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Miami to phase out coal use

By Jenni Wiener
On April 5, 2011

Miami University President David Hodge announced the official sustainability goals and commitments in an e-mail to the Miami community Monday night.

According to David Prytherch, Miami's sustainability coordinator, the vast majority of the sustainability goals and commitments remain the same as recommended by the Sustainability Committee. There are, however, two major changes that have been made to the report.

The first of these is that a sunset date has been set for burning coal at the plant on Miami's campus.

"There had been conversation about this for a long time on the committee, but the organization, Beyond Coal, really helped to move that conversation forward," Prytherch said. "The goal is to have a gradual phase out of burning coal with a target sunset date of 2025."

Junior Christian Adams, events coordinator for Beyond Coal, said the organization really hopes the 2025 date is the maximum date and the university aggressively pursues a quicker transition from coal.

"Beyond Coal is very excited about the sunset date since we have really been lobbying for it," Adams said. "We are curious to see the 2025 date play out. We personally feel the university could make the conversion by 2020, which would show a stronger commitment to sustainability. It is definitely a huge step with putting the date in there, but we look forward to promoting and prioritizing a quicker transition for Miami."

Vice President for Finance and Business Services, David Creamer, said this goal is gradual because if it all happened at once, there would be a cost that the university cannot manage.

"Over a longer period of time we should be able to make better headway and move more towards geothermal energy, which we are already starting on with Stoddard Hall and Elliott Hall," Creamer said. "Making gradual changes will be increasingly favorable financially with burning coal. We believe we can make headway and transition away from coal in a way that is environmentally and financially sensible. We are creating a strategy that is affordable with no additional cost to students."

The second change being implemented is a new recycling goal, said Prytherch. Miami is looking at creating a feasible waste diversion rate, meaning that the goal is to reduce the amount of waste being sent to the landfill by reenergizing and expanding the recycling program. Miami wants to divert the majority of its waste from the landfill by 2017.

"Currently, we send the majority of campus waste to the landfill," Prytherch said. "There are lots of opportunities to recover recyclables and fuel sources. We want to move away from our current system and send the minority of our waste to the landfill by recycling more valuables, such as aluminum, paper and plastic, which would actually make money for the university."

As of now, the university is not expecting any costs that will not fit in the current budget, Creamer said. However, he said the university is still in the process of assessing and creating a financial strategy.

"We believe these goals and commitments are attainable and are making headway to an environmentally sustainable approach to the objectives," Creamer said. "We are very excited about the development and looking forward to achieving the goals. It is a very significant and important day for everyone at Miami."

According to Prytherch, this is an important opportunity for the Miami community. He went on to say these commitments are just the beginning of a long process to become more sustainable. The implementation of these goals will take a lot of collaboration from the entire campus.

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