On February, 29, 2012, nine university presidents representing some of the nation’s most prestigious higher education institutions joined Mayor Vincent C. Gray at American University’s LEED-Gold certified School of International Service Building to sign the District of Columbia Mayor’s College and University Sustainability Pledge (CUSP).
This university-based collaborative approach to sustainability is the first of its kind in the nation. DC is the first city in the U.S. to form such a compact between its entire higher education sector and its local government to advance sustainability. Working together in this public/private partnership, the signatories will work to make the District of Columbia the ‘Greenest College Town in America.’
The pledge is an agreement by the schools to pursue a range of sustainability measures related to energy use and buildings, green education, transportation, waste reduction, grounds maintenance, purchasing, and the monitoring and reporting of progress.
As a sector, universities in the District are already leading in the area of sustainability. LEED-certified buildings, solar panels and green roofs grace campuses throughout the city, universities are already using renewable energy, and several have already announced carbon neutral plans to greatly reduce their carbon footprint.
CUSP Signatories include American University, Corcoran College of Art + Design, The Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, Trinity University and the University of the District of Columbia. Collectively, these institutions enroll more than 85,000 students and employ more than 15,000 District residents. While each institution is already working to implement sustainability measures on their campus and in their curriculum, a first, significant action under the pledge will be their commitment, by December 31, 2012, to a campus-specific set of actions.
American University announced plans to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions and become a carbon-neutral campus by 2020. AU is already reducing energy consumption, using wind power for 100% of its purchased electricity, exploring large-scale renewable energy development in the DC area, and planning to mitigate university travel emissions by supporting carbon offset projects. This summer, AU installed one of the largest solar electricity systems in Washington, D.C. and the largest urban solar hot water system on the east coast.
Catholic University has reduced its carbon emissions by 50 percent through the purchase of renewable energy certificates in the past two years. CUA also operates 1,500 solar panels that displace 450 tons of carbon dioxide annually. CUA sponsored a solar design contest in 2011 when a student team designed a solar-powered picnic table. This year students are designing a solar-powered shelter for the University shuttle to encourage people to take the Metro to CUA and then ride the shuttle. A CUA-led team — the first-ever from Washington, D.C. — is competing in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.
Corcoran College of Art + Design recently completed a roof replacement project, which will reduce heat and cooling loads up to 40 percent.
Gallaudet University is using $40 million raised from its first tax-exempt bond issue to fund, in part, an environmentally-conscious dorm and energy conservation projects to keep Gallaudet in the forefront of creating a “green” campus. A new dorm that will open next fall has sustainable design strategies that will be used to obtain LEED Silver Certification.
George Washington University has goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025 and reach carbon neutrality by 2040. In 2010, the university created a green plaza with a state-of-the-art rainwater reclamation system. That same year, GW announced plans to cut bottled water purchases in half by 2016. This fall, GW will be one of the few universities in the country to offer every undergraduate the opportunity to earn a minor in sustainability. South Hall, a GW residence hall, was the first university campus building in the District to earn LEED Gold certification.
Georgetown University has made an ambitious commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2020 and has reduced its carbon footprint by over 17% since the year 2005.One of the first universities to adopt the campus-wide use of solar compacting recycling stations, Georgetown diverts over 90% of its waste from a landfill each year. The university is committed to LEED Silver or higher green building standards for all new construction and major renovations. Its new science building, Regents Hall, will feature a 20,000 gallon cistern for on-site rainwater capture and re-use to reduce impacts from stormwater.
Howard University has expanded the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, which is developing an interdisciplinary doctoral program that will be implemented in the fall semester of 2013. Howard’s Architecture and Design Department is transforming its curriculum with offerings of green and sustainability design programs for tomorrow’s workforce of environmentally knowledgeable architects.
Trinity University has been actively converting all lights at Trinity to energy efficient bulbs. Currently green chemicals and water efficient machines are used in the Dorms, Trinity Center, and Main Hall.
University of the District of Columbia and the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU) have formed a partnership to pilot demonstration projects at the University. The partnership entails lighting retrofits, the installation of new energy-efficient light fixtures and the utilization of a lighting management program to reduce energy consumption at the UDC campus.