A growing number of colleges and universities are aiming for carbon neutrality. Middlebury College announced in 2016 it reached the milestone, and American University did so in 2018.
Getting to carbon neutrality is a complex endeavor for research universities that consume substantial amounts of energy.
William & Mary officials say the 8,800-student school produces an estimated 63,000 metric tons a year of carbon dioxide equivalents, most of it through electricity and natural gas consumption. The school won’t be able to eliminate all of that. But administrators want to reduce it and then offset what they can’t eliminate. School officials said they are exploring a power purchase deal that could meet as much as 60 percent of William & Mary’s electricity needs through sources known as solar farms.
At U-Va., which has more than 24,000 students, the annual carbon footprint is an estimated 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Officials said they are pursuing reduction strategies such as heat recovery technology, renewable energy and a “sustainable” transportation plan.
U-Va. “will seek to catalyze change to advance these new, ambitious sustainability goals in ways that create replicable and collaborative models to build bridges with our community and beyond,” Andrea Trimble, director of the university’s Office for Sustainability, said in a news release.
William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe noted that climate change is a major issue for a school located between the York and James rivers and near the Atlantic Ocean. “We look forward to working with our colleagues at the University of Virginia,” Rowe said in a statement, “and we recognize our responsibility to do our part, especially as an estuarine campus located in a region more susceptible to sea-level rise than many others.”
William & Mary also announced a $19.3 million gift, from an anonymous donor, to launch next year an Institute for Integrative Conservation. The multidisciplinary institute will support research and advocacy to protect ecosystems and safeguard people against worldwide environmental threats, the school said.