Miami University joined a select group of colleges and universities to participate in a White House forum on campus and community-scale climate change solutions March 8-9 in Washington, D.C.
Convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the University of Washington, the forum showcased how innovative ideas and actions can advance climate change efforts on college campuses while benefiting surrounding communities and beyond.
Randi Thomas, vice president of Miami’s ASPIRE, was part of the panel “Campuses as a Proving Ground for Sustainability, Climate, and Energy Solutions” on Wednesday, March 8.
Thomas spoke about Miami’s conversion to geothermal heating. At one time, nearly all of Miami’s buildings on the Oxford campus were heated by carbon-intensive steam. Now, less than half of those buildings are heated by steam.
“From Miami’s perspective, we know this concept will work because it’s worked for us,” Thomas said. “We’re big proponents of this concept because we’ve already been beneficiaries of it.”
Over a 10-year period, the university managed $68 million in energy savings. Thomas noted Miami’s gross square footage has increased by 22%, but the total gross square footage of expenditure on carbon fuels has dropped.
Between 2008 and 2022, Miami’s carbon emissions were reduced by 57% per gross square foot (Oxford campus).
Thomas also pointed to the geothermal conversion of Elliott and Stoddard Halls as a success for Miami. Elliott Hall is the oldest building on the Oxford campus, while Stoddard Hall was the second residence hall built. They were Miami’s first buildings converted to geothermal heating.
Other panel members with Thomas included Jennifer Haverkamp (director, Graham Institute for Sustainability, University of Michigan), Chris Caldwell (president, College of Menominee Nation), Julie Newman (director of sustainability, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Peter Dourhout (vice president of research, Iowa State University). Matt St. Clair, the chief sustainability officer of the University of California System, moderated the panel.
Sara Linder, director of federal relations with ASPIRE, moderated breakout sessions during Day 2 of the workshop.
Miami is part of a group of public institutions that organized and submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to help fund this month’s workshop. Miami students Teryn Scott and Evelyn Morrison also attended the forum, and Scott presented a 90-second overview during Day 2.
“This is an opportunity for universities to collaborate, share expertise and best practices, and help identify what the challenges are on each campus,” Linder said. “It’s great to hear perspectives, particularly on the university panels, and to hear what is happening on different campuses.”
Linder called the two-day forum a “great first step” and was hopeful there would be additional convenings of universities to work on these issues.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Miami to have a seat at the table and raise the profile of all the great work we’re doing,” Linder said.
Miami is among the more than 400 other colleges and universities that have signed Second Nature’s Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments – Climate Commitment to carbon neutrality.
In spring 2022, Miami earned its second STARS Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
“They recognized what we were doing and the progress that we made in our own ecosystem in going carbon neutral and decarbonizing our campus,” Miami University President Gregory Crawford said during last month’s spring update. “We’re working together with this group on plans, best practices, and sustainability awareness. There is more to come.”