As part of its Clinton Global Initiative University efforts, Washington University in St. Louis has announced a major institutional commitment to action around the important issue of sustainability.
“Human health and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked,” says Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration. “As a university community, one of the most important things we can do is consume less. Consuming less reduces greenhouse gas emissions; cuts down on fossil fuel consumption; and positively impacts air and water quality, public health, climate patterns, agricultural production and more.”
As such, Washington University is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent by 2020, reverting to 1990 levels.
To advance this goal, the university has established an Energy Conservation Investment of $30 million that will enable the university to accelerate investments in:
• greater energy efficiency
• improved heating and cooling
• better waste management
Students, faculty and staff are committing to consume less as part of the university’s “Less Is More” campaign.
Taking simple actions such as turning off lights and recycling as much as possible, combined with the institutional investment, will result in lower emissions and preservation of natural resources.
While the university has accomplished much in recent years to reduce its environmental impact, these commitments strengthen the institution’s resolve to push this initiative to the next level.
“Society expects great universities to provide leadership on critical social issues and to be very wise stewards of our resources,” Webber said. “Our sustainability work does both.
“We’re showing how as a $2.3 billion economic engine, we can significantly reduce our environmental impact, and we can do so in a way that’s also economically viable. That frees up resources to invest in our primary missions of teaching, research and patient care.”
Sustainability at WUSTL
Washington University in St. Louis is a national leader in sustainability, a core priority that runs through all aspects of the campus community, operations and the university’s work as a leading research and teaching institution.
The university already has made great strides in the area of sustainability. While the university’s square footage has more than doubled since 1990, to 11.5 million square feet from 5.7 million square feet, the university has reduced its overall energy usage by 4 percent during this time.
Sixty-eight percent of waste was diverted from landfills in 2012 and the university has amassed more than $109 million in avoided energy costs since 1990.
Washington University is the hub of an international laboratory, training leaders while creating and nurturing ideas aimed at forging a more sustainable future. Significant global partnerships are helping to address issues of energy, environment and sustainability through international collaborative research efforts.
Neil Schoenherr is a senior news director in Public Affairs.