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Pomona College Sets Ambitious Net Climate Neutral Deadline

The photovoltaic panels on Pomona Hall (shown here), Sontag Hall and the South Campus Parking Structure led to a more than 80 percent increase in renewable energy production in 2012-13.

The photovoltaic panels on Pomona Hall (shown here), Sontag Hall and the South Campus Parking Structure led to a more than 80 percent increase in renewable energy production in 2012-13.

President David Oxtoby announced in an email to the community today that Pomona College has set an aggressive yet attainable goal to be net climate neutral by 2030, meaning the College will have balanced the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we release with an equal amount sequestered or offset.

The date, which Oxtoby says is ambitious, should still offer the College enough time to meet the goal through steps like retrocommissioning all non-LEED-certified buildings; the development of a Strategic Energy Plan, for which an request for proposal is already underway; and exploring ways to make our energy supply more renewable.

“It is my desire that we advance swiftly and wisely toward our goal and, if possible, find smart ways to accelerate our progress,” Oxtoby wrote.

Pomona College was an early leader in higher education sustainability. As one of the 650 signatory schools of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), the College pledged in 2007 to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations, to promote the efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the Earth’s climate, and to provide leadership by example for the wider society.

The College has focused on specific, meaningful changes in operations to make them more sustainable. In 2003, Pomona adopted Sustainable Building Guidelines, requiring all new construction and major renovations to be completed to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver or equivalent status; that goal was increased to LEED Gold in 2006, and the Pomona and Sontag residence halls earned Platinum in 2011.

More recent changes include an increase in green spaces on campus with native landscaping, the new staff position of Energy Manager, increased renewable energy production via solar photovoltaic systems, decreased water usage, and the purchase of Trails End Ranch, which will preserve 50 acres of almost pristine chaparral.

Pomona College has been recognized for its efforts: It was named to The Princeton Review “2014 Green Honor Roll,” one of only 22 colleges in the country earning the highest possible score (99), and included in the Princeton Review’s 2013 Guide to Green Colleges.

President Oxtoby noted in his letter that the campus community has worked to integrate sustainability into our culture--including the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (PACS) overseeing the College’s efforts and the Sustainability Action Fellowship funding student involvement in campus sustainability planning--and that he’s continually inspired by faculty, staff and student commitment to proactive steps and thoughtful engagement on these issues.

“Together, we are creating a greater level of consciousness about sustainability across the campus and showing how small and large choices add up to real results,” wrote Oxtoby.

By weaving sustainability and environmental leadership into the fabric of the Pomona College community, the College is set to begin striving toward this new and ambitious goal. “Our collective actions as we work to meet our 2030 goal for climate neutrality will define Pomona College’s commitment and will help us ‘bear our added riches in trust’ for humankind,” says Oxtoby.

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