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Norfolk State University To Reduce “Carbon Footprint” With Shorter Work Week

Norfolk State University is allowing its employees to shorten their five-day work week to four days from May 11 to July 31 in an effort to lessen university energy costs and to reduce employee fuel consumption.

In the global climate change terminology officials say the shortened work week, which will require 10-hour work days from employees to meet their full-time obligations this summer, should shrink the ‘carbon footprint on the planet’ by the Virginia-based historically Black state university.

Sharon Hoggard, the interim executive director of marketing and communications at Norfolk State University, estimates that 80 percent of the school’s nearly 1,000 employees will be able to take advantage of the four-day work week. Certain employees, such as campus police officers, will continue to work their shifts over five days to ensure campus coverage that extends through the entire week.

Reducing university energy consumption “is something that’s not new to us. We’ve been working on this for quite awhile to lessen the university’s carbon footprint. And so this next step going to a four-day work week during the summer months is just another step in that effort,” Hoggard says.

School officials since early this year have been promoting the upcoming work week change, which has attracted local media coverage by TV stations and newspapers in the Hampton Roads region. In recent years, colleges and universities have been high-profile participants in the growing global movement dedicated to energy conservation and reducing carbon dioxide emissions that result from the burning of fossil fuels. Excess accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is widely believed to contribute significantly to global warming.  

“We started talking about this particular strategy last summer. Gas prices had shot up over $4 a gallon. And so president (Carolyn Meyers) asked the staff to put together a task force to look at this issue,” Hoggard recalls.

Norfolk State began aggressive efforts in 2005 to undergo energy efficiency renovations and campus facility upgrades. An $11 million energy system renovation, which included installation of a new HVAC system and other measures improving campus cooling, heating, lighting and water use, was completed in 2006. Energy savings from the 2005-2006 renovations are estimated to be $1.4 million annually, according to the university.

School officials believe that energy savings from the shortened work week will contribute to helping the university weather the current economic downturn which has diminished state funding. This academic year, Norfolk State was hit with a 5 percent cut in state funding, which amounted to more than $2 million. Hoggard explains that it is not known exactly how much the university will save this summer but that savings will be carefully studied and calculated to measure the impact of the four-day week. It’s believed the summer savings will at least be in the ‘tens of thousands of dollars’, she says.

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