November 3, 2011

University Unveils Plan to Meet Environmental Objectives

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The President’s Sustainable Campus Committee unveiled the Cornell Sustainability Plan on Oct. 21, seeking to coordinate sustainability efforts on campus and encourage increased collaboration among faculty, staff and students to meet environmental objectives.  “The Sustainability Plan articulates our vision of how our academics and operations will work together,” Bert Bland, senior director of the Sustainability Office, said in an email. “We are creating a sustainable campus and developing a living laboratory that will enhance Cornell’s teaching and research.” The plan outlines University-wide sustainability goals, such as furthering innovation in research and education, growing a green economy and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, according to the University. The plan also features strategies for implementation and governance, as well as grassroots initiatives targeted toward Cornell students, staff, faculty and alumni. With its Sustainability Plan, the PSCC created ten “focus teams,” each of which oversees specific green efforts on campus focused in distinct “thematic realms,” such as water, food, land, energy, transportation, waste and climate. Each focus team is co-led by a faculty and staff member and will serve as “a forum for those who are passionate about certain issues pertaining to sustainability,” Dan Roth, sustainability coordinator said.“[The teams] will help faculty, staff and students to collaborate,” Roth said. “It allows them to come up with goals and objectives that advance sustainability but also to leverage the expertise and interests of team members.” The focus teams initiative began in March and has been building momentum since, according to Roth. The teams will reconvene on Nov. 17 for small summit held by PSCC to facilitate communication between the teams, Roth said. The Cornell Sustainably Plan also describes several future initiatives for the University, including Cornell’s use of the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. The system — commonly referred to as STARS — provides a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. “Cornell and other universities are always confronted with the public relations aspect of sustainability,” Fahey said. “There are probably a dozen different surveys that rate how sustainable a university is and it is always a pain to report to all these organizations. STARS is a standardized way to measure our sustainability and replace these ad hoc surveys that we previously used.”In 2011, Cornell registered as a Charter Member of STARS and is currently preparing a submission of baseline data for the STARS system, according to the plan.The plan also states that current sustainability efforts have been managed in a relatively “decentralized and autonomous” manner. It therefore notes the importance of “leveraging Cornell’s many resources and assets” by fostering strong collaborations among campus leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni. The plan identifies eleven partners and stakeholders in Cornell’s efforts, comprised of campus, regional and national organizations such as Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the Clinton Global Initiative, among others.The 13-member PSCC oversees all aspects of sustainability in campus operations and facilities. While the PSCC adopted and approved the Cornell University Sustainability Plan in August 2011, it was officially revealed on October 21 during Trustee Weekend. President David Skorton created the PSCC in 2010 to provide oversight on administrative decisions regarding campus and regional sustainability, according to co-chair of the PSCC Prof. Tim Fahey, natural resources. Roth, the sustainability coordinator, said that the PSCC helps to coordinate different initiatives that already exist on campus.“There is a lot going on when it comes to sustainability: facilities, transportation, food, dining,” Roth said. “Many groups already existed that coordinated [sustainability] initiatives. In other areas, groups were lacking.”

Original Author: Alyson Warhit