LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The University of Lynchburg has become the first college or university in Virginia to be carbon neutral. That means that the amount of carbon emissions caused by the university are balanced out by carbon savings somewhere else.
University officials say it’s a practical way to make a difference in the fight against climate change.
“That’s a big deal,” said Steve Bright, the Voce President of Business and Finance at the University of Lynchburg. “That means we’re not polluting into the environment at all.”
Bright says the University of Lynchburg is only the 10th college or university in the country to become carbon neutral.
“Carbon neutrality at the University of Lynchburg is just wonderful. We’re the first higher education institution in Virginia and the only institution in the south that’s received carbon neutrality.”
This has been the University’s goal for more than a decade. They developed dozens of projects, from small ways to save water to big moves away from fossil fuels. Among the projects making a difference are a rain garden to reduce stormwater runoff and encouraging bikes over cars.
Then, there’s the green energy investments.
“In one of our freshman residence halls, we have had solar array on the roof that collects energy from the sun and that it transfers down into a boiler, so that about 90 percent of the hot water is heated by the sun in that residence hall, even in February, so we’ve been doing a lot of innovative things like that.”
He says the panels were installed about 12 years ago and have now reached a point where they have paid for themselves by offsetting the amount the university would have spent on power from the local utility.
The university also buys electricity from a company that takes harmful methane from landfills and turns it into renewable energy.
“That power is transferred to us in the grid, so that really is a major portion of us being able to obtain carbon neutrality.”
Bright says nearby Randolph College and Sweet Briar College also purchase renewable energy, but they haven’t hit carbon neutrality.
“It feels great,” said Bright, when asked how it feels to have beaten nearby colleges to that milestone. “It feels great, and I don’t think any of them are going to catch us anytime soon.”
He says they’re continuing to look at how they can improve on sustainability, saying carbon neutrality may be a milestone, but it’s not the end.