Published: April 26, 2021

On Earth Day, our campus community and leadership came together virtually for the 28th Annual Campus Sustainability Summit to share progress and ideas about the future of sustainability at CU Boulder. Here are the takeaways from this year’s bold summit:

CU Boulder is going big on climate action

The summit kicked off with a Call to Climate Action by Chancellor Philip DiStefano that included the announcement of CU Boulder’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, a bold update to the campus Climate Action Plan. The Chancellor also announced the formation of a new CU Boulder Sustainability Council, for which nominations are open through May 21

Read the Chancellor’s full Call to Climate Action.

Students are leading the change

According to Chancellor DiStefano, it was conversations with student leaders that helped lead to these bold actions. CU Student Government Tri-executive Molly Frommelt cited the history of CUSG to pay for campus sustainability changes like carbon offsets as one of many ways students have long led sustainability at CU Boulder. Chair of the student-led Environmental Board Abigail Weeks encouraged students interested in being a part of this movement to apply for the Climate Justice Leadership Program for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Social justice, equity, inclusion, and health are sustainability

“If you think that DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] doesn’t have to do… with sustainability, then you’re thinking about it wrong,” offered CMCI Professor Phaedra Pezzullo in the Buffs Striving for Sustainability panel. Athletic Director Rick George announcing the hiring of an associate athletic director for diversity, equity, and inclusion and Interim Arts and Sciences Dean Jim White lamenting the intergenerational inequities of climate change were highlights in the summit’s central theme of sustainability as social justice.

COVID has taught us new ways of working together

“The secret sauce of sustainability on this campus is our ability to work together as a campus,” White said. The ability was strengthened by the many ways staff and faculty came together to leverage research in operations to make a COVID-safe campus a reality, said Vice Chancellor for Infrastructure and Sustainability David Kang. Some of those efforts earned Campus Sustainability Awards. They believe these new relationships across campus can also lead to achieving our bold climate action goals.

CU Boulder has what it takes to achieve bold climate action

Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation Terri Fiez highlighted the world-class climate research at CU Boulder that the university can leverage toward solutions. The Sustainability Awards highlighted some of the many great efforts already in progress or achieved on campus. “We at CU Boulder have been leaders in sustainability and we can lead again,” was the closing thought of Environmental Center Director Dave Newport.

In collaboration with campus partners, the CU Environmental Center has produced a Campus Sustainability Summit annually or semiannually since 1994 for the campus community. The Campus Sustainability Summit and Awards are sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Infrastructure and Sustainability, and the CUSG Environmental Center. 

Watch highlights from the 2021 Campus Sustainability Summit.