May 09, 2014 by Thao Duong
Drexel University has been ranked 57th in the 2014 National Top 100 list of the United States Environmental Protection Agency for being one of the largest organizations that uses green power within the Green Power Partnership.
According to the EPA website, Drexel has consumed 96,678,000 kilowatt hours of green power annually, using 100 percent wind and solar power resources. Also in 2014, Drexel was ranked 9thon the EPA’s Top 30 College and University list of academic institutions that use renewable energy resources, and was recognized among 332 most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada by the Princeton Review, April 17. Moreover, the University also stood at 7th place in the 2012-13 College & University Green Power Challenge, which tracks the green power use of colleges and universities across the nation both individually and by athletic conference.
“It’s a combination of all of our sustainable programs so part of it is community outreach,” Vice President of University Facilities Robert Francis said in response to the achievements.
According to Francis, procurement policy, community engagement and academic curriculum are the three main legs upon which Drexel’s environmental programs stand.
The most essential project that contributes to the rank, however, is that the University has been purchasing renewable energy certificates from Community Energy, a business that provides clean, renewable, emission-free energy that is eco-friendly and will never be depleted. Until recently, a majority of the electrical consumption of the University relied on wind power with a mix of solar power. Drexel was one of the first universities to purchase wind generated energy in 2002.
The idea of adopting renewable energy by entering into a contract with PECO Wind was first initiated by President Constantine Papadakis in 2006.
Senior Associate Vice President Joseph Campbell said, “It was during the orientation program where he announced that we were going to have some of our electricity from wind power. From that point on, we just have steadily increased our utilization of wind power.”
In 2006, wind power energy accounted for 30 percent of the total electricity consumption of Drexel University. At the end of 2010 and early 2011, 100 percent of energy was run by wind power offset. In 2013, the University took the opportunity to purchase solar power credits from the Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster, Pa., as an addition to its green power resources.
Drexel also focuses on the prospect of sustainability. Francis said, “We keep track of energy consumption [and] benchmark ourselves against similar campuses. For every 10 units of energy that other people consume, we consume six. So our energy consumption is only a little bit over half of the grades of our competitors.
“I would say that the most important thing that we do is that we’re conservative.”
The RECs are also dedicated to accomplishing the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment that deals with reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. According to Francis, the University was able to achieve the 40-year goal of the commitment immediately by buying the renewable credits. Eighty percent of the University’s carbon footprint has been reduced.
Most buildings on Drexel’s University City campus are equipped with particular sustainable systems, such as the biowall in the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building; the green roof, solar shading and daylight sensors in Gerri C. LeBow Hall; and the glass facade, storm water management system and roof light scoops in the Drexel Recreation Center. Also, more than 65 percent of the construction waste from the renovation project in the URBN Center was recycled.
In order to maintain and improve the environmental projects in the future, Francis emphasized adhering to the sustainability principles, specifically by setting examples through teaching and research.
“What we can do in our project is always to be at the forefront and economic way for providing these features like green roofs and bio filter walls and storm water retention features. We’ll always do that sort of thing,” he said.
On the other hand, Campbell highlighted the role of community engagement.
“The whole idea of Drexel Green is to integrate green principles and values into the Drexel community. So there’s what I call the ‘systematic operational’ part of it, but there’s also individual engagement, and the way the two interplay is that we can do all we want with energy efficiency and systems. But if you don’t turn the light off when you leave, if you don’t put energy saving stuffs on your computer, if you’re not individually engaged, then it doesn’t help,” Campbell said.
Campbell continued, “I think the way we continue to improve is, number one is to continue to promote the individual engagement because we know we’re good when the individuals are engaged. Number two is that we continue to look at the energy efficiency projects.”
One way that Campbell suggested students become engaged is to create a position, namely an “eco-rep” in every residence hall to become a liaison and promoter of green projects.
Current sustainable programs include RecycleMania, the Drexel Green website, the Drexel Smart House, lecture series and symposium about environmental issues, and individual academic courses built around sustainability. These projects were initiated and implemented by the Drexel Green initiative.
“Drexel Green is an initiative that has an operation component and an academic component, and it is really University-wide. The sustainability council is sort of a loose committee. Faculty, staff and students who are interested in these issues get together on a monthly basis to talk about what’s going on with sustainability on campus,” Irene Tsikitas Lin, the director of communications in the office of the senior vice president, said.
Drexel Green’s areas of concentration include efficiency, recycling, reducing waste, re-using materials, and education. Specific projects encompass the hydration stations, farmers market, community garden, the biowall, bike share, car share and electric vehicles, to name a few.
“Drexel University President John A. Fry signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment…” January 12, 2011