March 29, 2019

Towards a greener tomorrow: Saluki Energy Forum focuses on sustainability

by Tim Crosby

Students can learn how to make greener energy choices that impact the campus and the planet at-large during the next Saluki Energy Forum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The forum is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 4 at Morris Library Rotunda. It is free and open to the public and features a light lunch along with several speakers addressing various aspects of sustainability.

“It's time for everyone to come around to the reality that we all need to understand climate change, and take action every day, in every way we can,” said Amy McMorrow Hunter, a researcher with the Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center, and one of the speakers at the event.

A global concern

During the forum in November, organizers told those attending that a “major and immediate” transformation in technology and behavior is required across the board to meet a target of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Hunter said the consequences of missing these targets include declines in biodiversity and coral reefs, more sea level rise, and higher temperatures bringing heat waves, droughts and more extreme weather.

“Emissions need to reach net-zero per year by 2050, which means we've got a lot of work to do, and we're starting right here on campus,” she said.

Campus energy issues

Justin Harrell, an engineer with Physical Plant Service at SIU, said fossil fuels burned for heating, cooling, and electricity for campus buildings generates more than 164,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to burning coal from 895 rail cars, or a train nine miles long. As one of the speakers for the forum, Harrell will address how the campus uses energy, where it comes from and its impact on the environment, as well as options for reducing energy usage.

Geory Kurtzhals, director of sustainability at SIU, will talk about Project Drawdown, a resource to enhance energy-related academic offerings and shaping sustainability planning.

How to get involved

Hunter will address the Saluki Energy Focus Group, which has the goal of leading campus-wide efforts to reduce energy use and transition toward maximized renewable energy usage. Its programs include the Green Office SLEUTHsNet-Zero Salukis, Saluki Lights Out and an energy research survey for faculty.

“The Saluki Energy Focus Group helps to give people a place to get ideas about what you can do now to make the most impact.”