The University of Maryland, College Park receives Second Nature’s 2nd Annual Climate Leadership Award. Award recipients were recognized at the 5th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Summit in Washington, DC on June 23rd, hosted by George Washington University.
After becoming a charter signatory of the ACUPCC in 2007, former University President Dan Mote convened a 55-member Climate Action Plan Work Group with broad student, faculty, and staff representation to develop the University’s plan for reaching carbon neutrality and enhancing educational and research activities. The University Senate and President approved the Climate Action Plan in 2009 and created a permanent University Sustainability Council to oversee implementation of the Plan and to advise the President (currently Wallace Loh) on sustainability issues. The Council also oversees the University Sustainability Fund, which this year provided $150,000 to nine projects that seek to reduce the environmental impact of the campus. The Council is chaired by the Vice President for Administration and has representation from all other Vice Presidents, students, faculty, and staff.
The University of Maryland has made great strides to address the mandates of the ACUPCC, including achieving significant GHG emissions reductions and integrating sustainability across the curriculum. Campus emissions decreased by 8.5% between 2005 and 2009 despite campus growth. Remarkably, emissions decreased 6.6% between 2008 and 2009 alone. The University is currently conducting its annual emissions inventory and expects a reduction of 40,352 MT-CO2e in 2010 due to the University’s purchase of 66,000 RECs, which represents a 14% reduction of the 2009 carbon footprint, this put Maryland #6 on the EPA Green Power Purchasers list. Successes in the area of emissions reductions and resource conservation inspired the new campus sustainability motto, “Terps leave small footprints.”
Leadership on sustainability issues does not come only from the President, University Sustainability Council, and the Office of Sustainability; many other campus groups are deeply committed to seeing that the University of Maryland makes significant progress toward its University Strategic Plan goal of becoming a national model for a green university. The Division of Student Affairs has its own sustainability committee, more than 15 student groups, including the Student Sustainability Committee, are incredibly active on addressing campus sustainability issues. Moreover, sustainability has become the underlying theme of the Facilities Master Plan. The campus has been designated an arboretum and botanical garden by the American Public Gardens Association and the first campus in Maryland to be recognized as a “Tree Campus USA” by the ArborDay Foundation. Further support is provided by an Independent Facilities Site Review Committee that was created in 2009 to ensure that sustainability and smart growth are fully incorporated when selecting sites for new construction.
The University has achieved impressive reductions in GHG emissions but its efforts to integrate sustainability across the curriculum is what sets it apart from most other ACUPCC signatories. Sustainability is woven into the student experience from day one – during summer orientation, new students are told about the University’s commitment to sustainability and they participate in sustainability behaviors by composting food waste during orientation meals. In students’ first year, they are likely to participate in a 60-minute lesson on sustainability taught by Student Sustainability Advisors – upperclassmen students who taught the lesson to 67 first-year seminar classes over the past three years. Throughout students’ years on campus, they are increasingly likely to encounter sustainability topics in a variety of courses. The Chesapeake Project is a faculty development workshop where professors from across campus learn about sustainability and find unique ways of integrating it into their existing courses. Over the past two years, 50 professors have participated in the workshop and integrated sustainability into 56 courses in 27 different disciplines. The University is now developing an interdisciplinary sustainability minor open to students in any major.
Initiatives to integrate sustainability across the curriculum build on top of the University’s exceptional academic programs and research centers that are continuously finding solutions to complex 21st century problems. Sustainable Energy Engineering and Conservation Biology & Sustainable Development are among 46 academic programs where students gain in-depth understanding of sustainability issues. The National Center for Smart Growth, Joint Global Change Research Institute, Center for the Use of Sustainable Practices, Environmental Finance Center and the Center for Integrative Environmental Research are among 11 sustainability-focused research centers on campus.
The University also provides outreach in the area of sustainability. It has sponsored and hosted 7 national sustainability conferences including the Smart & Sustainable Campuses Conference. The campus is currently working with the City of College Park to support its collective desire for the City to be designated a U.S EPA Green Power Community.
The University is implementing cost-effective solutions to reducing energy consumption and increasing the percentage of power that comes from renewable energy sources. It entered into a 15-year Energy Performance Contract with Johnson Controls, which aims to reduce energy consumption by 22% in nine buildings. A lighting retrofit project led by Facilities Management reduced energy consumption by 73% in hallways across campus. The University Energy Manager also brokered a Power Purchase Agreement for all University System of Maryland institutions that is helping to develop large wind farms and solar energy facilities around the region. In addition to those projects, the University is currently installing more than 2,700 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Severn Building. Once completed, the project will be one of the largest solar projects in the Washington DC area.
The campus community is also helping reduce the University’s carbon footprint. Students created a Student Sustainability Fee and also participate in energy conservation competitions including the Campus Conservation Nationals and the Green Greek Challenge. Starting this fall, faculty and staff will be able to participate in the Green Offices program, which will recognize departments and offices for their efforts to reduce energy and water consumption, increase use of green commuting options, implement environmentally preferable purchasing policies, and develop other sustainable initiatives.