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Sustainability Office’s Work Continues, Consultants to be hired; Future of the Carbon Tax Unclear

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In the last three years, the Sustainability Office has expanded its staff and the scope of its efforts to make Swarthmore more sustainable. This year, in addition to hiring a new full time employee, bringing the office to a total of three full time employees and engaging several student fellows to assist the office with its research and implementation of a campus wide carbon charge, the Sustainability office continues to coordinate with various student environmental groups.

Sustainability Program Manager Melissa Tier ’14 manages the Sustainability Office’s direct engagement with the campus community. This includes managing the Green Advisor program, connecting students with Environmental action concerts, and a farm-share opportunity for faculty and students in the summer and early fall months.

Climate Action Senior Fellow Nathan Graff, ’16 was hired this year primarily to manage the college’s implementation of a carbon charge this year. The carbon charge is an internal tax placed on departments that helps create a fund of money used to promote sustainability efforts on campus. Tier works with Graff as well as Sustainability Director Aurora Winslade in managing the carbon charge.

According to Graf, the implementation of the carbon charge is going well. Graf says the most consistent feedback the office has received so far is from academic departments asking the sustainability office how best they can reduce their carbon footprint. The Carbon Charge committee, which will determine how to spend the money raised by the charge, has been formed. The Committee is currently prioritizing projects that will have the highest impact in reducing the carbon footprint of the school. The sustainability office is researching various possibilities for the future of the carbon charge, including determining how to formulate and implement a carbon charge based on actual use of carbon; one way they are doing this is be hiring an environmental consulting firm.

“We’ve been working with the Stone House Group consultants to assess the current state of our facilities, and develop a capital investment plan to sustainably, reliably, and cost-effectively provide heat, electricity, and water to our buildings, and to maximize our buildings’ efficiency,” said Graf.

The cost of this consulting group could not immediately be determined by the Phoenix.

This year the sustainability office also has hired several student sustainability fellows to help the office conduct research related to the carbon charge. One is Aaron Metheny, ’18, an economics and environmental studies double-major.  He says the fellowship is providing him with a special opportunity to explore work he is interested in.

“The Fellowship Program provides me with an invaluable opportunity to gain firsthand experience with carbon pricing policy at the institutional level. So far, I’ve been conducting research on carbon pricing policies in other sectors, with a particular focus on Microsoft’s internal carbon charge and Yale’s different carbon pricing schemes,” said Metheny.

The future of the carbon charge is yet to be decided, but a significant number of avenues are currently being explored.

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