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About Us
Ciannat Howett
Director of Sustainability Initiatives
Adjunct Associate Professor
Emory University

Now released! The Emory Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan for 2015-2025.


Emory defines sustainability as relating to quality of life: a community is sustainable if economic, social, and environmental systems provide a healthy, productive, and meaningful life for all community residents, present and future. Sustainability supports and incorporates many aspects of Emory’s mission—educational, healthcare, and operational. Sustainability provides a multi-disciplinary framework for broadening student and employee perspectives on the economic, social, and environmental factors shaping our lives and our world, our interdependence as a local and global community, and the impact of our actions on future generations. Pursuing sustainability allows Emory to more fully enact our principles and provide equitable opportunities for satisfying livelihoods and study through a safe, healthy, and high quality of life for current and future generations.

As part of its commitment to positive transformation in the world, Emory has identified sustainability as a top priority of the University. Since 2005, Emory has worked to implement the 2005-2015 Strategic Plan and has made many strides advancing energy efficiency, water conservation, alternative transportation, sustainable food, waste reduction and sustainability education and outreach, amongst several other goals. Building on the success and accomplishments of the last 10 years, a new vision was crafted through the participation of the Emory community – including students, staff and faculty—resulting in the Emory Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan for 2015-2025.

Emory's newest vision calls on the Office of Sustainability Initiatives to continue restoring our global ecosystem, fostering healthy living and reducing the University's impact on the local environment. Other areas of focus include supporting culture change to enhance sustainable behavior in the Emory community, expanding the network of sustainability champions, using Emory landscape, buildings and operations to model sustainable choices, and creating strategic partnerships with local, national and international institutions to build flourishing and resilient communities. Progress will be assessed using the environmental, economic, and social "triple bottom line" of sustainability.

When applying the triple bottom line of sustainability, the decisions and choices made by Emory must pass a new set of filters: What is the social impact of this decision? The environmental impact? The economic impact? What will be the local impact? The global impact? The impact to future generations?

Sustainability Initiatives at Emory include:
Building green:
Emory has a well-established program in green building. The University currently has one of the largest inventories of LEED certified green buildings by square footage among campuses in America. Since 2001, all of Emory's new construction has met LEED standards with LEED silver as the minimum design standard. More than 28 buildings have been built or renovated to LEED standards. This commitment to green building helped Emory meet the goal of reducing campus energy use per square foot by 25 percent from 2005 levels, with over $25 million in costs avoided. Using this as a baseline, the new 2025 goal is to reduce university campus energy use per square foot by 50 percent and total energy use by 25 percent. Emory also plans to self-generate 10 percent of energy used on campus to replace fossil fuel sources.

Integrating sustainability into the curriculum:
Emory boasts one of the longest-running faculty development programs in sustainability in the country. Named the Piedmont Project after the ecosystem in which the campus is located, the program has trained more than 130 faculty participants from every school and division within the University - from medicine to journalism. Emory faculty now train faculty from other schools across the country about how to create sustainability programs on their campuses. Since 2005, Emory has created or renovated over 300 courses that engage sustainability issues (offered in 57 percent of all academic departments across the university) and developed two minors related to sustainability. Our 2025 goal is to increase the number of sustainability-related courses taught across the university by 25 percent, and to integrate sustainability into academic programs, degrees, and experiential learning opportunities to assure universal sustainability literacy.

Promoting commute options:
In 2006, Emory introduced the Cliff shuttle. Emory's shuttle fleet is one of the largest in Georgia—transporting millions of riders annually—and is 100 percent alternatively-fueled, powered by biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil from the school's cafeterias and hospitals. By 2025, Emory's goal is to expand the Cliff Shuttle and opportunities for safe biking and walking on all campuses and healthcare centers, amongst other initiatives in support of alternative commute options.

Protecting green space:
In 2004, Emory's trustees adopted a Land Use Classification plan that identifies areas appropriate for development and set aside over half of the campus as protected green space. Emory instituted a No-Net-Loss-of-Forest-Canopy Policy that guarantees that, every time a tree is removed, enough trees will be planted to maintain the same forest canopy. By 2025, Emory's goal is to shift from this policy to a Net Positive forest canopy policy. Additionally, Emory plans to eliminate the planting of invasive species on campus; protect fragile ecosystems by removing invasive species in at least 25 percent of campus woods; reduce turf grass on Druid Hills and Oxford campuses by 15 percent and replace with biodiverse woodland and shrubbery areas, using drought-tolerant plant palette; and to transition to herbicide and pesticide alternatives with the goal to reduce or eliminate their use. This will be safer for pollinators and people, and in line with the Emory Pollinator Protection Plan.

Conserving water:
Emory's comprehensive water management plan encourages incorporating water-saving technology into our green buildings, cisterns collect grey water and rainwater for use in irrigation and toilet flushing. In some buildings, large heat wheels pull moisture from the air while efficiently ventilating buildings. The condensation from the heat wheels on Emory's Children's Pediatric Center and the Whitehead Biomedical Research Buildings alone amount to roughly four million gallons of water a year for Emory's chilled water system. In 2014, Emory inaugurated the WaterHub facility that will reduce potable water consumption as much as 40 percent and save the university millions in water utility costs over a 20-year period. This award-winning facility is the first system of its kind installed in the United States, and is capable of recycling up to 400,000 gallons-per-day –nearly 40 percent of Emory’s total campus water needs. Emory's goal is to eliminate drinking water use for heating, cooling, toilet-flushing, and other non-potable uses, with a goal to reduce Emory water use by 50 percent from 2015 levels by 2025.

Recycling waste:
Since 2005, Emory diverted 95 percent of construction waste from landfills and currently diverts over 40 percent of non-construction and non-hazardous waste. By 2025, Emory goal is to divert 95 percent of non-construction waste from municipal waste landfills (except regulated lab and medical waste); compost, recycle, or reuse at least 95 percent of food waste, non-hazardous animal bedding and construction materials; meet or exceed leading healthcare industry rates of waste reduction/reuse/recycling to 37.5 percent; and divert 20 percent of non-hazardous medical waste from municipal landfills. Additionally, by 2020, Emory plans for all university events to be zero municipal landfill waste.

Providing local and sustainably grown food:
Emory's sustainable food initiative reduces petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the distance food is shipped from farm to table; and in turn, promotes health and wellness. Sustainably grown food includes the attributes of organic farming, but also includes worker safety and fair wage protections. Emory's 2005-2015 sustainability vision statement set an ambitious goal of 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in Emory hospitals and cafeterias by 2015. By 2025, Emory's vision includes expanding sustainable food purchases (either locally grown or sustainably grown) in Emory Dining to 50 percent by 2016, to 60 percent by 2019, and to 75 percent by 2025. In 2014, Oxford College Organic Farm was inaugurated to provide healthy food to the Oxford and Atlanta dining halls, to CSA subscribers and to a Newton County food pantry. By 2020, Emory aims to provide 50 percent of the Oxford campus produce needs and 5 percent of the Atlanta campus produce needs with food grown at the Oxford Organic Farm. Additionally, Emory plans to expand efforts for urban food production and education, including the Emory Educational Garden Project.

Climate action:
In accordance with Emory's 2011 Climate Action Plan, Emory's goal is to reduce 20 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, 36 percent by 2036, and 50 percent by 2050. Emory University does not currently have any holdings in public companies producing fossil fuels through funds managed directly or managed for us by investment managers, based on information compiled and maintained by Fossil Free Indexes. Emory also holds investments in sustainable businesses and businesses with exemplary sustainability performance.

Social dimensions of sustainability:
Emory's 2015-2025 vision aims to support and extend efforts for social equity and economic opportunity by connecting sustainability strategic goals with recommendations of Class and Diversity Committee, in order to enhance access for all students and staff, regardless of means, to the full benefits of the Emory experience. This includes promoting universal design and continuing progress towards disability awareness and accessibility for all buildings, campus transit systems and Emory programs.

Emory's vision is to develop a model for healthy living on campus that can translate to communities around the globe. As a catalyst for sustainability in our the immediate community, for the region, and beyond. Emory's sustainability initiatives on campus hope to set an example for an ethical approach to creating a healthy and productive place to live, learn, and work.