New MU website encourages student involvement in climate and energy goals

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | 6:23 p.m. CDT; updated 8:11 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 13, 2013

*Ben Datema's title has been corrected in this story.

COLUMBIA — A desire to reach the widest audience possible led to the creation of a new website aligning MU's 2013 master plan with its sustainability plan, MU master planner Linda Eastley said Tuesday.

MU's master planning process began more than 30 years ago, Eastley said, but this year the decision was made to incorporate the sustainability plan, which includes a climate action plan, into the master plan.

Eastley and climate action planning consultant Meredith Elbaum gave a joint presentation about the future of the two plans.

"Sustainability is a factor of planning on campus," Elbaum said. "We have to look at the two together. We will be covering more than just climate. We'll be looking at buildings, landscape, health and education."

New goals added

The climate plan update outlined new goals, to be completed by 2017. They are:

  • Achieving a 45 percent carbon emission reduction from the 2008 emissions baseline.
  • Targeting a 75 percent reduction of coal use, and increased use of biomass and natural gas.
  • Continuing to purchase wind power and increase its renewable energy portfolio.
  • Requiring energy modeling on all major construction projects.

"Our goal for a 45 percent carbon emission is aggressive, and we want to continue to look beyond the next five years," Elbaum said.

The university has seen a 35 percent carbon emission reduction as of 2012, Elbaum said. In total, energy conservation saves MU $7.5 million annually, she said.

Within the campus master plan, there are 25 projects in design, construction or planning, Eastley said. Several of the new buildings will use LEED principles, which certifies that the projects are energy efficient and sustainably constructed.

Future LEED certified buildings under construction include Gwynn Hall, the Johnston and Wolpers hall renovations and Virginia Avenue South Housing.

From 1990 to 2012, the university had decreased water use by 60 percent and energy use by 18 percent, while increasing space by 35 percent, Eastley said.

Increased student involvement

A reason to develop the joint website was to reach a larger audience, particularly students, Eastley said.

"This forum has been around since the 1980s," Eastley said. "It doesn't attract a significant population of campus. We wanted a venue for students to explore."

Also, the creation of a student committee is intended to increase student input in sustainability decisions made in the future.

Formed last month, the Energy Strategies Student Advisory Committee will help MU create a clean energy development plan, Elbaum said.

Student representatives on the committee are from Missouri Students Association, Sustain Mizzou, the Graduate Professional Council and Coal Free Mizzou.

The new website and student committee are a leap forward in transparency, MU environmental leadership adviser Ben Datema* said.

"MU is good at doing things well, but is not always good about telling people about it," Datema said. "The website will be a great source of information, and it says a lot about the administration to include students in future decisions."

Eastley said she encouraged people to visit the website over the next year, as they will take site traffic into consideration.

"If we see what sections are most visited, we can make changes or add more information in 2014," Eastley said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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