Published: Aug. 20, 2009


Approaching Six Decades of Environmental Leadership at CU-Boulder

For more than half a century, CU-Boulder has been a leader in pursuing and providing world-class climate and energy research, environmental studies, the integration of environmental coursework into a variety of fields and degrees, and aggressive plans for campus sustainability. From classrooms and lecture halls to research centers, event facilities, residence halls and the community, decades of CU-Boulder students, faculty, staff and administrators have carried on a commitment to knowledge, innovation, solutions and everyday actions for environmental stewardship.

1951 A major in Conservation Education is offered through the joint Department of Geography and Geology with a required interdisciplinary set of coursework in geography, biology, journalism and communication. In 1972, the major is replaced as Environmental Conservation and continues to be interdisciplinary but shifts to a more science-based curriculum.

1951 The Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research is established with origins extending back to the Mountain Laboratory (est. 1909) and University Camp (est. 1914 and renamed the Mountain Research Station in 1951), as a global field facility developing scientific knowledge of physical and biogeochemical processes.

1957 The National Snow and Ice Data Center begins as the World Data Center for Glaciology to archive data from Earth's frozen regions and evolves as part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences to conduct research around the world, archive data and provide international educational opportunities.

1967 The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences is established and provides collaborative research and education in a broad range of environmental sciences aimed at sustainability.

1970 The nation's first student-led environmental center is established on Earth Day.

1976 The nation's first collegiate student-led recycling program begins.

1981 CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research begins administering the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research site, one of 26 areas in North America where the National Science Foundation is funding studies by faculty and students of natural and human-caused changes occurring over decades and centuries.

1982 The Natural Resources Law Center is founded as an academic program and forum for intellectual discourse over matters of natural resources law and to drive objective and practical solutions to problems in the field.

1991 CU students are among the first in the nation to negotiate prepaid bus passes.

1992 Recycling processing facility is built on campus.

1992 The Center for Environmental Journalism is established for seasoned and student journalists to pursue coursework and knowledge of the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of environmental journalism as well as elevated quality, range and depth of work in the field.

1994 The first Campus Earth Summit is held.

1997 The Environmental Conservation major is moved from the Department of Geography and Geology to the Office of Environmental Studies as a stand-alone, interdisciplinary program. Today, environmental coursework also is offered by the College of Architecture and Planning, College of Arts and Sciences, Leeds School of Business, College of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Law. CU-Boulder offers 14 degree programs, nine majors and four certificate programs in or related to environmental studies.

1997 CU-Boulder's "Green Teams" begin targeting the Hill and other student-populated areas in the city of Boulder to increase proper recycling.

1998 CU-Boulder incorporates sustainability provisions for facilities into the Campus Master Plan.

2000 Students vote to purchase renewable wind-energy credits to match power used in all major campus construction after 2000, making CU-Boulder the first university in the nation to purchase wind energy.

2001 Graduate degrees in Environmental Studies are offered.

2001 Energy education campaign begins. A Resource Conservation Officer position is created. Campus energy use decreases for the first time in 10 years.

2002 The Office of Campus Resource Conservation is established to evaluate and implement economically feasible technological breakthroughs and solutions to reduce CU-Boulder's environmental footprint and promote sustainable capital construction practices.

2006 A zero-waste vision is incorporated into CU-Boulder's Blueprint for a Green Campus.

2006 The ATLAS building is completed and receives a gold rating for green building design by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program for sustainable architecture. All future construction and renovations on campus are required to attain at least a silver rating in LEED standards.

2006 CU-Boulder's Energy Initiative is established to pursue energy research, education and technology commercialization, and forms the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute in 2009.

2007 CU-Boulder research faculty from the National Snow and Ice Data Center share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for their contributions to the international report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

2007 CU-Boulder is a founding member of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a launching pad for new state research centers involving CU-Boulder, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to create renewable energy technologies, management systems and efficiency, and to generate educational opportunities and economic growth in Colorado.

2007 Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson signs the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and the CU student government becomes the first entity to pledge to carbon neutrality in all University of Colorado Student Union-run buildings, in conjunction with the commitment.

2007 The Chancellor's Committee on Energy, Environment and Sustainability is established to serve as the steering committee for implementing campuswide environmental strategies and programs.

2007 CU-Boulder's recycling collection exceeds 2,000 tons (4 million pounds). Funding is provided to begin a feasibility study of relocating or expanding CU-Boulder's recycling facility.

2008 UCSU requires all student-funded food/dining events to be zero-waste and CU Dining Services eliminates plastic bags from grab-and-go meals and distributes free reusable bags to all incoming residence hall students.

2008 UCSU becomes the first customer of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's Colorado Carbon Fund, a local offsets broker. As such, $90,000 in student dollars over two years is projected for new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for statewide emission reduction.

2008 The CU Athletics Department commits to zero-waste from football games.

2009 CU launches an aggressive, three-year conservation campaign under the direction of Chancellor Phil DiStefano to reduce energy, cut paper, water and petroleum use, and transition to a zero-waste campus.

2010 The CU Environmental Center will turn 40 years old.