Five years of environmental progress

Higher-education institutions that have committed to reducing the carbon footprint on their campuses have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 10.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a new report says.

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) has issued a report on the progress it has made in the five years since its formation.

“We...are committed to using the report’s data and insights to enlist more signatories, engage more businesses and communities and ensure that higher education is leading the way to a healthier, sustainable society,” says Tony Cortese, president of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC.

The report, Celebrating Five Years of Climate Leadership, provides a wealth of data on how higher-education leaders have embraced the effort to make their institutions become better stewards of the environment through more energy-efficient buildings and systems, curriculum and research that raises awareness about sustainability, and community engagement that brings sustainable practices to those beyond the boundaries of the college or university.

The 677 U.S. higher-education institutions that are signatories to the climate commitment represent more than 6 million students, about 30 percent of the nation's college and university enrollment. Those schools have some 12,000 employees working to carry out the climate commitment.

The reduction in emissions amounts to about 25 percent of what ACUPCC campuses had generated in 2007. The report projects that by 2022, the schools will have reduced their emissions by 52 percent, compared with 2007 levels.

Other data, based on the 235 institutions that submitted progress reports between January and May 2012:

  • ACUPCC schools offer 9,548 sustainability-focused courses.
  • 11,223 faculty members at ACUPCC schools are engaged in sustainability research.
  • When their purchases are combined, ACUPCC schools are the third-largest buyer of Renewable Energy Credits in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership. That is the equivalent of buying green power for 131,047 U.S. households.
  • 491 ACUPCC schools report that their campuses have a total of 1,779 LEED-certified buildings. Another 325 green-designed facilities are planned or will be completed in the next two years.
  • 130 of the ACUPCC institutions reported that producing renewable energy each year that totals 171 million kilowatt hours. That is the equivalent of powering 14,702 American households’ annual electricity needs.
  • 71 percent of the ACUPCC schools say their climate action plan has resulted in savings; 111 of the institutions reported a total of $100 million in savings.

Click here to see the full report.

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