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Mar 242010

By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now

While Congress debates comprehensive climate legislation, colleges and universities around the country have taken matters into their own hands. Schools have chosen to address sustainability with innovations, not only on each campus, but in each community and across state lines through research, green building, technological developments, travel reduction, energy efficiency and many other ways.


(Photo: Gary Neuenswander/Utah State)

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) released its new annual report Tuesday highlighting these efforts made by its institutions to address global warming.

“This report showcases the work schools are doing to slash their carbon emissions, shift to renewable energy sources, and teach their students how to address climate change when they graduate.

“The report also highlights some new and innovative partnerships schools are pursuing with one another, local government agencies, and the business community,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, Director of Communications & Outreach, Second Nature.

According to the report, the schools are working toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 33 million metric tons each year. Of the participating schools, 66% plan to be climate neutral by 2050. One Maine school, College of the Atlantic, achieved climate neutrality in 2007, being the first higher education institution to do so.

Each state, and the District of Columbia, is represented by at least one ACUPCC school. California has the most representation with 68 schools and New York is second with 56 schools. According to the ACUPCC, this amounts to one third of the total population of US students in higher education, nearly six million people. By the end of December, the report noted, a total of 665 schools made up the ACUPCC. But that number has since grown to 677 with the latest 12 schools to join.

ACUPCC schools are required to submit greenhouse gas inventories, then within the next two years, develop a climate action plan. At the end of 2009, 462 institutions had submitted their GHG emission inventories and 130 Climate Action Plans had been submitted. This is the first annual report that includes climate action plans.

“The number of greenhouse gas inventories and climate action plans submitted by colleges and universities nationwide demonstrates that the higher education sector is the only one in society to substantially pursue climate neutrality.  It is a model for the rest of society,” said Coplon-Newfield.

Since its launch, the ACUPCC has grown 5400%.

Even beyond reducing their own carbon footprint, schools are teaching students to go out into society and operate sustainability. There is still a long way to go, but the ACUPCC is helping to jump start colleges, universities, faculty, staff, students and communities to move swiftly toward a greener tomorrow.

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