Sustainability Task Force Seeks Public Comment at Open House

The community is invited to help set goals for more sustainable energy use on campus.

What are the best ways for the College to shrink its carbon footprint? That’s a question President Phil Hanlon ’77 posed to the sustainability task force that he formed last spring. Since then, the multidisciplinary committee has been exploring ways to wean the College from fossil fuels, building on progress already made toward energy efficiency. Also under review: the management of food, water, transportation, and waste. The task force report is due in President Hanlon’s office by April 22—Earth Day 2017.   

“We’re moving steadily through our agenda and getting great participation from students, faculty, staff, and members of the community,” says Andrew Friedland, the Richard and Jane Pearl Professor in Environmental Studies and task force co-chair.

Co-chair Rosi Kerr says the task force is setting ambitious goals, but not delving into the details of implementation. For example, the group will not make nuts-and-bolts suggestions about how to replace the College’s antiquated steam plant. “We are not going to make recommendations at that level. This committee is focused instead on how Dartmouth can adopt sustainability objectives that make us more resilient, more competitive with peers, and less harmful to the environment.”

The task force is exploring strategies to help Dartmouth reduce its carbon footprint, particularly related to energy production. Responses to its recommendations are invited at its second open house, for the general public as well as the Dartmouth community, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 10 in Filene Auditorium. A list of committee members and the minutes of their meetings are available online.

“The best options probably include a combination of woodchip biomass and renewables. Photovoltaic panels are increasingly attractive because solar efficiency is improving as cost is declining,” says Friedland. He notes that there is already a small solar installation on the roof of Murdough Hall, a solar tracker next to Moore Hall, and a small array planned for a bunkhouse at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, now under reconstruction. Freidland hopes to see more reliance on solar power in the future.

Kerr and Friedland acknowledge that this is not the first task force in Dartmouth history asked to chart a greener path for the College, but they believe that the current administration is committed to a plan of action, within the budget constraints that shape any new initiative.

“It’s the first time a president has invited a group of faculty, staff, and students personally and asked them to get together as many times as they need to, and submit a report within a year,” Friedland says. “It’s the most encouraging thing we’ve seen over the years.”

He says Dartmouth will base decisions about energy goals on up-to-date peer-reviewed research. Friedland sees the new Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society as an important asset in the search for a sustainable future.

“The upgrading of facilities needs to go hand-in-hand with teaching and scholarship on the campus so that there’s an academic mission fulfilled by changing infrastructure. We’re looking for ways to make the lives of students better when they are not in class, and also when they are in class or working in a lab or volunteering around campus.”

Dartmouth values “a hard-headed Yankee ingenuity,” says Kerr. She wants to see the College become a role model for its peers.

“Let’s think about what actually gets results, and do this in a pragmatic way that you can replicate in other places. Dartmouth tends to be practical and flinty, and I think that’s a great constraint that will give us replicable outcomes.”