Fairfield University President commits to 'climate neutral' campus


Fairfield University President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., joined with 460 university and college presidents earlier this year in signing the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate. Since he signed on, the number of presidents making the commitment has grown to 529. The goal of the group is to reach 1,000 signatures by the end of 2009.

The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is under the guidance and direction of the Leadership Circle of presidents and is being supported and implemented by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Second Nature, and ecoAmerica.

Father von Arx said, "As a Jesuit institution, we're charged to be good stewards of the Earth. We consider it part of our mission to undertake projects that contribute positively to the environment and our community."

A concern for the environment goes back many years at Fairfield, at least to 1985 with the founding of the Program in Environmental Studies, under Dr. Lisa Newton, professor of philosophy. Through the years that program has been working with the Student Environmental Association to promote environmental awareness through education, programming and activism.

The student movement got a boost two years ago when an environmental economics class taught by Dr. Dina Franceschi, associate professor of economics, completed an environmental policy review and inventory of green projects at Fairfield, resulting in the creation of a campus-wide Environmental Steering Committee. Since then several recycling, education and energy efficient initiatives have begun and are the basis of the University's web site, "From Red to Green."

Meanwhile Fairfield University was making a major commitment to conservation by installing an eco-friendly Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP). Campus buildings feature night heating setbacks and "free cooling" processes that help to conserve energy. The new Aloysius P. Kelley Center on campus was designed with energy-efficient equipment and flexible components to reduce its impact on the environment; and most recently a ground breaking took place for the new Fairfield Jesuit Community Center, an environmentally friendly home and retreat and meeting center that will feature a garden roof and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system.

The Presidents Climate Commitment is the first such effort by any major sector of society to set climate neutrality - not just a reduction - as its target. This undertaking by America's colleges and universities is inspired by efforts like the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and other collective efforts by states and businesses.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 1, 2008

Vol. 40, No. 258