Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photographer Editor

Beebe Lake glistens on a cloudy day. The Campus Sustainability Office 2020 report shows slashed carbon emissions.

October 8, 2020

Cornell Campus Sustainability Office Boasts One-Third Reduction in Emissions From 2008

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The Campus Sustainability Office is showcasing Cornell’s one-third reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 and other marks of progress with this year’s annual report, made more interactive than ever with an elaborate design full of links, images and visuals.

The newly updated site includes a synopsis of 2020’s sustainability accomplishments, Cornell’s carbon neutrality progress, education and engagement, campus operations and future goals — shaking up the status-quo of the age-old PDF report.

In previous years, Cornell has maintained a gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. Cornell is the first in the Ivy League and the sixth college in the world to reach platinum, the highest sustainability rating available.

STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Cornell reports on thousands of sustainability metrics across campus operations, education, social justice and more.

With the one-third drop in carbon emissions, the site said that the University is “on track” for its goal of becoming 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2035.

Isabella Armas-Leon ’21 spent her summer at the CSO, working day-in and day-out on the sustainability report.

“For the first year, we finally got platinum, which is the highest rating you could get as an institution,” Armas-Leon said. “We didn’t just get platinum. We were the first Ivy to get platinum. That’s something that we thought, ‘OK, we have this huge news. How can we share this?’”

The communications department at the CSO used this as a basis to construct the report. With an extensive list of sustainability metrics and accomplishments, the CSO chose what to feature.

“The truth is, no sustainability would happen on campus if it weren’t for the students and the faculty that are creating the solutions to these issues,” Armas-Leon said. “That’s what we wanted to highlight: ‘How did our Cornell community encourage change?’”

Other highlights on the report included the required sustainability learning outcomes Cornell students will graduate with, along with the benefits that community programs bring faculty, staff and students. It also highlighted the fact that, beginning in March 2020, renewable energy met all of Cornell’s campus electricity needs for the first time in 100 years.

“I took the report as, ‘Let’s do something that people are proud of and make people aware that Cornell is a leader in sustainability,’” Armas-Leon said.