Spencer Ruggles ’16 makes an impact for campus sustainability

Posted by Centre News in News, Sustainable Centre 09 Jul 2015

treesSpencer Ruggles ’16 is spending a second summer on campus as an energy conservation and efficiency intern, gathering data on all aspects of Centre College’s energy use for Clean Air—Cool Planet. The work he’s doing, under the guidance of John C. Walkup Professor of Chemistry Preston Miles, is part of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), of which Centre is a charter signatory.

Spencer Ruggles ’16

Spencer Ruggles ’16

Ruggles, a financial economics major, is using the Campus Carbon Calculator (CCC), a tool that helps organizations determine how much they are contributing to global climate change and how they can better manage their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The main focus is electricity and natural gas,” Ruggles says. “I go through the year’s energy bills for the College and plug them into the CCC. In addition, we track how much paper is used and refrigerants and fertilizers—just a laundry list of all of our emissions for the year. The program uses the data to give a baseline CO2 emissions equivalent for the institution.”

“Spence brings a good savvy to this work,” Miles says. “The proficiency he has developed with this program is excellent.”

While the important work Ruggles and Miles are doing is known to few, its impact and benefits to the campus community is large and far-reaching.

“I’m actually making a difference on this campus, not just sitting in a cubicle,” Ruggles says. “Last summer I helped save the College about $40,000 just by re-doing energy categorizations.” And this summer, he discovered that the fraternity houses’ air conditioners were running at full capacity, although they were empty, so facilities management has turned them back.

Working with Miles has been a major selling point for Ruggles as well.

“One of the reasons I want to work on campus in the summer is to work for Dr. Miles. He’s one of the most energetic and positive people I know.”

Even though this will be his last summer with this internship, Ruggles knows that the work they do is bringing positive changes.

“We’re looking into a program to get Energy Star refrigerators for all first-year students,” Ruggles says. “That will not only reduce energy costs but the amount of coal burned to create the electricity. And we can see that, even though our campus population is growing, we’re using less resources per person, on average.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility now,” Ruggles continues. “As a student, I know the best way to make a change on this campus is to start with the students. Let students know so they can form good habits that are good for the environment—things like unplugging their electronics when they’re charged 100 percent. Little things like that add up and make a huge difference.

“It’s very rewarding work.”

Follow Sustainable Centre on Facebook to learn more about efforts by the Centre community to help protect the environment.

by Cindy Long
July 9, 2015