Published: April 25, 2023

The time to act is now, and CU Boulder can lead the way. This was the theme of the 30th Campus Sustainability Summit held on April 19-20, just a few days before Earth Day.

People converse at the 2023 Campus Sustainability Summit.The summit brought together CU Boulder leadership, students, faculty, staff, families and community members to share progress and ideas about the future of sustainability on campus. Sessions brought attention to the urgency of taking action on climate change, and celebrated the power of community and student innovation in driving sustainable solutions. 

CU Boulder's commitment to sustainability and energy conservation sends a powerful message that we all have a role to play in addressing the climate crisis. 

“This movement has been the stepping stone to change my perspective on how the world works,” said sophomore Ruth Nowotny. “Having the opportunity to share this with peers has been a great experience.”

Here are the top takeaways from this year’s summit.

CU Boulder students, faculty, staff continue to innovate 

Climate expo winners

  • Innovation Category Prize: Flushee

  • Creativity Category Prize: Blazin’ Joe

  • Climate Impact Category Prize: Main Campus Energy Consumption and Emissions Analysis and Opportunities for Solar + Battery Storage

  • Human Impact Category Prize: Atlia: The Flexible, Indoor, Air-Quality Control System

  • Audience Choice Award: Solar Soiling Sensor

  • Overall Runner Up Award: Collegiate Wind Energy Competition Team

  • Grand Prize Award: Clever Compost

Nine judges reviewed the student projects based on innovation, impact, problem-solving, creativity and presentation quality. The winners included projects focused on innovation, creativity, climate impact and human impact. More than 600 audience choice votes were cast as well.

Read about the student projects and how they will help tackle the climate crisis.

A highlight of the summit was celebrating CU Boulder’s sustainability accomplishments and determination to rise to the challenges posed by Chancellor Philip DiStefano’s Campus Call to Climate Action

The CU Boulder community has always been innovative when it comes to sustainable solutions. The university boasts one of the oldest college recycling programs in the nation—the Environmental Center. Founded in 1970 by students, the center provides a variety of direct services and expertise to the campus community and beyond, including zero waste programs, sustainable transportation, energy and water conservation. 

The Environmental Center also holds various trainings and events surrounding climate, social justice, renewable energy programs and sustainability. In collaboration with campus partners, the center has produced the Campus Sustainability Summit annually or semi-annually since 1994 for the campus community.

Elevating student voices is key for innovative perspectives

CU Boulder students have big ideas and visions that demonstrate awareness, vision and innovation. The Climate Action Expo showcased many of these student ideas. More than 40 student projects competed for cash prizes, sponsored by the CU Climate Action Fund. Projects highlighted key themes of the urgency for action and the power of community in making a difference.

Climate anxiety is real, and there are ways to cope

The term "eco-anxiety" refers to the distress associated with climate and ecological crises. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, 67% of Americans have experienced some form of eco-anxiety. 

The summit offered a secure environment to discuss effective practices, coping strategies and resources for anyone within our campus community who is struggling with anxiety related to the climate crisis. Health & Wellness Services has tips and resources to help campus community members cope with climate anxiety

More climate action is on the way

As part of the summit, the university shared next steps on the 2023 Campus Climate Action Plan to reach carbon neutrality by no later than 2050. The goal is to reduce emissions by prioritizing actions that can be taken in energy, transportation, food, waste, water, grounds and procurement that fall within scopes 1, 2 and as much of scope 3 as is plausible. Equity and resilience are addressed throughout the plan.

The university will be further analyzing emissions, establishing targets and creating a timeline to achieve those objectives. The final 2023 Campus Climate Action Plan is expected to be published in the fall. 

The Campus Sustainability Summit is an annual event organized by the CUSG Environmental Center and supported by the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Infrastructure and Sustainability. Learn more and review Sustainability Summit archives.