Image from the cover of Cornell’s 2013 Climate Action Plan Update.

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Twenty years: Cornellians at the forefront of climate action

In spring of 2020, Cornell became the first Ivy League institution and the sixth university in the world to receive the highest possible rating for its sustainability efforts—STARS Platinum. The STARS ratings measure campus sustainability across a range of dimensions, from the food Cornell serves to the energy it produces, and from the courses it offers to the ways the university engages with the public to share sustainability and climate education.

Cornell earned a perfect score from STARS in the engagement category—an acknowledgement of the university’s success in making sustainability part of campus culture and ensuring that all students engage with sustainability learning outcomes before they graduate.

Cornell received numerous other recognitions for its sustainability efforts in 2021:

  • Fourth Coolest School, and the only Ivy in the Sierra Club Cool Schools top 20 schools
  • Eighth Green College, and the only Ivy in The Princeton Review Green College Honor Roll
  • Three Marks of Distinction, and the top Ivy for overall carbon reduction according to Second Nature

This success can be attributed to many factors. They include the willingness of university leadership to set bold climate action goals, the expertise of Cornell staff and faculty who figure out how to achieve those goals, and the commitment of Cornell students to advocate for change.

Students are at the heart of Cornell’s sustainability story, and they were the spark behind the university’s first formal climate commitment in 2001. Here we share the story behind this commitment, from the perspective of a few of the students (now alumni) and staff (many of whom are also Cornell alumni) who were involved in negotiating the commitment.

We also share the story of one alumna, Abigail (Abby) Krich Starr ’04, MEng ’06, who served on Cornell’s first Kyoto Task Team—the committee charged with implementation. Abby’s experience working to implement carbon reductions at Cornell inspired her lifelong commitment to climate action and her successful career at the forefront of the renewable energy field.

Read the story from Alumni Affairs and Development.

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