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College maintains global consciousness

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

WESTFIELD - In tribute to Earth Day on April 22 a live web cast, "Chill Out!" a production of the National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) Campus Ecology Program, was transmitted to colleges across the nation on April 18 and Westfield State College (WSC) was no exception.

The live "Chill Out!" broadcast brought together thousands of college students, faculty and staff to discuss practicable solutions to global warming taking places on colleges today. It also featured a message from Vice President Al Gore to colleges and universities.

"Every passing day brings yet more evidence that we are facing an emergency," Gore, producer of "An Inconvenient Truth," said.

Gore spoke to students about the need to turn down the earth's thermostat.

"The good news is that we can do it," he said. "It is a key part of how to create a better world."

The web cast showed clips from winners of the first annual nationwide 2006-2007 "Chill Out Challenge" in which colleges from across the country competed to stop global warming. Winners received grant money and a feature in the "Chill Out!" broadcast.

WSC did not enter the contest this year. Facilities and Operations Chair Curt Robie said if the college community thinks they have done some unique things in the future then they will enter the contest.

According to Robie, over the last 10 years the college has been instrumental in creating energy efficient light systems for their campus facilities, installed a green engine on campus as a power source and recently switched to biofuel to comply with state guidelines.

Robie said that WSC has leased three hybrid vehicles for campus work and looks to leasing more in the future.

"We are looking at several [environmental] plans but we are waiting for the fiscal budget," Robie said. "We have done a study of the roof tops to see if they can sustain Photovoltaic [technology in which light is converted into electrical power]."

Robie said if the funds are present in the future then this is a project WSC would like to take part in.

The University of California of Santa Barbara won for improving energy efficiency in their buildings. Their plan consisted of reducing their amount of emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The school uses lighting in the stairwells to reduce energy use. After 40 minutes of an empty stairwell the lights dim and only turn on again if someone enters the stairwell.

At Monmouth University in New Jersey students and faculty are trying to solve global warming through solar energy. They are currently saving money and energy and decreasing their carbon waste through the use of solar paneling.

At New Jersey's Richard Stockton University there is work currently on a geothermal project. The project consists of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES). The project uses a small amount of energy to pull water during the winter from the aquifer, cool it off with winter air, and then store it in wells. In the summer when cooling is needed this water is used.

"As college students we are in a unique position to implement these changes," Jason Simmons, a Stockton University, student said.

At Mount Wachusett Community College in Massachusetts biomass fuel is used as an energy source, which they said, enables them to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by over 22 percent.

Faculty members said this removes them from being an all-electric campus and that wood chips heat over 80% of the campus rather than fossil fuels.

The school is also working with a Direct Air Gasification Project that involves putting algae into emission strands to absorb the carbon.

Students and faculty were encouraged by the participating colleges and members of the NWF to speak with their school facilities managers about implementing their own projects to solve global warming.

Robie said that he hopes to work with students in the upcoming year if funds are present to meet the environmental requests that are coming from Boston and to meet the college's in-house goals.

"We realize this is a priority of the government and it should be for everybody," he said.

NWF will begin accepting entries for their second "Chill Out!" contest on September 1 with the deadline November 30. More info can be found at