Sustainability

Overview

In 2007, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick challenged state agencies to become leaders in reducing energy use and greenhouse emissions. Executive Order No. 484 (PDF) charges state universities and agencies to lessen their environmental impact and to educate the public through the Leading-By-Example program.

Although much work remains, Fitchburg State University is taking charge with: renovations designed to improve energy efficiency, greener construction projects, and spreading the word with student and staff involvement. Please see our events page for ongoing information on our efforts and check out the links and information page for more. If you have an interest in sustainability, please don’t hesitate to contact the Sustainability Advisory Committee - we value input from the campus community.
 

Our Carbon Footprint

The CO2 emitted by the university in 2016 is shown in the pie chart.  The University’s total emissions have remained nearly constant (around 20,000 metric tons/yr) for the past decade which may be viewed in a positive light considering the addition of the Antonucci Science Complex to the campus in recent years.  Other major capital projects have modernized campus buildings and kept CO2 emissions from increasing.

We are hoping to see overall carbon reductions in the years ahead as the University implements a new Energy Efficiency and emission reduction project. University efforts that address the categories in this pie chart are discussed below.

Electricity

We purchase the vast majority of its electricity from the grid. A “greening” of the regional grid through the use of more renewable electricity generation would have the biggest impact on reducing our (and the State’s) emissions. However, reducing the amount of electricity we consume should also be a priority and FSU is in the process of implementing a host of projects aimed at just that.  From more efficient lighting fixtures to LEED certification of campus buildings, we’re taking strides towards energy conservation.

Some electricity is generated on-campus by rooftop photovoltaic panels (PVs). Although these panels only account for 0.5% of the University’s electricity consumption, they are a step in the right direction.  You can see data on how much impact these panels have on our carbon footprint by visiting the PV-array monitoring sites for the Sanders and Anthony buildings.

Heating & Cooling

A nearly equivalent amount of greenhouse gas is produced by building heating and cooling as is emitted by electricity consumption.  Did you know that the iconic smoke stack on FSU’s campus is for a series of boilers which burn natural gas to provide heat for campus? The heated water produces steam which is sent to campus buildings through underground pipes to be used as a heating source during our months (and months) of cold weather.

In 2016 the University switched from fuel oil-burning boilers to ones that use natural gas. This switch will significantly reduce the campus’ carbon footprint because natural gas is a more efficient fuel with fewer emissions.

We also utilize alternative, renewable sources of building heat.  For instance, the Exercise and Sports Science Building is temperature controlled by a geothermal heat pump which makes use of the stable temperatures underground to cool the building in the summer and heat it in the winter.

Transportation

As a 50% commuter campus, we are faced with a challenge in addressing emissions from vehicles. Student commuting habits are commendable with almost half of students using carpools, mass transit, or a carbon-free means of getting to campus. Our employees show the most room for improvement in regard to transportation habits.  Use of car pools and mass transit has and will continue to help reduce emissions and traffic to campus.

FSU is currently working with the state to acquire four electric vehicle charging stations.  These stations will help promote more low-carbon modes of transport.
 

Waste

Did you know that a bag of garbage bound for a landfill costs the University three times more to dispose of than a bag of recyclables?  The value of the raw materials in recyclables are a resource for recycling facilities meaning that they charge less to haul it away.  So do you know what is recyclable and what is not? Data show that the percentage of campus waste that is recycled has been decreasing over time (to less than 10% in 2016!).

Remember: plastic bags & containers with food waste cannot be recycled.  Please make sure plastic and metal containers are empty of food or drink before putting them in the recycling bin.

On the bright side, the chart below shows that FSU has a commendable record of composting food scraps (which are taken to a local pig farm). The campus also composts its landscape waste. Composting diverts more than one quarter of the university’s waste out of landfills.


 

Water Use

When you add up the water that each individual on campus uses, it adds up to a lot. The cost also adds up – leaving the University with an annual water bill of over $150,000. Please be conscious of your water use by limiting the length of your showers, sink use, etc. The campus is installing lots of low-flow fixtures and re-fillable water bottle stations on campus to aid in the effort. Please make use of the refillable water bottle stations because it reduces waste and environmental costs associated with bottled water.