Carnegie Mellon University
Timeline of the Environment at CMUCarnegie Mellon University has been integral in the development of environmental research for over 100 years. In the past two decades the University has moved forward with implementing environmentally conscious practices and activities on campus. Click on a year below to read more about some of these milestones.

Sustainability Initiative

Carnegie Mellon complete's the World's First Voluntary University Review for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), also known as the Global Goals.


CMU receives AASHE STARS Gold rating due in part to the broadened search for campus sustainability as defined by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Our survey included innovation points for how the university purchases 100% of our electricty from renewable resources and our third party certifications; Bike Friendly University Silver, CIMS Green Cleaning and Tree Campus USA.


Carnegie Mellon is building upon two decades of an engaged effort in support of the broader definition of sustainability afforded by the SDGs. Our university’s focus includes education, research, and practice in building environmentally sustainable, peaceful, just and inclusive communities.

Steering Committee and Advisory Council will lead the following charges:

  • Grow awareness of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across the university
  • Elevate the university's engagement with the SDGs
  • Oversee a process of community engagement known as a "Voluntary University Review"
  • Develop processes to identify and present high-priority opportunities for the university to consider
  • Advise on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges regarding CMU's engagement with the SDGs
  • Communicate to the university and the world about our SDG progress and commitments


The Green Practices Committee launches the data collection process for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Eduction (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS).  Our goal is to go from a Silver to Gold rating.  This is the 4th AASHE STARS survey the CMU Pittsburgh campus has conducted and will take at least a year to complete.  The project results depend on mulitiple people and divisions across the entire campus.

Resolutions Pass!

Campus governing organizations unanimously vote to reduce the amount of EPS used on campus for food packaging.  Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS) "Styrofoam" Resolutions pass Staff Council, Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly.

CMU Green Energy Purchase

As of Nov, we are covering all our kWh electricity use from an Illinois wind farm electricity purchase, which is in our same grid region, PJM.  In addition, we are also still purchasing RECs (renewable energy credits) from a wind farm in Kansas, in sufficient quantity to represent 100% of our electricity use.  We've been purchasing RECS for some time, but the green electricity purchase is new and the key things achieved with the Illinois Wind Farm purchase is to get renewable electricity from the same grid region, so at least theoretically we're improving air quality and lowering CO2 emissions within our own grid territory.

Scotty Goes Green for Student Living Launched

Storm Water Collection Projects 

The Cohon University Center addition collects 100% of the roof rainwater in a series of beautiful rain gardens.  Rainwater from Porter, Baker, Wean & Doherty Hall roofs has been diverted to an underground storage tank on the Mall.   Phase II of this project will use this rainwater for cooling mechanical equipment. 

Climate Action

CMU signs the American Campus Act Climate Pledge.

Tree Campus USA

The Arbor Day Foundation designates CMU as a Tree Campus USA school.

Scotty Goes Green Launched

The university green office certification program Scotty Goes Green is launched. Departments can earn a bronze, silver and gold rating after completing environmental actions in their office.

Bicycle Friendly University

The League of American Bicyclists designate Carnegie Mellon as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly University 2014-2018.

Tree Campus USA

For the first time, the Arbor Day Foundation designates CMU as a Tree Campus USA school.

Green Power

CMU purchases 100% of of its electricity from Renewable Energy Credits.  EPA recogizes Carnegie Mellon on 3 of its Top Performers lists for purchasing green energy; Top 30 Colleges & Universites, National Top 100, and purchaser of 100%.

Bicycle Friendly Employers

Bike Pittsburgh designates CMU and the Mechanical Engineering Department as Bike Friendly Employers.

Renewable Energy Purchase

Carnegie Mellon University contracts for the purchase 120 MWh of Renewable Electricity Credits (RECs) for the period Jan-Dec 2011, the equivalent to 100% of the university's electricity requirements.

Environment Today: Water & Energy

Leaders of the student organization Sustainable Earth, reformat the Focus the Nation annual event into a weekend course, Environment Today: Water & Energy, fashioned after the country weekend courses.

Renewable Energy Purchase

Carnegie Mellon purchases nearly 87 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, enough green power to meet 75% of the school's purchased electricity use.

Natural Gas Replaces Coal

Bellfield Boiler Steam Plant stops using coal, and starts using natural gas as fuel. Carnegie Mellon purchases steam for heating from Bellfield.

Renewable Energy Purchase

29% of Carnegie Mellon's energy comes from renewable energy sources. The University’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Environmental Footprint, the results of a Student Project Assessment, are available on the Green Practices website.

Environmental Justice Weekend Course

The Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (SEER) sponsors “The Problem of Environmental Justice,” a weekend course designed to broaden and deepen awareness among students of the problems in the area of Environmental Justice (EJ) through interdisciplinary study.

Building Receives LEED Silver

Building renovations at 300 South Craig Street—home to Campus Police and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center—receive LEED Silver Rating.

Cool School

Sierra Magazine ranks Carnegie Mellon University the 10th 'Coolest' School in its November/December 2007 cover story.

Solar Decathlon: TriPOD

The CMU Solar Decathlon team builds a modular solar-powered home named TriPOD. The house takes 1st place in the Energy Balance category. The house is permanently installed at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Powdermill Nature Reserve after the competition.

Living Roof   

The Hamerschlag Hall Living Roof is featured in the New York Times 'Greening of America's Campuses' article and is awarded the National Roofing Contractors Association Roof of the Year award. It is also nominated for the Healthy Cities Award and Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.

Green Campus Award   

The campus Green Practices Program is awarded the 2006 Campus Outreach Opportunity League (C.O.O.L.) Idealist 'Idealism in Action Award' for being a leading 'green campus' in the U.S.

Building Receives LEED Gold

The Collaborative Innovation Center Building receives a LEED-CS gold rating (Core and Shell Version).

Green Gas   

A contract is negotiated to supply the entire university with 'green gas' from a local landfill at no additional cost.

Center for Sustainable Engineering

The Center for Sustainable Engineering, funded by NSF and EPA, is a collaborative research team between Carnegie Mellon's Cliff Davidson of Civil & Environmental Engineering, David Allen of the University of Texas at Austin, and Brad Allenby of Arizona State University. The Center is creates workshops and a website to teach sustainable practices across all engineering disciplines.

Green Roof

Construction of the Hamerschlag Hall Green Roof is complete. The roof is instrumented for green roof research and the project gets underway.

Solar Powered Computing   

Solar panels are plugged in and solar-powered computing begins at the Computer Science Building at 407 S. Craig Street. The 12 kW DC grid-tied array produces 10% of the building’s energy.

Building Receives LEED Certification   

The Posner Center achieves LEED Certification and becomes the third building on campus to be built to the LEED guidelines.

Solar Decathlon: Pittsburgh Synergy

In 2005 CMU collaborates with the University of Pittsburgh, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and local businesses to create the Pittsburgh Synergy house for the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition. The house finishes 10th overall in the competition.

Climate Decision Making Center   

The Climate Decision Making Center is funded by the National Science Foundation and led by M. Granger Morgan of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. The Center is designed to aid decision makers and create methods to resolve problems of irreducible uncertainty.

First Environmental Ethics Course   

Peter Madsen of the Philosophy Department teaches the first environmental ethics course at Carnegie Mellon. Prof. Madsen is also the advisor for the Environmental Policy Additional Major in H&SS and the Minor in Environmental Studies for undergraduate students.

Living Roof   

The Living Roof on the south wing of Hamerschlag Hall is an interdisciplinary project that grew out of a student SURG program.

Computer Energy Reduction   

The 'Sleep is Good' campaign started for computers across campus.


Carnegie Mellon participates in the RecycleMania recycling contest along with 17 other schools across the US. CMU finishes in 6th place, beating Harvard, Yale and Brown!

Building Receives LEED Silver   

Henderson House receives LEED Silver rating from the US Green Building Council.

Sustainable Students   

Sustainable Students is established in 2003 out of EARTH, a student run environmental education organization. Some of Sustainable Students projects include composting, the Green Roof Initiative, gardening projects, environmental public service announcements, and environmental education.

First LEED Certified Dorm   

CMU builds the first dormitory in the nation to receive a LEED silver designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. The New House (Stever House) is the first LEED rated Silver University Residence Hall in the nation.

Steinbrenner Institute   

The Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (SEER) focuses on education, practices, research and community with a mission to promote the interdisciplinary studies in the environment and energy and create research and educational opportunities.

Computer Recycling   

Dell Computer Recycling Event held at Carnegie Mellon recycles 56.5 tons of computer equipment from the region.

Energy Fest 2003   

Energy Fest 2003 is held at Carnegie Mellon

Solar Decathlon Competition   

CMU participates in the first Solar Decathlon Competition, an International Competition held on the Mall in Washington DC. The house, built by a team of students in architecture, design, and engineering, finishes 12th overall and is the winner of the Energy Balance category.

Recycling Education Center   

The Green Practices Committee unveils a new Recycling Education Center in the University Center.

Renewable Energy Purchase   

CMU extends its wind energy purchase contract for five years and increases the percentage to 6% of total campus electricity use. CMU is the first of 25 Pennsylvania colleges and universities now purchasing wind power.

Wind Power Purchased   

In 2001, CMU becomes the first institution in the nation to have the largest fraction of its total energy from wind power. CMU is awarded the 1st Annual Green Power Leadership Awards from the EPA, DOE and CRS. The 2001 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence recognizes the University's commitment to purchasing green power.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles   

Facilities Management purchases two natural gas (CNG) vehicles.  Campus Security also purchases a natural gas car. Carnegie Mellon adopts a policy that all new vehicle purchases for campus organizations will be alternative fuel vehicles.

Green Practices Committee   

The Environmental Practices Committee changes its name to Carnegie Mellon Green Practices and adopts an official University logo. The committee is co-chaired by Barb Kviz of Facilities Management and Stephen Lee of the Department of Architecture. The 'Green Scene' Environmental Newsletter is created to communicate and publicize the efforts of the GPC.

US Green Building Council   

Carnegie Mellon makes a commitment to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification for all new buildings and major renovations on campus and becomes a member of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Energy Fest

Carnegie Mellon holds its first annual Energy Fest to promote awareness about energy conservation and alternative energy resources.

Recycled Paper   

The percentage of the campus that uses at least 30%-recycled content paper increases from 5% to 91%, a big step in the goal of eliminating virgin paper use on campus.

A Decade of Recycling   

Ten years after the creation of a campus-wide recycling program, the percentage of non-hazardous waste being recycled has increased from 5% to 13% by weight.

Environmental Coordinator   

A full-time position is created at the University for an Environmental Coordinator.

Hazardous Waste Collection   

The first Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day for faculty, staff and students is hosted by Carnegie Mellon.

Dining Hall Plastic Ban   

The University Center Schatz Dining Room bans the use of polystyrene in the dining room and switches to washable dinnerware.

Environmental Practices Committee   

The Environmental Practices Committee (EPC) is established to develop a more comprehensive waste reduction and energy conservation program.  The committee comprised of staff, faculty and students establishes priorities, goals and mechanisms for implementing environmental practices.

Environmental Minors Established

Student demand and faculty support lead to the Environmental Policy Additional Major and the Environmental Studies Minor. An Environmental Engineering Minor and Environmental Science Minor are also established.

Intelligent Workplace   

The Robert L. Preger Intelligent Workplace opens as the home for CBPD (the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics) and occupies the fourth floor of the Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall. The Intelligent Workplace is a "living" and "lived-in" laboratory where researchers conduct their work and also research the space they occupy.

Environmental Academic Partnership   

CMU joins Three Rivers University Consortium for the Environment (3RUCE), an academic partnership to advance environmental education, research and technological development.

TAML Patent   

Carnegie Mellon's Terry Collins of the Chemistry Department patents an environmentally safe technology called TAML. TAML activates hydrogen peroxide, one of two oxidizing agents, and acts as an alternative to chlorine-based activators and oxidation processes. To learn more about TAML Activators, visit the Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry.

Heinz Grant

Carnegie Mellon Facilities Management receives a $10,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments for waste reduction initiatives.  The funding was used to hire a Heinz School graduate student to faciliate the Task Force on Environmental Practices.  The findings and report lead to the formation of the Environmental Practices Committee.

Risk-Ranking Project   

In 1995, the departments of Engineering and Public Policy, Social & Decision Sciences, and the Heinz School collaborate on a Risk-Ranking project, resulting in scientifically informed methods for citizens to set priorities among environmental risks. This develops into a National Science Foundation funded, world-renowned Center for Risk Perception and Communication. Professors Baruch Fischoff and Michael Dekay are active members of the center and teach courses on the topic.

Human Dimensions of Global Change   

The Center for Integrated Study of the Human Dimensions of Global Change is at the hub of a network of 22 participating institutions, comprised of the US and seven other countries. Participants use social and natural sciences to understand current actions and find patterns to determine consequences.

Student Environmental Action Coalition   

A small group of students begin the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) to rally campus community members around environmental issues. The organization becomes university funded and recognized; and grows in membership. The organization later becomes EARTH.

Environmental Award   

Carnegie Mellon wins the Three Rivers Environmental Award for the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Program.

First Environmental History Course   

Professor Joel Tarr, an urban studies historian, begins teaching courses on environmental history. His courses focus on the interaction of industry, urban development, the built and natural environment, and the reaction of government and police.

Green Design Institute

The Green Design Institute grew out of the Environmental Institute and the Engineering Design Research Center. Its mission is to bring disciplines together to form academic research in the field of green design, by creating partnerships with companies, government, and foundations.

First Environmental Science Course   

"Intro to Environmentally Benign Chemistry" was the first environmental science course taught at the University. It focused on green chemistry. The course is still taught by Terry Collins of the Chemistry Department.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Civil and Environmental Engineering department receives an Environmental Engineering accreditation to teach and house an environmental engineering curriculum. Currently, an Environmental Engineering and Sustainability Minor is available for undergraduate students.

Recycling on Campus

Carnegie Mellon recycles paper, plastics, cardboard, periodicals, glass, batteries, ink cartridges, and computers.

Recycling Policy

Carnegie Mellon adopts a formal recycling policy and the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" theme and a new position is created for a campus Recycling/Waste Coordinator.

Engineering and Public Policy - 1971   

The Engineering and Public Policy department is established at CMU. It is one of the only three departments in the United States that deals with the changes to society that are brought on by technology. The department currently focuses on energy and environmental systems; information and communication technology policy; risk analysis and communication; and technology policy and management.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration on Wastewater - 1975   

The National Science Foundation funds a proposal for interdisciplinary collaboration on wastewater submitted by CMU professors from the environmental engineering, history, and philosophy departments. The study, Retrospective Technology Assessment, looked at the evolution of wastewater technology with a focus on technology evolution and its societal impacts.

First Clean Lab -1977   

Cliff Davidson, of the Civil & Environmental Engineering department, leads research on heavy metal pollution from populated areas impacting national parks and the Greenland ice sheet. Davidson built a clean lab for air particle research that was the first clean laboratory in the engineering college.

Wastewater Technology Conference - 1977   

Carnegie Mellon leads the first conference on the evolution of wastewater technology and its societal impacts.

Center for Energy and Environmental Studies (CEES) - 1978   

CEES is established and replaces the Environmental Studies Institute. In 1980, the Center receives a large grant from the Benedum Foundation to fund startup projects which lead to several educational and research initiatives that later yield further sponsorship.

Environmental Institute   

Dean Herbert Toor creates the Environmental Institute in the engineering college. The Institute is an agent to develop joint university research on environmental problems.

Environmental Chemistry Laboratory    

George Bugliarello studies flow of non-Newtonian fluids with suspended particles (such as blood) leading to the formation of the first Biomedical Engineering Program and the first environmental chemistry laboratory at CMU. Bugliarello subsequently develops early software (Hydro) for hydrologic modeling.

Project Courses Established   

In the late 1960's faculty and students begin work on environmental issues in the form of project courses. These courses are semester long intensive research projects that have continued as a cornerstone of environmental studies at CMU. They provide a consulting resource for the community and many have led to policy changes within companies, organizations or government.

Air Pollution and Control Society   

The professional journal of the Air Pollution and Control Society was founded and edited at the Mellon Institute.

Lock and Dam Models   

Harold Thomas Sr. initiates river flow and flood studies; builds laboratory-scale hydraulic structures that become models for locks and dams on the Monongahela River.

Development of Wastewater Research   

Department Chair Fred Mavis and student Thomas Stelson complete important research on the mass of objects accelerated in fluids. Thomas Stelson continues experimental studies in measurement of water properties and surfactant foams for applications in wastewater treatment.

Mining and the Environment   

Carnegie Tech hosts a coal research laboratory and the Mellon Institute has several research fellowships that address environmental problems like mine acid control and treatment, steel industry waste treatment, and air pollution monitoring.

Sanitary Engineering

From 1910 to 1918, the Sanitary Engineering Department grew as the first environmentally oriented engineering department within Carnegie Mellon and was housed in the School of Applied Sciences.