November 6, 2015

A New Vision for the Future of Sustainability at Emory

As 2015 draws to a close, Emory looks to the future as it crafts a new Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan for 2016 – 2025. This new Vision will establish the major goals and guiding principles for sustainability initiatives across the University for the next ten years. The 2005 – 2015 Sustainability Vision paved the way for major advancements in energy reduction, green building, water conservation, waste diversion, and environmental curriculum development. Now, the new Vision will expand upon many of these goals and delves deeper by prioritizing culture change as well.

Under the 2005 – 2015 Sustainability Vision, Emory built or renovated 29 buildings to LEED standards, reduced campus energy use by over 25% per square foot, and diverted 95% of construction waste from landfills as well as 40% of non-construction, non-hazardous waste. The Cliff shuttle system was created to reduce carbon emissions by providing a more comprehensive public transportation option for the Emory community that runs on biofuels produced from cooking oil from Emory’s hospitals and campus kitchens. The new WaterHub, which opened in April of this year, now allows Emory to reclaim up to 400,000 gallons per day of its own wastewater for use in heating and cooling buildings, resulting in a 40% reduction in Emory’s water footprint.

Following this decade of transformation, the Visioning Committee was formed by Provost Claire Sterk and Executive Vice President Mike Mandl in fall 2014 to steer the campus to collectively decide how Emory can create a more sustainable campus and community over the next ten years. The draft Vision focuses on institutional and individual culture changes to ensure that sustainability is not just a feature of the buildings and operations, but also a value reflected in all aspects of the campus community. Some of the main points in the draft Vision include incorporating sustainability into any “first-impressions” of Emory, strengthening sustainability at orientation for both students and employees, and developing substantial sustainability leadership programs for faculty, staff, and students.

Since last spring, the Visioning Committee has conducted focus group sessions to gather feedback on the draft Vision from dozens of groups on campus. Throughout the month of September, the Committee sought broader community feedback on the draft Vision. A survey was distributed via email to every registered Emory email address and a “graffiti wall” was displayed at the weekly Emory Farmer’s Market. According to Visioning Committee Co-Chair Dr. Peggy Barlett, a majority of the suggested changes from the consultations were incorporated in some way into the Vision. The discussion fostered by the community feedback even led the Committee to add a new section to the draft document entitled Social Dimensions of Sustainability. The draft Vision will soon be submitted to the Emory administration and the University Senate for further feedback and approval, with a goal to have the final Vision document by early 2016.

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