Southern continues to lead the way in the sustainability space. Earlier this month, the university took home two GreenerGov Awards, part of a program tied to Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Order #1 when he took office, requiring all state agencies to lower greenhouse gas emissions on a rapid large scale. The awards program included three major awards, of which Southern received two. The award nominations were open to all state agencies.
Southern’s Recycling Coordinator Heather Stearns and Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski were recognized by the Lamont administration with a Greener Gov CT Innovation Award for Southern’s sustainability internship program. The Innovation Award is a special distinction recognizing exceptional public sector sustainability innovation.
Southern and CSCU also received an award for Most Impactful Project, for simultaneously installing 2 MW fuel cells, constructing a net-zero design building for the School of Business, and installing the Fitch Garage solar array on campus. Any one of these projects could earn the award on its own, and Southern did all three at the same time. Eric Lessne, associate vice president for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations, and Keith Epstein, CSCU vice president of Facilities, Infrastructure Planning & Real Estate, received that award.
The Impactful Project Award recognizes state projects that generated significant and measurable improvements in environmental, energy, and water conservation, or waste management benefits.
“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here,” Lessne says, pointing to the fact that “all of the power that we purchase from the grid is 100 percent green.”
He recalls that conversations about using fuel cells on campus started about eight years ago, and he was also discussing adding solar panels to campus with Bob Sheeley, associate vice president emeritus for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations, several years ago.
“The fact that we’re able to use fuel cells not only to power ourselves but to save money is mind-blowing,” Lessne says. He explains that a second set of fuel cells will go online sometime soon, and once they’re up and running about 35 percent of the campus’ power will be generated onsite.
When looking into net-zero construction for the new School of Business, Lessne found out that it wasn’t any more expensive than conventional construction. And when the School of Business is completed, another 700 KW of solar panels will go on the roof and on canopies in Lot 9.
A net-zero building is one in which the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.
Huminski says of the GreenerGov Awards, “Southern is leading the way for CT state agencies. I am really proud of our team! We really did stand out. The governor was impressed.”
During the GreenerGov Awards ceremony, held in Hartford during Earth Week 2022, Lamont announced the release of the 2022 GreenerGov CT Progress Report, detailing progress in making government operations more environmentally sustainable.
Despite the challenges of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut’s state agencies, through the GreenerGov CT initiative, have continued to make great strides that saved energy, water, and money, laying the foundation for the deployment of future sustainability-focused projects and better positioning state agencies to meet the goals outlined for them in the executive order – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 2001 levels; reduce waste disposal by 25 percent from a 2020 baseline; reduce water consumption by 10 percent from a 2020 baseline; and set additional sub-goals by 2030.