Carnegie Mellon Wins Distinction of 'Campus Sustainability Leader' for its Environmental Protection Practices, Educational Initiatives
As spring semester wrapped up, Carnegie Mellon students weren't the only ones being graded.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute released its College Sustainability Report Card 2008, a look at environmental protection practices among 200 of the nation's top universities. Not surprisingly, Carnegie Mellon earned all A's and B's for campus operations, and won the distinction of being a Campus Sustainability Leader.
Under the direction of Dr. Jared L. Cohon, Carnegie Mellon's 8th president and a national authority on environmental and water systems analysis, the university has taken a proactive approach to solving environmental problems, starting with the campus itself.
In 2001, President Cohon labeled environmental protection a "strategic priority," and the university made, what was at the time, the nation's largest single retail purchase of pollution-free, wind-generated electricity.
By the end of 2008, Carnegie Mellon expects to receive 20 percent of its power from renewable sources such as wind energy, small hydropower, and landfill gas resources.
"Carnegie Mellon has long been a leader in higher education in the extent of our commitment to creating a more sustainable environment, and we show this not just through our research and education programs, but also through our actions," said President Cohon.
"By extending—actually, increasing—our contract for renewable electricity, we demonstrate that commitment and further emphasize the importance of 'green' technology in our daily lives."
That commitment is reflected in the efforts of the Green Practices Committee (GPC), which was adopted in 1998 to expand the university's recycling program. The GPC informs projects such as solar panels and living roofs—projects that placed Carnegie Mellon in the top 10 on Sierra Magazine's list of the "Coolest" Schools in its November/December 2007 cover story.
In addition to traditional paper and glass recycling programs, Carnegie Mellon recycles everything from sneakers to carpeting. To reduce toxic emissions university shuttles run on biodiesel, students and staff receive bus passes, carpoolers are offered discounted parking rates, and campus police cars use E-85 ethanol.
Shortening food distributor distance also cuts down on harmful emissions, so the university purchases food from local producers and dining halls offer organic produce, cage-free eggs and fair-trade coffee. Biodegradable to-go containers are available and a composting program is currently under consideration.
Some of the most significant developments in Carnegie Mellon's sustainability mission aren't even completed yet: university policy requires that all new buildings and renovations on campus meet or exceed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification standards.
The new School of Computer Science Complex, for example, will receive 100 percent of its power from renewable resources and will include a "winter garden," a stormwater retention area to support marsh-growing plants and decrease water flow to storm drains, and much more.
Other notable green design projects include the Intelligent Workplace (IW), the Collaborative Innovation Center, and the Building as Power Plant, a continuation of the IW that will meet all of the building's energy needs on-site.
But environmental sustainability goes beyond campus construction—environmental education also holds a prominent place at the university. Numerous courses are taught each semester in undergraduate and graduate programs such as sustainable design, green & environmental chemistry, and air quality engineering.
These programs teach students to address emerging global issues in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Ultimately, students will be able to apply what they have learned beyond the campus.
To support those programs, the university boasts 12 designated environmental research centers, including the Green Design Institute, the Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry, and the Advanced Building Systems Integration Consortium. Like all educational initiatives on campus, the centers are interdisciplinary, drawing on the expertise of faculty and students researchers from across departments.
Recognition of Carnegie Mellon's efforts has been substantial. As keynote speaker at this year's spring commencement, former U.S. Vice President and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore lauded, "Carnegie Mellon graduates are equipped with strong interdisciplinary problem solving skills that will allow them to be the entrepreneurs and innovators who, with hard work and creativity, meet the serious needs facing our world."
Gore won an Oscar for the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," based on his best-selling book about global warming, and he shared his Nobel Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which counts as a member Engineering and Public Policy Professor Ed Rubin.
For more information on environmental initiatives around campus, visit the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute is a project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.