What is Sustainability?

environmental protection - equity - economic development
Sustainability at Cornell:

Climate change is a reality, but at Cornell, we recognize that we have the capacity to positively influence the future through innovative collaborative efforts and individual actions. At Cornell, students, researchers, and the administration are dedicated to the principle of sustainability, or "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainability is a holistic approach to ensuring long-term stability for society and the planet through environmental protection, equity, and economic development.


Cornell has become a national leader in combating climate change and on February 23, 2007, President Skorton signed the President’s Climate Commitment, pledging Cornell to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Cornell’s commitment to sustainability is natural, as the founding principles of Ezra Cornell and A.D. White promote leadership in education and research, developing technologies to improve the world, and inspiring students to progressively embrace challenges. In September 2009, Cornell released the Climate Action Plan (CAP), which includes a step-by-step breakdown of forward-thinking solutions for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, including renewable energy research, alternative transportation, energy conservation, and green development.


Did you know...?

  • Cornell recently moved beyond coal with its new combined heat and power plant and will phase out coal entirely by mid-2011, a major step towards achieving carbon neutrality.
  • Cornell has several LEED-certified buildings on campus, including Alice H. Cook House and Weill Hall to ensure energy efficiency.
  • The Cornell Water Filtration Plant ensures the high quality of tap water on campus and downtown Ithaca, so drinking bottled water is unnecessary. Drinking tap water from a reusable bottle saves money and natural resources.
  • Cornell Dining locations offer discounts on drinks for students that bring their own reusable mugs. One coffee a day in a disposable cup contributes about 23 pounds of waste per year. Cornell’s fraternities and sororities are challenging themselves to live more sustainably through the student-led initiative, “Greeks Go Green.”
  • Cornell has an extensive compost system for leftover food, paper waste, and other compostable containers. Overall, Cornell composts about 4,100 tons of waste every year, while recycling 2,300 tons of waste. The waste sent to the landfill declined 40% since 1990.
  • Driving is NOT the best way to get around campus. Cornell and the City of Ithaca offer sustainable alternative transportation options, including ride-sharing programs such as Ithaca Carshare, free TCAT bus passes for all first year students, and the new student-led bike-share program called “Big Red Bikes.”
  • Cornell has its own student-run organic farm, called Dilmun Hill, which offers fresh produce at on-campus farmers’ market during the growing season. Volunteers are always welcome. E-mail dilmunhill@cornell.edu to get involved.
  • Eco-friendly products, including items made from recycled materials, reusable bottles, and energy efficient appliances, are available in the Cornell Store, located on Ho Plaza.