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The Fourth “R” of Sustainability

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Wind turbines operated by EDP Renewables are seen from an aerial view on Meridian Way Wind Farm. Jasper Colt, USA Today

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is good, but what about “Renewable?”

 Grand Rapids Community College has incorporated various environmentally conscious initiatives into its operation over the past decade or so, but notably missing from its scheme to save the planet is an attempt to employ renewable energy sources.

In 2008 GRCC began using energy conservation measures that ultimately cut down on energy use by 22% according to an EnergyCAP report shared by GRCC. That 22% conservation equates to 55,635 metric tons the college kept out of the atmosphere between May of 2008 and December 2019. This is certainly a good start, but that doesn’t mean we should stop there. 

In contrast, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Organizing committee said that the Games would generate 3.01 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions if no green measures were taken. That being said, they are planning on powering the events entirely with renewable energy sources – primarily wind and solar power.

If renewable energy can completely power something as enormous as the 2020 Olympics facilities – including the Olympic Village, Paralympic Village, and all competition venues – why on earth can’t it at least partially power a community college in West Michigan? Especially one that undergoes almost continuous remodeling?

Science and technology has come far, and the cost of renewables is a fraction of what it was 10 years ago.

 “Since 2010, the installed price of solar energy has dropped by as much as 50%,” according to research by the University of California Berkeley.

Technological development means that there are new opportunities cropping up for urban renewable energy all the time. It can be done, it should be done, and it is not being done. The times are changing, and the planet is dying. It’s time we change our ways right here in our town, on our campus.