About the Sustainability Commission
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The President’s Commission on Sustainability is a presidentially appointed planning and advisory group that (1) advises the President and Cabinet members on campus-wide sustainability initiatives, (2) provides guidance to the Strategic Planning Group, and (3) works to educate the campus community, within the three pillars of sustainability, i.e. environmental, social, and economic justice.
Sustainability at its simplest is that something can continue, in its current state, indefinitely. In its most holistic form, however, the word involves three realms or pillars: environment, economy, and society. Thus we want to “sustain” each of these areas as an institution and as part of a larger community. It is not only important to conserve and protect, but to conserve, protect, and provide equal access. While the focus is understandably on the environment, since it is vital to our continued success as a species, economic and social justice are also key to a sustainable college and world.
History of the Commission
In the fall of 2006, the Environmental Impact and Sustainability Task Force, comprised of faculty, students and staff from across departments and divisions at the college, was formed to implement strategies to reduce the College’s environmental impact. On June 26, 2007, President Christopher Dahl signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) which committed the College to calculating the College’s greenhouse gas footprint, setting a date for carbon neutrality and establishing an action plan for achieving that goal. In addition, the ACUPCC also committed the college to initiating at least two specific tangible actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the submission of the action plan. Geneseo fulfilled this part of the commitment by establishing a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least the equivalent of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard. In addition, the College has an appliance purchasing policy that requires the purchase of Energy Star certified products for all areas where these ratings exist, and has increased access to public transportation (through the RTS bus system) for the campus and wider community.
Beginning in 2008, the Task Force, along with members of the climate impact and monitoring subcommittee, conducted a baseline greenhouse gas inventory for the College. This inventory was completed and included comprehensive information on the College’s electricity, natural gas, transportation, solid waste, and wastewater contributions to greenhouse gas outputs from 1990-2009. This important information is critical for establishing a picture of the College’s current and historical greenhouse gas footprint, and as basis for predicting future trends in our greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2010, the Task Force submitted a Climate Action Plan to the College. This plan makes clear the actions that have already been taken to increase energy efficiency on campus, identifies new projects to reduce or offset our energy usage, and sets a timeline for climate neutrality with interim goals. The ultimate goal is to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 with less than 20 percent of the reduction at that time through purchased, off-site carbon credits.
President Dahl established The President’s Commission on Sustainability in 2012 and the Office of Sustainability was established in 2014.