A group of Purdue University students has come up with a climate action plan for the university. In order to go carbon neutral quickly, Purdue will have to change how it gets its energy.
Purdue relies on its on-campus power plant for half its electricity and all of its heat. It has three natural gas boilers and one coal unit. Though it’s small, it’s one of the few coal-burning plants in the state that isn’t expected to retire within the decade.
The climate plan suggests the university stop using coal, use less natural gas, and get more energy from solar and wind. It also recommends Purdue explore burning tires, biomass, or other cleaner fuels at the plant.
Purdue senior Abhinav Prasad is with the group that drafted the plan, West Lafayette Students for Climate Action. He's a senior majoring in biochemical engineering and global studies.
“If like us — like as students — can lay out this plan, this proof of concept for Purdue to go carbon neutral. It's definitely something that the university can accomplish," Prasad said.
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including this series on climate change and solutions.
The group also suggested ways the university could reduce waste on campus, make buildings more energy efficient, and encourage greener transportation.
Purdue's current goal is to cut its emissions in half by 2025.
Anika Bhoopalam is a sophomore in Purdue’s college of chemical engineering. She said so far the university has mostly tried to cut its emissions by switching to natural gas — but that’s not enough to get to carbon neutrality quickly.
“We're seeing the negative effects of climate change all around us. So if we get to carbon neutrality faster, then hopefully we can mitigate some of these negative effects that we're seeing," she said.
Michael Gulich is Purdue's senior director of campus planning, architecture and sustainability and also the university architect. In a statement, he said the students with West Lafayette Students for Climate Action have undoubtedly put a lot of time and consideration into the draft plan.
"We appreciate their efforts and continued willingness to engage in dialogue on climate and sustainability topics. Physical Facilities is actively working toward the 13 measurable goals outlined in the 2020 Physical Facilities Sustainability Master Plan, which include a targeted reduction in carbon emissions, a cap on energy consumption, more aggressive recycling rates and more," Gulich said in a statement.
Mason Merkel — the president of West Lafayette Students for Climate Action and a senator in Purdue's student government — plans to introduce the climate action plan as part of a bill in student government.
The group also hopes to set up meetings with several Purdue officials to discuss the plan.
Purdue and Indiana University are two of just three Big Ten schools that don’t have a plan to go carbon neutral yet. IU has formed a committee to come up with a climate action plan.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.