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Susquehanna University Pledges to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Published on September 10, 2010

SELINSGROVE—Susquehanna University President L. Jay Lemons has called upon members of the university community to support new initiatives to reduce carbon emissions on campus. He suggested they make a new year’s resolution, at the start of the new academic year, to do their part to achieve a sustainable future. The university’s new strategic plan emphasizes the need for both stewardship and leadership with regard to sustainability.

Lemons was the first to put his digital signature via an iPad to the Susquehanna University Climate Commitment pledge, following a Sept. 9 lecture at Susquehanna by ecologist Christopher Uhl. A professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, Uhl’s talk was part of the Common Reading program at Susquehanna, which is engaging first-year students, faculty and staff in a year-long dialogue about A Sustainable Future. Throughout the year, the entire Susquehanna community will be invited to add their signatures to the commitment.

“We recognize the scientific consensus that climate change is real and is largely being caused by humans,” Lemons said. “We further recognize the need to make a significant reduction in the global emission of greenhouse gases to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Our consumption of many natural resources, especially in the United States, far outstrips the availability of supplies, and we must find ways of being better stewards of the resources we have and their impact on the environment.”

The Susquehanna pledge was crafted by the university’s Committee on Sustainability, led by Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Kathy Straub. “Carbon dioxide is one of the main contributors to global warming,” she said. “If carbon emissions are not reduced by approximately 80 percent by 2050, the earth’s climate system may reach an unstable tipping point.”

Modified from the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, Susquehanna’s pledge affirms the belief that colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize the impacts of climate change. It further states that higher education institutions can integrate sustainability into their curriculum and provide students with the knowledge and skills to address the critical, systemic challenges to reaching climate neutrality.

“We believe that colleges and universities that show leadership in addressing climate change will not only stabilize and reduce their long-term energy costs, but also attract excellent students and faculty, and additional alumni and donor support,” Lemons noted. “We’re inviting all members of the SU community to join together in signing the pledge. It will take everyone’s thoughtful actions and commitments to sustain the level of change we want to see happen on our campus.” Toward that end, the Committee on Sustainability will soon be sharing specific actions that individuals can take to reduce their environmental impact in the workplace and at home.

Susquehanna University will begin developing a comprehensive plan to lower total carbon emissions in spite of rising enrollments. Making emissions reduction and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences for students will be a priority. All greenhouse gas emissions will be inventoried annually to track progress.

In addition, Susquehanna will establish a policy to build all new campus construction to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED silver standard or equivalent. Renovation projects will also adhere to environmental standards. Additional carbon-reducing activities include implementation of an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy across campus.

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