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Progress Toward Carbon Neutrality

White text that reads "To Zero by Thirty-Five" with symbols of a sun, a shovel, recycling arrows, and a leaf

Swarthmore College will soon begin sitework on a new geoexchange wellfield on campus, a critical component of an energy plan that will enable the College to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. The fenced-off site on Mertz Lawn is the most visible evidence of the transition from a multi-year planning effort to the execution of that plan. 

To reflect that evolution, the College has renamed its energy plan: The Roadmap to Zero Carbon will now be known as To Zero By Thirty-Five: Swarthmore’s Carbon-Free Future.

“To Zero By Thirty-Five (or 20X35) is a bold and exciting articulation of the College’s intentional approach and forward momentum, and it holds us accountable to our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035,” President Valerie Smith said in an announcement to campus. 

Associate Vice President for Sustainable Facilities Operations and Capital Planning Andy Feick explained that all corners of campus will be connected to a central geoexchange plant by 2035. The system, powered by renewable energy, works by extracting heat from buildings during the summer for cooling and storing it underground for use in the winter for heating — all while producing zero carbon emissions. Learn more about the geoexchange process

“Through To Zero By Thirty-Five, we are replacing our aging, fossil-fuel reliant infrastructure with renewable, combustion-free energy on campus,” said Feick.

“The new geoexchange system, together with ongoing energy efficiency improvements across campus buildings, on-site solar and off-site renewable energy procurement, and a standby electricity generation plant, position the College to fulfill our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2035,” said Director of Sustainability Elizabeth Drake.

The plan calls for drilling several hundred geoexchange wells on campus. That work will start in early 2023. Feick noted that the College is taking steps to minimize noise and disruption to pedestrian traffic on campus. 

To Zero By Thirty-Five

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