PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On a sunny spring morning, Brown University’s Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle buzzed with activity as staff from Facilities Management mowed the grass, trimmed bushes and used a leaf blower — but distinctly absent was the telltale din and fumes generated by the landscaping equipment.
In a reminiscent scene across College Hill, two Brown plumbers loaded a Ford E-Transit electric van at Brown’s Facilities Management building behind the Erickson Athletic Complex as they prepared to drive in near-silence to tend to maintenance work on campus — no exhaust, and no fuel stops required.
Both scenes are illustrative of a marked shift at the University. As part of a sweeping commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040 and abate local noise and air pollution, Brown is transitioning from gas-powered to electric equipment. The efforts have been bolstered by a new Fleet Vehicle Purchasing Policy adopted in March 2022, requiring that all new University vehicle purchases must be electric or plug-in hybrid electric.
The changes to the University’s facilities equipment and infrastructure are part of a set of ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize Brown’s energy footprint while also reducing noise and air pollution on campus, according to Jessica Berry, assistant vice president of sustainability and resiliency at Brown.
“It’s especially important that Brown is positioning itself at the forefront of climate solutions,” Berry said. “We’re living in one of the most critical times in human history and this is one of the ways we can help solve our climate crisis.”
The commitment to electrifying the University’s entire fleet of 123 vehicles is a key step toward meeting Brown’s sustainability goals, given that internal-combustion engines are the planet’s single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, Berry noted. Not only that, they’re also a leading cause of global noise pollution, which also impacts community health.
“These are concrete actions that the University is taking to address the global climate crisis — and safeguard human health as well,” Berry said.