Not zero, net zero: universities and institutes strive to reduce carbon footprints on campuses

Whether it’s buying power from “green generators”, allowing only solar-powered vehicles for transportation on campus, and installing waste treatment plants in local areas. local, universities and institutes across the country are making strides in reducing their carbon footprint.

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, the vice-chancellors of 12 major universities and higher education institutions made a unique voluntary commitment called “Not zero, zero net” to develop the sheet. road to make their campuses carbon neutral.

More than 250 universities and institutions have joined the initiative since then.

At the forefront, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi has become the first centrally-funded technical institute to reduce its carbon footprint by more than 50%.

“Using green energy through open access is an important initiative that we have taken in recent times to share our responsibility for a clean climate. Through many such proactive actions, we are making good progress in realizing the green power purchasing portfolio expansion plans in the near future ”, said Director of IIT Delhi, V Rammpgopal Rao.

“The open access provisions of the Electricity Law of 2003 made it possible to purchase electricity from producers of their choice through bilateral contracts or energy exchanges, for large consumers of electricity. electricity like IIT Delhi. We have used these provisions to its advantage by involving PTC India Ltd as a trader to identify a “green” energy source. Buying 2 MW of electricity exclusively from a “green” generator is equivalent to offsetting around 14,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, ”he added.

According to Rajendra Shende, president of the EARTH Policy Center, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in its latest “Emission Gap Report” said that the pledges made by countries under the Paris Agreement on climate are not sufficient to meet the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. from 2015.

“It is therefore essential that countries achieve ‘net zero emissions’ within the next 30 to 40 years. Net zero emissions do not mean that emissions from human activities will be completely eliminated. Instead, it means human-related emissions – from vehicles, agriculture, power generation, etc. – will be reduced to such a low level that they can be offset by efforts to absorb and otherwise remove emissions from the atmosphere, for example by planting trees, ”he said.

Shende informed that Smart Campus Cloud Network (SCCN) is the university network, a project of the Technology, Education, Research and Rehabilitation for the Environment (TERRE) Policy Center.

“There is no more effective action than initiating ‘Not Zero Net Zero’ on college campuses,” he said.

By joining the league, IIT Mandi has an active green committee that manages all green activities on campus.

“As a second generation IIT, barely a decade old, environmental conservation and emission reduction have been included in campus planning from the start. The following steps have already been implemented to reduce the carbon footprint. As an institute of technology and research of national significance, we see the movement of a large number of people across the country and abroad, both professors and students, as well as the functioning of ‘research instruments with high energy consumption.

“Thus, we understand that it is difficult to achieve full carbon neutrality. But efforts are underway to switch to renewable energy sources as well as to offset the carbon footprint through other activities”, CS Yadav, president of the green committee and associate professor at IIT Mandi Raconté.

At IIT Madras, the campus has a fully automated centralized wastewater treatment plant with a capacity of 4 MLD (SBR + UF + ozonation technology) to treat 100 percent of the wastewater generated. The treated wastewater is recycled for rinsing, gardening, cooling water for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and for recharging the lake. Surplus treated wastewater is sold to the IIT Madras research park.

“The organic waste and the biodegradable waste generated are composted using the composting plant and part of it is treated using a dome-type biodigester. The generated compost is used as a soil conditioner for landscaping. The recyclable solid waste is sold to local recyclers and vendors while the dehydrated STP sludge is used as manure for gardening on campus, ”said Ligy Philip, Dean (Planning), IIT Madras.

Philip said each home on campus received three bins for separating biodegradable and inorganic waste and a proprietary bin for sanitary waste disposal.

Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director of IIT Madras, said: “We have installed as many solar panels as possible on the roofs (about half of our daytime needs). This directly reduces thermal energy consumption by as much ”.

“We have about 45,000 trees on campus. But we didn’t calculate how much carbon they take up and how much they offset our grid electricity use and fuel usage, which is pretty low because students don’t run on fuel. Our students on campus have e-rickshaws and electric buses to reduce the carbon footprint on campus, ”he added.

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