Wichita State University is in the middle of a six part sustainability plan to develop and promote initiatives leading to a greater use of sustainable resources on campus. The initiatives revolve around facility improvements, new curriculum opportunities and overall student impact.
The second goal of these efforts is to focus on reducing the carbon footprint on campus. Read more about the other goals here.
A carbon footprint is defined as the total emissions of greenhouse gases produced and released into the environment caused by human activities. Three different WSU engineering departments are spearheading research of the campus carbon footprint in water and energy usage, transportation and HVAC systems.
“This is a great opportunity to educate the students at WSU on carbon footprints and how we can do better as a campus and on a personal level,” said Kara McCluskey, the engineering technology faculty mentor for the student group.
Civil engineering students Caroline Childs, Josh Purdy and Chris Thompson are studying the water and energy usage. During the fall semester, they’ve been working closely with Facilities Services to uncover the overall usage and measure it on campus. Their calculations will be used to determine how much carbon is produced. Their research also includes looking at other universities and seeing how they are reducing their carbon footprints.
Next semester, the students will have a baseline and better understanding of the water and energy usage so they can present their findings to the sustainability committee. From there, they will begin to make recommendations on how to improve the campus’ carbon footprint and have the data visible for students, faculty and staff to view at locations around campus.
One thing they have found is the Innovation Campus and old buildings have already taken strides in improving their energy usage by using LED bulbs and automatic lights.
For the students, their work on the project has been a great experience. Throughout their education, they have taken courses in energy management and are now able to apply that knowledge to their work.
“It’s a waste of knowledge and experience if I didn’t participate in the project,” said Josh. “I already try and be environmentally friendly. Now I can make a difference on campus.”
The students agree that the campus has to continue its move in a sustainable direction.
“This project has been rewarding to let others know how they can help the campus become more environmentally friendly,” Caroline said.