LightWorks Lecture Series: Achieving zero waste at ASU


On January 24, 2014, LightWorks kicked off its first lecture series of the new year with a panel-style discussion on Arizona State University’s zero carbon initiative. The discussion addressed ASU’s recent partnership with Ameresco Inc. and Rocky Mountain Institute to achieve climate neutrality goals by 2025. The panelists covered accomplishments made so far and steps to take the university closer to this goal.

Peter Byck, director and producer of the 2011 documentary Carbon Nation, was host of the lecture and led panelists into an engaging discussion. The panelists included: Daniel Hunter and Mark Wilhelm of Ameresco, Dave Brixen, Vice President of Facilities Development and Management at ASU, and Nicholas Brown, Director of University Sustainability Practices and Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.

Nicholas Brown began the conversation by explaining ASU’s current status with greenhouse gas emissions which is hitting approximately 310,000MT of CO2 per year. Brown believes that because ASU will only continue to grow, a strategic plan to get emissions down to zero will be necessary. Dave Brixon added that the ASU Campus Solarization project has had a large effect on getting the university closer to this goal. ASU’s current solar generating capacity is 23.5MWdc which avoids 21,991 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year. This generating capacity is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of over 4,000 passenger vehicles. The estimated annual production of 40,504 megawatt hours is also equivalent to the energy required to power 3,181 homes for one year. Brixton noted that the ASU Solarization project plans to continue their effort in demonstrating ASU’s commitment to carbon neutrality goals while also educating the student body about the benefits of renewable energy generation. “By 2025 we will hit this goal,” Brown said during his closing point. “I am confident in that.”

Mark Wilhelm explained his optimism in the partnership between Ameresco Inc. and ASU to achieve the university’s climate neutrality goals. Wilhelm provided a quote by American architect, systems theorists, and futurist Richard Buckminster Fuller which is provided below:

 “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”—Buckminster Fuller

Wilhelm commented that Ameresco’s goal is to provide a cutting-edge game plan for ASU to work with in reaching their climate neutrality and zero waste goals. Daniel Hunter also provided more insight on Ameresco and ASU’s partnership by explaining current developments in their game plan. Hunter believes it is important for ASU to integrate and work across the university in order to reach zero waste by 2025. Currently Ameresco is working with developing ways to improve infrastructure, integration across the university, and public awareness to ASU’s goal. Hunter also added that Ameresco plans to utilze their real-time energy management solution, xChange Point ® to calculate emissions data and determine the best-suited alternative energy options. Hunter added that Ameresco will have a full climate action plan set for ASU by May 2014.

Last week ASU  published its annual Sustainability Operations Review for 2013 which highlighted the university’s accomplishments in zero waste and climate neutrality goals. The publication included achievements such as LEED Gold certification for ASU’s newest research center, ISTB4, ASU, in collaboration with Waste Management, achieving a 27% waste diversion rate, and  ASU making the “Sustainable 16” list in the Enviance, Inc. 2013 Environmental March Madness Tournament. With this list of impressive achievements for the year 2013, the year 2014 is certainly off to a great start.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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