Green campus project gets growing, slowly

Eighteen months after its inception, the University of Calgary’s Project Evolve is now ready to take larger steps towards a smaller energy footprint.

Project Evolve, a $38 million partnership with Direct Energy Business Services, aims to reduce energy use on the U of C campus by $30 million over the seven year project.

The U of C recently unveiled its latest move towards sustainability: a light bulb crusher intended to limit the release of toxic mercury from disposed fluorescent tubes. The system, which can reduce 1,200 bulbs into a 40-gallon barrel of glass, is one of many Project Evolve initiatives getting off the ground.

U of C EcoClub president Stephanie Ferguson, however, said the project’s current rate of growth is not enough to reach the university’s goal of reducing its energy consumption by $30 million.

“There have been few tangible results,” said Ferguson. “There has been a lot of talk and planning, but nothing visible.”

Direct Energy Business Services vice-president Peter Dixon disagreed, citing the mechanical and electrical audit of all campus facilities, redesign of student space and aggressive light replacement as evidence of the project’s progress.

“We have had multiple successes,” said Dixon. “We are reaching for low and no cost options: investments with $44,000 per annum return for a $400 to $500 [initial investment]. We are 15 per cent into the process of light fixture replacement and we have just completed a very well articulated business plan.”

This business plan, according to Dixon, dominated the Evolve team’s attention for the first 12 months and contains sustainable strategies for both existing campus property and the future Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and veterinary school of medicine developments.

“There will be a high visibility of sustainability in building design,” said Dixon. “New infrastructure will be targeted towards a low energy footprint. The U of C now has a great opportunity to invest in the campus.”

Ferguson, on the other hand, saw little to be applauded in the project’s efforts.

“There’s been a billboard and the redesign of the Loft, but in the mean time, the EcoClub has made huge energy initiatives,” said Ferguson. “The students have been doing more–they don’t have to deal with bureaucracy.”

“It is necessary to understand that simple strategies are not easily achieved,” countered Dixon. “We have to educate people about what the program really means.”

Students will soon see an increase in Direct Energy involvement on campus and more opportunities for input on infrastructure redesign. Marketing personnel have already been spotted in MacEwan Student Centre asking students’ opinions on the project’s “Lights Off” initiative to limit usage of lighting in off-hours.

In addition to infrastructure upgrades to increase the sustainability of campus facilities, the deal with Direct Energy also funds scholarships and research at the U of C.

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