Campus Sustainability News

News on campus sustainability initiatives, emerging programs, rankings, awards, student initiatives, green teams, and more from across the Cornell University campus.

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The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has released its 2020 Sustainable Campus Index.  See how Cornell compares as one of the top-ranked institutions in the nation for comprehensive sustainability efforts.

a woman hiking in the gorges

Carolyn Finney, author of “Black Faces White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors,” and scholar-in-residence at the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College, will give a lecture about her nationally recognized work to increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to inform and determine policy and action on environmental issues. It is offered in partnership with Ithaca Children’s Garden, The Learning Farm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and takes place virtually on Thursday, February 25, 2021, at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public on Zoom; pre-registration required.

Inside a steel manufacturing plant.

Sludge, slag and other waste produced by the steel industry are not only hazardous to the environment, but can be expensive for companies to discard. A new research project led by Cornell will seek an integrated approach to turning that waste into valuable materials using a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

a student wearing a mask while on her computer

A live virtual event focused on preventing future pandemics, recognizing that human health is inextricably linked to the health of wildlife, livestock and the environment, will be moderated by New York Times journalist Thomas L. Friedman with a keynote address from noted naturalist Jane Goodall. The webinar, titled “Emerging Disease, Wildlife Trade and Consumption, and the Need for Robust Global Governance: Exploring Ways to Prevent Pandemics,” will take place Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon and is co-hosted by the College of Veterinary Medicine, the World Wildlife Fund and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

a view of Beebe Lake on a sunny day

The 2021 Climate Change Series provides a range of perspectives on the science of climate change and its implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems and offers significant economic, ethical, and policy insights. “This seminar series brings in the brightest minds from across the world in different disciplines to understand the difficulty and complexity of climate change and the innovations already in progress to solve this problem," says Professor Peter Hess, who leads the seminars.

Bill Nye ’77 (left) and marine biologist and conservation expert Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (right) discussed climate solutions at the December New York Sustainability Conference.

Cornell is teaming up with climate justice leaders to build sustainability efforts across the University community, reviving its commitment to the environment in light of the pandemic and worldwide movements for racial and social equality. In collaboration with the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education and Ithaca College, Cornell hosted the 2020 State of New York Sustainability Conference in December, featuring well-known figures in the science community, including Bill Nye ’77, Sen. Rachel May (D-N.Y.) and marine biologist and conservation expert Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. 

Deforestation in the Amazon has dramatically increased in recent years, threatening the ecosystem and local communities.

The Amazon River Basin is under threat, largely at the hands of humans. To help change that, Prof. Carla Gomes, computer science, Prof. Alexander Flecker, ecology and evolutionary biology, and Rafael Almeida, postdoctoral researcher with the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, designed an interdisciplinary research project to inform policymakers of the environmental consequences of human actions. 

Through installations of flood gates, walls to block water and drainage system cleaning, residents worked to remain in place amid evolving risk, Cornell research has found.

Despite severe, frequent flooding in coastal regions in the Philippines due to climate change, most residents do not consider migration as a short-term solution, according to new Cornell research. Lindy Williams, professor of global development and a member of the Migrations Lab, profiled two cities, one in Luzon and one in Bulacan, as they face the risks and consequences of frequent flooding.

Dimension Energy demonstrates their reactor where carbon dioxide meets sunlight to create environmentally friendly fuel.

Dimensional Energy – a Cornell McGovern Center startup company that can capture industrial carbon dioxide and then convert it by way of sunshine into an environmentally friendly products like aviation fuel – has emerged as one of two finalists in the $20 million Carbon X Prize competition.

wind turbines in the ocean

 Cornell wind energy scientists have released a new global wind atlas – a digital compendium filled with documented extreme wind speeds for all parts of the world –  to help engineers select the turbines in any given region and accelerate the development of sustainable energy.  This wind atlas is the first publicly available, uniform and geospatially explicit (datasets tied to locations) description of extreme wind speeds, according to the research, “A Global Assessment of Extreme Wind Speeds For Wind Energy Applications,” published Jan. 25 in Nature Energy.