Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.89
Liaison Allie Schwartz
Submission Date Aug. 29, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Columbia University
PA-2: Sustainability Planning

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.25 / 4.00 Allie Schwartz
Assistant Director, Planning and Outreach
Environmental Stewardship, Columbia University Facilities and Operations
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Does the institution have a published strategic plan or equivalent guiding document that includes sustainability at a high level? :
Yes

A brief description of how the institution’s strategic plan or equivalent guiding document addresses sustainability:

Columbia University recognizes that for its commitment to sustainability to become embedded over the long term, policy must be set to formalize it as a leading value. To achieve this, President Bollinger formally endorsed a set of Sustainability Principles in September 2016 to set forth a high-level vision for sustainability for Columbia’s campus communities in New York and across the globe. The principles were developed through a partnership between University Facilities and Operations—including Environmental Stewardship—and Earth Institute faculty leadership. These principles extend to all campuses and global centers, and serve as one of the University's most wide-reaching and high-level plans.
The Sustainability Principles highlight three key pillars, to which each campus of the University has a commitment to adhere through targeted policies, commitments, and standard practices, and individual daily actions.
As part of this commitment, Columbia commits and strives to
-advance Columbia’s core educational, research, and outreach missions to demonstrate its leadership around the world;
-plan, develop, implement, and measure strategic sustainability initiatives; and
-foster a culture of sustainability.


A copy of the strategic plan:
The website URL where the strategic plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have a published sustainability plan (apart from what is reported above)? :
Yes

A copy of the sustainability plan:
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The website URL where the sustainability plan is publicly available:
Does the institution have a published climate action plan (apart from what is reported above)? :
No

A copy of the climate action plan:
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The website URL where the climate action plan is publicly available:
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Does the institution have other published plans that address sustainability or include measurable sustainability objectives (e.g. campus master plan, physical campus plan, diversity plan, human resources plan)? :
Yes

A list of other published plans that address sustainability, including public website URLs (if available):

In the University's first campus-wide Sustainability Plan, Columbia committed to providing annual plan updates to track progress toward our goals of becoming a more sustainable Columbia. These updates come in the form of a formal report published annually.

https://sustainable.columbia.edu/reports


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Curriculum?:
No

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Curriculum and the published plans in which each objective is included:
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Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Research?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Research and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The University's sustainability plan and annual report call for research into renewable energy and alternatives to fossil-fuels on campus. This research is currently on-going. In Columbia's 2017 Sustainability Plan, the University committed to advance Columbia’s core educational, research, and outreach missions to demonstrate its leadership around the world. This work takes place predominantly through the Earth Institute.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Campus Engagement and the published plans in which each objective is included:

Columbia's formal sustainability plan (referenced above) includes the formation of the Sustainable Columbia Leaders Network, a University-wide campus engagement platform to encourage a sustainable culture shift within Columbia work spaces. To-date, over 90 teams from across the University have formed and are participating in the program.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Public Engagement?:
No

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Public Engagement and the published plans in which each objective is included:

In the creation of Columbia's sustainability plan, multiple town halls were held to gauge public opinion and provide a platform for the community to voice their opinions. This process is referenced in the formal Sustainability Plan.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Air & Climate and the published plans in which each objective is included:

Columbia's sustainability plan sets forth an aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goal of 35% reduction in absolute emissions by 2020 from a 2006 base year.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Buildings?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Buildings and the published plans in which each objective is included:

Energy output is a measurable objective that comes out of the energy audits conducted for all of Columbia's buildings larger than 50,000 sq ft. In Columbia's sustainability plan, the University has committed to continuing these audits, installing new building-level meters and working toward completion of previously identified Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) and Retro-commissioning Measures (RCMs).

Additionally, the University has formally committed to build all new construction to a minimum of LEED Silver.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Energy?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Energy and the published plans in which each objective is included:

To achieve Columbia's greenhouse gas reduction goal, the University has formally committed to implement identified energy conservation measures / retro-commissioning measures (ECM/RCM) to reduce energy intensity and therefore lower the campus building GHG emissions profile by 2020. Additionally, the University formally committed to creating and has since created a green revolving fund that supports a comprehensive energy conservation program over time, starting with ECM/RCM implementation in the short term. Ensure that the RCMs are prioritized to be completed first in compliance with NYC Department of Buildings Local Law 87. These commitments are all included in Columbia's formal sustainability plan.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Food & Dining?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Food & Dining and the published plans in which each objective is included:

Columbia's sustainability report addresses organics collection and food waste in the Waste section of the plan. The plan formally calls for the calculation of a diversion rate, which has beenc completed and subsequent increase in diversion rate, specifically through diversion of organic waste to compost. . Additionally, Columbia Dining is a Green Certified Restaurant and has committed to the measurable principles within the certification.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Grounds?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Grounds and the published plans in which each objective is included:

Columbia has set a goal and followed through on the completion of replacing the lawns on campus to improve water drainage and improve CSO issues in the city. Additionally, the Waste section of Columbia's sustainability plan includes waste reduction via changes in grounds practices and activity.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Purchasing?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Purchasing and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The Waste section of Columbia's plan calls for the engagement of preferred vendors to help support the University waste reduction and other sustainability goals, with particular attention to reducing plastic bottle waste on campus. The plan also calls for the development of user guidelines for socially and environmentally responsible purchasing.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Transportation?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Transportation and the published plans in which each objective is included:

As per Columbia's sustainability plan Columbia has committed to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from owned and contracted fleet vehicles. Values will be assigned to this measurement and mitigation once Columbia begins to report transportation-related data into the Climate Registry.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Waste and the published plans in which each objective is included:

As per Columbia's sustainability plan, Columbia has committed to calculate baseline metrics for all waste streams, to calculate the University's first waste diversion rate and ultimately, has committed to a reduction in material being sent to landfill. See link with quantitative update on waste metrics (page 15).
https://sustainable.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Sustainable%20Columbia%20Annual%20Progress%20Report%202017-18.pdf


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Water?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Water and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The University's Sustainability Plan calls formally for the creation of the SLN Workspace Certification program, within which stakeholders at the University formally commit to a variety of measurable goals around water, including: commitment to have Facilities and Operations install a sink aerator with an on/off lever that does not exceed 1.5 gallons per minute, if aerators are present. It also includes a commitment to create a budget for low-flow appliances (such as toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines etc.).


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Diversity & Affordability and the published plans in which each objective is included:
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Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Investment & Finance and the published plans in which each objective is included:

The University's sustainability plan set a goal of creating a green revolving fund. That fund, of $3 million, has been formed and is allocated for the completion of ECMs and RCMs. Columbia has also set measurable goals around the completion of these ECMs and RCMs
Additionally, the University has created the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing to make decisions around Investment and Finance as it pertains to the environment and climate. To ensure that the Committee is broadly representative of the University community, its twelve voting members are drawn in equal proportion from students, faculty, and alumni of the University, and the process for the appointment of its members provides for balanced representation, over time, of the University's divisions and schools. Two University officers sit as non-voting members in addition to the twelve voting members.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address Wellbeing & Work and the published plans in which each objective is included:

Columbia's sustainability plan called for the creation of the Sustainable Leaders Network, a program that measures the progress of participants in eight different areas, one of which is Wellbeing and work. Participants are given a quantitative score based on their purchasing habits of dish soap, presence of plants in their office, use of low-VOC paint, etc.


Taken together, do the plan(s) reported above include measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas (e.g. arts and culture or technology)?:
No

A list or sample of the measurable sustainability objectives that address other areas and the published plans in which each objective is included:

n/a


Does the institution have a formal statement in support of sustainability endorsed by its governing body (e.g. a mission statement that specifically includes sustainability and is endorsed by the Board of Trustees)? :
Yes

The formal statement in support of sustainability:

At Columbia, we have long understood the profound threat climate change poses to
the future of our planet and the role our community should play in confronting it. As part of that effort, at the beginning of this academic year we adopted a new set of
principles aimed at improving the environmental sustainability of the University. Developed by a group of Columbia University Earth Institute faculty and University Facilities and Operations—and strengthened by students, faculty, and staff who participated in a series of town hall meetings—the principles focus on three areas: advancing our educational, research, and outreach missions; improving energy efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of campus operations; and fostering a University culture that embraces sustainability. With this Sustainability Plan, we are taking a major step toward turning those principles into practice. Our University extends over 332 acres and 172 buildings and includes approximately 31,000 students and 16,000 employees. This large footprint describes the scale of our opportunity for lessening the impact we have on the environment, from reducing the energy we consume and the waste we produce, to minimizing the carbon dioxide we add to our warming planet. The first major step in turning the previously announced principles into practice will focus on improving the sustainability of the Morningside campus’s operations through a targeted, three-year plan. Our other campuses will later be incorporated into the process. Columbia’s leadership must continue to be reflected not only through the towering scholarship of our climate experts, but also through the ways in which we consume energy in—and travel to and from—the buildings where we live, learn, and conduct research. This Sustainability Plan commits the University to a series of goals; here I will highlight a few of the most important ones: Starting in 2018, we will make public comprehensive data on our greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with best international practices, providing critical information about our carbon footprint and how it is generated. By 2020 we will reduce by 35 percent, from 2006 levels, the University’s greenhouse gas emissions in two critical areas: the stationary combustion of fuel for our buildings and purchased electricity. Ultimately, our longterm goal is to align with the New York City
target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The adoption of the Sustainability Principles and the creation of our first Sustainability Plan are parts of a University-wide approach to addressing the existential threat posed by climate change. Most significant in this effort is the basic research conducted by Columbia’s faculty and actively engaged student body working in schools and departments across the University. In addition, through our actions, policies, and behavior, we provide a model for the kind of global response we seek. Examples include the University Trustees’
decision last month to divest from companies substantially engaged in thermal coal production, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s recent commitment to use solar power for 75 percent of its electrical energy needs. I am grateful to the students, faculty, staff, and administrators who participated in the working groups that made this Plan stronger through their contributions. In particular, I want to thank Professor Michael Gerrard and Executive Vice President David Greenberg, who led this effort along with other members of the Senior Sustainability Advisory Committee and the Environmental Stewardship Office. As with all plans, the true measure of this Sustainability Plan will be found not in the promises we make today, but through what we do in the months and years ahead to fulfill these commitments. I am confident that we will meet them.

Sincerely,
Lee C. Bollinger
President, Columbia University in the City of New York


The institution’s definition of sustainability (e.g. as included in a published statement or plan):

n/a


Is the institution an endorser or signatory of the following? :
Yes or No
The Earth Charter No
The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) No
ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter No
Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment (formerly known as the ACUPCC), Resilience Commitment, and/or integrated Climate Commitment No
The Talloires Declaration (TD) No
UN Global Compact No
Other multi-dimensional sustainability commitments (please specify below) No

A brief description of the institution’s formal sustainability commitments, including the specific initiatives selected above:

The University has created wide-reaching Sustainability Principles, and a more operations-based Sustainability plan to formalize the work on campus, and engage stakeholders around the University to move the needle and create sustainable change.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.