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Green Campus & Sustainability
CU-Boulder on sustainability and green campus issues
A national environmental leader, the University of Colorado Boulder was recognized
in 2009 by the Sierra Club as the
greenest school in the nation and, in 2010, received
the nation's first
"gold" rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Ratings
STARS is a system developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in
Higher Education, with broad participation by sustainability directors and other members
of the higher education community. It provides colleges and universities a common set of
measurements for gauging progress toward sustainability. Since its launch in January 2010,
234 schools have registered with STARS.
In addition to this site, information about sustainability at CU-Boulder is
available from the CU-Boulder
sustainability website, the CU Environmental Center,
and the University's
Department of Facilities Management.
Commitment, Policies, and Reporting
The University of Colorado Boulder has established a reputation as a proactive
leader in the environmental sciences and campus sustainability.
- In 1997 CU-Boulder signed the
Talloires Declaration, committing us to set an example of environmental
responsibility in our teaching, research, and operations.
- The University of Colorado Boulder was not only a charter signatory, in 2007, to the
American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC)
but is also a member of the Leadership Circle, comprised of signatories who
have agreed to help lead the initiative, promote it, and recruit colleagues
CU-Boulder's long-standing public commitment to sustainability is
embodied in three key public documents:
CU-Boulder has in place ongoing public reporting on progress being
made towards its sustainability commitments:
The Campus Sustainability Plan requires periodic public reports be made to the
Colorado Governor's Office. The
latest report was submitted 1/31/08.
The climate action planning process underway per the American College &
University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) involves numerous public
presentations and meetings where the emerging plan is presented and
discussed with campus stakeholders.
CU-Boulder has produced a
publicly available greenhouse
gas emissions inventory and has adopted a climate action plan consistent
with 80% greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 target.
A History of Student Leadership
On Earth Day 1970, students at CU-Boulder founded the
Environmental Center, now the nation's oldest, largest, and most
accomplished student-led center of its kind.
In 1976, CU-Boulder students founded
CU Recycling, one of the nation's first campus recycling programs.
In 1991, students voted to raise student fees to purchase pre-paid
bus passes for all students.
In 2000, students on our campus voted to raise student fees
to buy renewable energy credits for student buildings nation's, making
CU-Boulder the first campus to purchase
offsets to mitigate climate change.
In 2005, students passed the Sustainable CU Referendum which dedicates
$2.80/student/semester to implement on-campus projects incorporating
renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, and
other innovative projects to reduce the campus impact on climate and
- In 2007, our student government unanimously passed a resolution to become the
first student government in the nation to commit to climate neutrality.
- In 2007, our student government voted unanimously to approve the Energy and
Climate Revolving Fund (ECRF). Student leaders invested $500,000 in an
endowment to provide low-interest loans to pay for projects that reduce
campus energy use and ultimately save students' money in reduced energy
costs over time. These savings are used to pay back the loans, allowing the
fund to remain whole and support ongoing and future efficiency projects.
Originally intended to finance efficiency measures in student-owned buildings,
the ECRF has since expanded to cover the entire campus. Projects paid for
by ECRF are reducing carbon emission on campus by more than 250 tons a year
and receiving, on average, a 37.8% return on investment.
- By 2012 the University of Colorado Student Government (CUSG)
reduced the net emissions of greenhouse gases, or GHGs, from its
student-run facilities to zero after committing in 2007 to reach carbon
neutrality. CUSG operates three large CU-Boulder facilities including the
University Memorial Center, Student Recreation Center, and Wardenburg Health
Center. More than 9,000 metric tons of GHG emissions attributed to operating
the student-run buildings have been eliminated through renewable energy
generation, energy conservation measures and carbon-offset strategies
implemented by CUSG. Carbon neutrality was reached even as square footage
and usage of the facilities increased in recent years.
The University of Colorado Boulder:
- employs a
director of campus sustainability
- has a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to
advancing sustainability on campus
- established in 1997 a campus
Sustainability Awards program to recognize efforts to make
the university a more sustainable institution
- derives 6-7% of its energy consumption, including heating/cooling and
electrical, from renewable resources
- includes environmental performance requirements in procurement contracts for
paper, cleaning, building materials, and equipment
- has implemented the Buff Energy Star Award Program to reduce energy
consumption, reduce campus CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts of
energy usage, and provide energy conservation learning opportunities
- no longer serves bottled water in dining halls, gives every incoming
freshman a free refillable water container, and installed water refill
stations across campus
- began, in 2008, a
zero-waste and carbon reduction program for football games at Folsom
Field stadium--a program which has since expanded to include the Coors
Events Center and all of CU-Boulder's sporting events
- offers members of the campus community assistance in
- has an overall waste diversion rate of 37%
- has implemented an
Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) that emphasizes least-toxic,
humane pest control services and an effective and environmentally sensitive
approach to pest management
- has established energy performance standards beyond code for all buildings upgrades
- has an impressive ten
(one Platinum, eight Gold, one Silver)
on campus, totaling over 1,400,000 square feet (all new building projects and
building renovation projects aim for a high LEED Gold rating)
- retrofitted/renovated 50% of buildings not certified LEED or
comparable (insulation, windows, or HVAC) between 2005 and 2008
- uses cleaning products that are all Green Seal certified (100% by total
- offers complete vegetarian options for 100% of meals in the dining halls
- directs approximately 17% of food expenditures toward local, organic, or
otherwise environmentally preferable food
- encourages alternatives to single passenger automobile use by students
by offering free bus pass, universal access transit pass, bike share/rent,
and guaranteed ride home (approximately
70% of student trips to/from campus are through alternative
transportation- bus, bike, walking)
An aggressive campus operational greening campaign has produced
energy and potable water consumption trends since 2001 in spite of
ongoing growth in student population and in research funding that leads to
increased lab activity. In the years from 2001-02 to 2010-11:
- Electricity usage fell from 15.34 KWh/ft2 to 12.19 KWh/ft2.
- Steam use decreased from 75.19 lbs/ft2 to 51.95 lbs/ ft2.
- Potable water consumption declined from 61.69 Gal/ft2 to
23.57 Gal/ft2 for over 10.8 million square feet of campus buildings.
In addition, CU-Boulder has reduced total energy use
by 20 percent and stabilized carbon emissions compared to 2005 levels even though
the campus has grown by 25 percent, or about 2.2 million square feet in
facilities, since that time.
These reductions are direct results of a large number of
energy conservation projects
Education, Research, and Careers
Environmental education at CU-Boulder includes formal degree programs,
a certificate program, residential academic programs, resources for faculty, and volunteer efforts.
Environmental Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program designed to
provide a broad, but rigorous education in environmental issues and
problem-solving, as opposed to a traditional, discipline-based training.
- The program offers BA, MS, and PhD degrees that draw on courses and expertise
from nearly twenty participating departments and other units on campus,
emphasizing the earth and natural sciences as well as the social sciences
- Undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in the Baker Residential
Academic Program, which offers smaller courses and an interdisciplinary
curriculum with a special emphasis on sustainability and environmental
- CU-Boulder's undergraduate program in
prepares students to assess and develop engineering solutions to
environmental problems affecting the quality of the biosphere, land, water,
- Ranked consistently among the very best in the country, the University of
Colorado Law School's
Environmental, Energy, and Natural Resources Program
is one of the strongest and deepest programs of its kind. For more than half a century,
environmental and natural resources law has been a key part of Colorado Law's
curriculum. Colorado Law's commitment to teaching and research
in these areas complements the school's physical location in the Rocky Mountain
West--a region defined by its vast natural resources, public lands and parks, and
many Indian reservations. Students receive a broad-based legal education in addition
to specialized environmental and natural resources courses and practicum opportunities--comprehensive
preparation for careers at law firms, corporations, nonprofit organizations,
and governmental agencies.
- CU-Boulder offers a dual master's degree
in environmental studies (MS) and business (MBA). Students in this program have career
interests that combine corporate business and environmental protection, the
management of renewal energy, water conservation, or environmental programs.
- The Sustainable Practices Program
offers individual classes and a professional certificate for people who are
interested in sustainability training. Courses immerse students in the latest
trends and concepts in sustainable practices and are taught by CU-Boulder experts and
leading industry professionals. The curriculum is designed for adult, working
professionals seeking sustainability training or retraining for a new career.
These non-credit courses can be taken individually or accumulated toward
Sustainability Management Professional Certificate.
- The Williams Village North Residence Hall houses two
interrelated residential academic programs focused on
sustainability and environmental issues. The
Sustainable by Design
Residential Academic Program offers a unique
educational opportunity in a residential community setting to
help develop students into globally focused leaders who are well
versed in both the technical and societal aspects of sustainable
designs. The Social Entrepreneurship for Equitable Development &
Program is uniquely inter- and multi-disciplinary, seeking a
critical engagement of students in the diversity of global
challenges, from resource depletion to climate change to poverty
and economic instability. Williams Village North Residence Hall
LEED Platinum building that opened in the fall semester of
- The Peak to
Peak (P2P) Project provides faculty with resources to integrate themes
of sustainability throughout the curriculum and into the larger learning
environment at CU-Boulder.
- Earth Education
is a volunteer organization based out of the CU-Boulder's Environmental Center.
Undergraduate interns and
volunteers work with teachers in local schools to implement environmental
and natural science education into their classrooms.
Campus commitment to environmental education and research has helped CU-Boulder become
one of the nation's top environmental research universities.
According to the
National Science Foundation (NSF),
CU-Boulder's $79.9 million
in funded environmental research ranks in the top 10 among the nation's universities.
When oceanography research is excluded from the total (reflecting CU-Boulder's
landlocked geography), the University is ranked second in the aggregate
of remaining environmental research categories (according to FY2009 NSF data, the
latest year available for categorical NSF data).
CU-Boulder's reputation and performance as a national leader in
environmental issues and sustainability helps recruit and retain faculty
with the recognized expertise to win leading-edge research awards, to
contribute to the global sustainability knowledge base, and to enhance an
already respected Environmental Studies Program--one with integrated
environmental content across the campus.
- Established in 2009, the Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Institute, an interdisciplinary joint research effort between the
University of Colorado Boulder and the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL), is advancing solutions for producing energy economically
from low carbon sources, decreasing reliance on foreign oil, reducing
greenhouse gas emissions, and using energy more efficiently to meet the
global energy challenge.
- CU-Boulder's fertile environment for interdisciplinary research
on environmental issues includes the Cooperative
Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research
the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CTSPR), the Center of the American West, the
Center for Energy and Environmental
Security, the Colorado Center for
Biorefining and Biofuels (C2B2), the
Mortenson Center in Engineering for
Developing Countries, the National Snow and
Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and the Institute of Behavioral Science
- Students have ample opportunities to participate in sustainability research as
graduate research assistants, lab assistants, etc. In addition, numerous courses
in Environmental Studies, Design, or Engineering feature student projects that
advance sustainability research.
CU-Boulder's Career Center provides active and substantive guidance on "green jobs."
In addition to guidance imparted in individual career counseling sessions, CU
programs that focus on "green jobs."
- The Career Services office at CU-Boulder devotes part of its website to opportunities
in "green" career fields. The site
includes job and internship postings, tips and resources, information on local companies,
and links to professional associations and networking opportunities.
- A faculty-guided student organization called ICE
(Investigating Careers in the Environment) holds weekly meetings hosting area
environmental leaders that present to dozens of students on the nature of their
careers and emerging job trends. The
Investigate Careers in the Environment (ICE) Series
is a weekly presentation and discussion series dedicated to empowering students
to take charge of their future in the environmental field. This faculty-guided
student organization in the Environmental Studies Program at CU-Boulder brings
environmental professionals to campus to share their perspectives on a wide
range of environmental careers and emerging job trends.
The University of Colorado Boulder has included sustainability as one of
the cornerstones of its Campus Master Plan,
which outlines the growth and development of the campus for the next decade. In
February 2010 the Sustainability Task Force for the new master plan specified
the guiding principles, sustainability goals, and best practices to be incorporated into a plan
that will apply green building practices, energy efficiency methods, and energy production
strategies to nearly three million square feet of new growth. Their
significant opportunities for CU-Boulder to improve its sustainability practices
and policies. It also reinforces the University's ongoing commitment not only
to reducing our own ecological footprint but also to preparing our students to
do the same.
Much of this information was originally collected in response to questions
asked by Princeton Review as part of their Best Colleges survey, submitted in
February 2008. The posting was last updated in May 2012.
PBA - IR@colorado.edu - W:\pba\records\misctopics\greencampus.htm