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May 2008

People, planet, and productivity: Sustainable UCAR

damaged building

Kimberly Kosmenko.

UCAR/NCAR’s new sustainability coordinator, Kimberly Kosmenko, started work in March as part of SaSS. She holds a master’s degree in environmental science and policy from CU-Boulder and has experience in land conservation and environmental nonprofit work. Here, Kimberly tells Staff Notes Monthly about her plans to help UCAR develop and implement a comprehensive sustainability plan.

As one of UCAR’s newest staff members, I have the unique pleasure of announcing an exciting new suite of activities that will happen under the auspices of Sustainable UCAR. Growing out of the Environmental Stewardship Program, Sustainable UCAR provides collaborative opportunities and leadership for UCAR, NCAR, and UOP to work toward environmental sustainability.

I’m often asked what sustainability really means. For an organization like UCAR, sustainability is about operating in a way that supports environmental and human health while enhancing organizational productivity. Many organizations refer to this as the triple bottom line—people, planet, and productivity. Because UCAR is an organization that strives to benefit society by producing excellent research and education on climate and atmospheric science, working toward sustainability aligns perfectly with our mission.

More often than not, I’m asked if we can really accomplish something meaningful in the name of going green—and do it without spending a lot of money. Examples from other research and academic institutions demonstrate opportunities to increase the triple bottom line. Harvard University’s Green Campus Initiative manages an internal revolving loan fund to enable projects for sustainability education, small-scale building improvements, waste reduction, and more—and shows an average return on investment of more than 20% while reducing resource consumption and carbon emissions.

Closer to home, facilities managers at CU-Boulder collaborated with the campus Environmental Center on a suite of strategies to reduce water use—including the installation of new fixtures, shifting irrigation practices, and community education—that lowered annual consumption by 10–20%. In the meantime, the university saved more than $256,500 in the first two years of the program.

Another Colorado neighbor, the National Renewable Energy Lab, leveraged private funding to install an on-site biomass energy plant as part of a goal to be net carbon neutral. NREL now generates renewable, local power with virtually no upfront costs.

What’s possible here at UCAR? Sustainability is a process rather than a destination, and UCAR has the knowledge and institutional support to take a leadership role. A comprehensive sustainability plan includes goals for managing carbon footprint, energy and water consumption, transportation, ecological health of our land, waste reduction, and outreach and education. This year, Sustainable UCAR will partner with members of the UCAR community to assess our carbon footprint and resource consumption. Using the data from these assessments, we’ll develop a suite of programmatic goals.

Thanks to past environmental stewardship efforts, we already have a comprehensive recycling program and have compost collection in many locations, with plans to expand. We’ll continue to support the efforts of Event Services to move toward providing “zero waste” food service and Physical Plant Services’ efforts to increase building efficiency. This summer, we’ll bring in several distinguished speakers to offer a series of brown bag lunch discussions, offering you the opportunity to learn more about sustainability. A small sustainability committee will convene to work hands on with the nuts and bolts of program implementation. Information on all of our initiatives, along with resources for going green, will appear on our soon-to-be-released website over the course of the year.

Reaching for sustainability is a community effort, and I invite you to ask questions, make suggestions, and get involved. I look forward to working with all of you on this exciting process.

• Kimberly Kosmenko


In this issue...

A close look at one geoengineering scheme

Talks and treats for National Library Week

People, planet, and productivity: Sustainable UCAR

Multimedia Services helps staff collaborate across time and space

“The Stories Clouds Tell” gets a facelift

Delphi questions

Warren M. Washington Digital Collection

Just One Look


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