Sodexo Helps Hobart and William Smith Colleges Go Climate Neutral

August 4, 2011

By Rachel Sylvan, Director, Sustainability & CSR, Sodexo North America and Bianca Mazzarella, Consultant, Context America

(This article appears in the August, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

On the shores of the pristine Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes in northern New York, environmental sustainability is on everyone’s mind. Enjoying nature and the outdoors are a part of life here, and residents want to keep it that way.

So when Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) in Geneva, New York, decided to expand their student population, administrators wanted to ensure that the campus grew sustainably.

In September 2007, HWS signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), an effort by a network of colleges and universities to accelerate sustainability by pursuing climate neutrality. This involves finding ways to ensure a campus produces no net emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by, for example, using renewable energy and conserving energy.

Signing the commitment formalized the institution’s obligation to cut carbon emissions, and in January 2010, HWS went a step further and published their Climate Action Plan, putting a 2025 deadline on campus climate neutrality. This is a tough target.

Sodexo, a long-time provider of dining services and facilities management to HWS, is helping HWS achieve that goal. Since 2008, we have worked with HWS to reduce energy consumption by 10%, and GHG emissions by 6%, as the student population has grown.

“We have a great working relationship with Sodexo,” said Jamie Landi, Sustainability Coordinator at HWS. “We don’t think of them as a separate entity on campus. We’re on the same team, and we both view sustainability as a top priority.”

Teamwork is essential. Shortly after signing the ACUPCC, HWS formed the President’s Climate Task Force, a group that includes HWS President Mark D. Gearan, on-site Sodexo managers, students, and campus faculty and staff. The Task Force oversees planning and implementation of projects supporting the ACUPCC commitment.

Working with students

HWS students embrace environmental stewardship. Hobart and William Smith administrators and Sodexo managers engage the student body in sustainability initiatives, and campus-focused sustainability research and projects are integrated into the curriculum. Students work directly with Sodexo employees to learn about facilities management, and to collect energy management data, and we collaborate to produce project proposals for review by HWS administration.

For example, Sodexo teams recently worked with a student to develop and install an energy-saving green roof on a building converted from a dining hall into student residences – part of a $1.1 million renovation project managed by Sodexo. HWS and Sodexo are considering installing a green roof on the performing arts center.

We have also collaborated with students in the environmental studies program to conduct an energy audit, identifying excessive energy use in several campus buildings. The audit led to a Sodexo-managed retrofit project that saw installation of upgraded lights and air conditioners. And this summer, Sodexo employees are helping students research the viability of renewable energy credits and offsets, to be considered for purchase by the colleges.

Measuring results

Sodexo measures and reports emissions reductions achieved as a result of individual projects, so the campus can see its progress toward climate neutrality.

“We share this information with Hobart and William Smith. This way, we’re not publishing one big number, rather showing all the steps along the way and how each project, big and small, helps reach our goal,” said Howard Simmons, Sodexo Director of Facilities.

So far, projects organized and implemented by Sodexo have paid off. Hobart and William Smith are now 27% more energy efficient than other colleges of a similar size, and annual campus energy costs have been cut by nearly 10%.

“Sodexo is a leader in sustainability. Their guidance allowed us to be really aggressive in laying out our plan for climate neutrality,” said Landi. “We count on Sodexo’s expertise to recommend projects that not only reduce emissions but also offer good return on investment.”