16. Become carbon-neutral.

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By U-Sustain

In the future, Union College will have moved even closer to being a truly sustainable institution – one that has the smallest possible impact on the environment and that achieves an even balance between the energy and resources it uses and those it generates. We will also continue to give the next generation of environmental leaders the tools to confront the social, scientific, and technological challenges we face to ensure the sustainability of human life on this planet.

Union is committed to bringing this about – President Ainlay was a Charter Signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which sets us on the path to zero net emissions of the gases that contribute to climate change (climate neutrality). We have a plan that sets specific benchmarks as we lower our emissions. We continue to invest in energy conservation, alternative energy, and initiatives that decrease our use of resources.

It will still take input from all of us to see this future become a reality: individuals, the College, and society as a whole.

• Individuals – The students, faculty, and staff that make up our community will play a vital role on the path to a sustainable future. We shape Union’s environmental impact when we power our electronics, eat in the dining halls, purchase products on or off campus and travel. We all know the mantras: “Turn off the lights,” “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” “Carpool.” To this list, we should also add: “No plastic water bottles” and “No beef, thank you.” If we are to reach our Sustainable Future, we will have to change our patterns.

• The college – Energy use is the single greatest component of Union College’s contribution to climate change. If we are to achieve climate neutrality, we must further decrease our energy use and increase our use of alternative energy. The College is already on this path, but it must go further. First, voluntary energy conservation—by all of us—has led to a significant decrease in our energy use. Second, the College is investing millions of dollars in equipment upgrades that make our operations more efficient and therefore use less energy. Third—and this is for the future—we MUST make significant investments in alternative energy, such as solar power, wind power, and geothermal. The sooner roofs such as College Park Hall and the Achilles Center are harnessing the power of the sun, the sooner we will see our Sustainable Future.

• Society as a whole – For Union to reach its goal of climate neutrality, we need to push for policies at the local, state and federal levels that tip the balance from dirty, polluting fossil fuels to a new alternative energy future. Such policies will make investments in wind and solar power economically viable and give us more choices as we make our Sustainable Future a reality. As a society, we also need to think locally—from buying locally grown food to exploring the natural wonders in and near our own communities. A sense of “local” will help us appreciate the natural resources of this planet that we may be more conscious of their conservation in the future.

We have no doubt that we will see this Sustainable Future at Union College, but it is going to take the efforts of individuals, the College and society as a whole to reach this goal.

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