The Employee Assembly discusses Cornell's Sustainability Program at its meeting, Wednesday.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The Employee Assembly discusses Cornell's Sustainability Program at its meeting, Wednesday.

November 16, 2017

Gold Star Rating Shows University Making Progress in Sustainability

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Although the year 2035 is 18 years away, people are working now to try to make Cornell carbon neutral by that time, and according to a report given at Wednesday’s Employee Assembly meeting, the campus is leading the way in sustainability efforts.

Sarah Zemanick, director of the Cornell sustainability office, presented the Sustainability and Climate Change Report, outlining the state of Cornell’s sustainability initiatives.

As part of this report, Zemanick said that Cornell reported a 33 percent decrease in its carbon footprint for the year 2016 versus the 2008 baseline.

Zemanick said that Cornell is leading the Ivy League in sustainability, recently earning a Gold rating for the sixth year in a row from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System — a program under the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education that helps colleges keep track of their environmental progress.

Zemanick also reported on new resources that are available to the Cornell community to aid in sustainability efforts.

The sustainability office has put forward a Sustainability Campus and Community Map, which shows the locations of water bottle stations, bike stations, “green buildings,” as well sustainability trails and low impact sites.

The Senior Leaders Climate Action Group stressed the importance of improving climate change literacy on campus, questioning how best to improve campus engagement.

The group also reported that its members are working on initiatives to both add and renovate energy-efficient buildings on campus.

Zemanick also stressed how it was important to move away from associating sustainability with just the “green” aspect as it leaves out the aspects of human health, social justice and economic aspects.

“Initiatives that help the environment but are harmful to human health or cause a social justice issue are not considered to be sustainable solutions,” Zemnick said in an email, an attitude that she seeks to change.