In recognition of ongoing University efforts to promote sustainability, Cornell was one of 12 colleges and universities to receive Second Nature’s Award for Institutional Excellence in Climate Leadership.
Second Nature — an organization that is considered one of the leading groups in promoting sustainability in higher education — recognized Cornell for its efforts to shift behavior on campus and within the Ithaca community to make a low-carbon economy possible.
The award was based on a number of criteria including how well senior university leadership fostered involvement in planning and implementation of sustainable practices; how well the faculty provided learning opportunities on sustainability; and how creatively campuses invested in sustainable practices, according to Second Nature.
Dr. Anthony Cortese, president of Second Nature and organizer of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, presented the award to Kyu-Jung Whang, Cornell’s vice president for facilities services, at the Fourth Annual American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Summit on Oct. 12 in Denver.
Of the 12 schools recognized, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania were the only Ivy League schools to receive the award.
“Cornell has been a leader in sustainability and dealing with climate change and has been one of the more aggressive in taking this challenge seriously,” Cortese said. “They are moving very quickly towards reducing energy on campus and using non-fossil fuel based energy. These are huge accomplishments for school that has 30,000 students and is a prestigious Ivy League university.”
The award also recognized the University for research conducted through the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee and plans to eliminate coal as a source of fuel starting in 2011.
Cornell’s climate action plan, according to Whang, “is one of the most complete and comprehensive action plans that anyone has put together yet.”
The 19 initiatives outlined in this plan were put in place to meet the University’s goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. President David Skorton agreed to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in order to meet that goal.
The award from Second Nature is not the first time Cornell has been recognized as a leader in sustainability. Last month Sierra Magazine ranked Cornell as the 21st most sustainable school in the country out of 162 colleges and universities. This past week the University also received an “A-” on the College Sustainability Report Card 2011 from the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
However, the Climate Leadership Award for Institutional Excellence is still “a tremendous honor for us,” Whang said. “All the colleges and universities look up to Second Nature as a resource and role model. To be recognized by them shows that .... we’re doing things the right way to be recognized.”
As for future sustainability efforts, “the fact that we won the award isn’t going to change anything,” Whang said. “We’re very aggressive about sustainability so we’re going to continue to do that whether we won the award or not.”
Recently, Cornell signed up for the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, allowing the University to assess itself on ten different focus areas regarding sustainability. The system will require Cornell to continue looking comprehensively at how they address sustainability, Whang said.
“We want to continue to act as role models for other colleges and universities who are interested in becoming more sustainable. We want to offer ourselves as a resource for other campuses,” Whang said.
Whang and Frank DiSalvo, director of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, will be co-chairing a campus leadership forum on sustainability towards the end of this month to continue to engage the Cornell community in various conversations on sustainability and climate change.