'Historic' sustainability event draws 50 campus groups together to brainstorm

Cornellians involved with campus sustainability called a universitywide Feb.11 meeting of more than 50 campus departments and organizations "a historic moment" for Cornell.

The Advancing Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP) retreat at the Ithaca Country Club attracted more than 90 representatives from all walks of campus. It was intended to help people network and identify small concrete steps toward sustainability that they could take in their organization or department.

By the end of the day, faculty and staff members were inspired to suggest possible sustainable actions they might try, such as reducing energy consumption at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, serving local foods and cutting waste with more recyclable or compostable products at Alumni Affairs and Development events.

The participants also heard about such campus sustainability successes as President David Skorton's signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment last year, Cornell Dining's efforts to use more than 30 percent local ingredients and to offer organic fare, and the Cornell Store's selling of green products. Also, as a result of two earlier retreats, ASAP has more than a dozen important new initiatives that are funded and assigned to action teams to produce concrete outcomes in 18 months.

"This retreat was designed to raise awareness both of the high level of campus commitment to sustainability and the broad range of initiatives under way to advance it," said Rich McDaniel, vice president of risk management and public safety at Cornell.

"A lot of people felt this was a historic moment for Cornell because so many people came together with their own priorities and then found ways to collaborate," said Dan Roth, sustainability coordinator at the Cornell Office of Environmental Compliance and Sustainability (EcoS).

During the coming year, the EcoS will serve as an organizing force and clearinghouse for new ideas from operational sources and will work to support campuswide collaborations and initiatives stemming from the retreat and will coordinate more meetings.

For example, EcoS is using a Cornell Information Technologies collaborative Web tool called Confluence, where documents pertaining to these events may be organized, stored and shared with Cornellians at https://confluence.cornell.edu/display/CSC/Home.

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