the task force were invited to participate by Hanlon. According to Friedland, their names were solicited from a variety of people, including Friedland himself and Rosi Kerr, director of the Office of Sustainability. Students were similarly invited to join the task force.

One of those students is Maanav Jalan ’19, who is interested in environmental studies and English. Jalan is a member of Divest Dartmouth, a movement focused on persuading the College to cease its investments in fossil fuel extraction companies.

“Traditionally, task forces have been very faculty-heavy or administration-heavy, so I’m glad that they have a lot more students this time,” Jalan said. “As a member of Divest and other social justice groups, I hope to introduce more discussion about... how [the task force] can do more to create a more sustainable Dartmouth.”

The issue of divestment from fossil fuel companies may become a point of disagreement among the task force. While some students on the task force, like Jalan, are affiliated with Divest Dartmouth, other members do not necessarily see divestment as the most effective strategy to employ.

“I think that getting Dartmouth to stop burning No. 6 fuel oil would have a much greater impact on CO2 emissions in the atmosphere than the divestment would,” Friedland said.

He added that if the College were to pursue divestment, it should be part of a broader portfolio of actions.

Nonetheless, Jalan said, “I hope that the task force can actually get a decision on the topics that elicit more controversy.”