PROMOTING ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
by Dwayne Pinkney
Dwayne Pinkney (photo by Erin Williams/Virginia Tech)
Ben Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.”
While it dates back some 300 years, its context is still very much applicable, especially when it comes to climate change.
The environment is among the most pressing issues facing Virginia Tech and the world at large, requiring not only continued dialogue but immediate action.
Sustainability has become an integral part of the fabric of Virginia Tech, intertwined among the university’s efforts to educate future leaders, advance discovery, enhance diversity and inclusion, and promote environmental stewardship.
In the decade since the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment was approved by the Board of Visitors, the university has made strides in reducing its environmental footprint.
• Thirty-two LEED-registered (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings across the Blacksburg campus continue to reap strong energy savings. LEED is the most-widely used green building rating system and provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.
• The Five-Year Energy Action Plan, launched in 2016, continues to drive implementation of energy efficiency measures in the 50 most energy-intensive buildings on campus. These measures have reduced carbon emissions by nearly 23,000 tons per year, and when fully implemented, will save the university $6 million annually.
• In the past six years, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by more than 20 percent, which is attributable to the increased use of natural gas as the university’s primary fuel source. Virginia Tech is also engaged in a measured approach around solar energy with funding allocated for select solar installation deployments in the near future.
• More than $1 million in university funding has been allocated to student-requested sustainability projects at Virginia Tech through the award-winning student Green RFP [request for proposal] program.
• The Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability’s nationally recognized student internship program continues to grow in number of engaged participants and impact both on campus and regionally.
• Nearly 900 Virginia Tech courses include sustainability-related curriculum.
But more needs to be done.
President Tim Sands recently called for renewal of the Climate Action Commitment and creation of an ad hoc working group of university leaders, across operations, academics, research, and other areas, and students, that will examine Virginia Tech’s current Climate Action Commitment and determine how it should be updated to reflect more recent developments in climate science and technological improvements to promote environmental sustainability.
The working group will also consider the long-term impact of the institution’s Climate Action Commitment goals on university policies, operations, and budget, and identify broad metrics and the elements for determining success in meeting these goals.
I am very pleased to have formed this working group and to have John Randolph, professor emeritus of environmental planning, and Todd Schenk, assistant professor in urban affairs and planning, serve as chair and vice-chair, respectively. We are proud to have issued invitations to faculty experts, students, governance representatives, and community members to join in this cause to review and renew Virginia Tech’s Climate Action Commitment.
In reexamining the Climate Action Commitment, we have an unmistakable opportunity to advance sustainability for generations to come—on all Virginia Tech campuses and far beyond. Whether it is recycling, biking to work, or conserving electricity in your office or residence, I encourage you to get involved.
Dwayne Pinkney is senior vice president and chief business officer at Virginia Tech.