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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Wheat and corn are shown growing side by side. Researchers from CALS have developed a tool, FAST-GHG, to help farmers quantify greenhouse gas emissions in crop production.

An important tactic for slowing climate change is for private companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but knowing exactly how much they’re emitting can be a challenge.  To address this need, researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) have developed an online greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting tool, FAST-GHG, to help quantify these emissions in crop production.

a field of flowers

Soil holds about three times as much organic carbon as the atmosphere, which means that making strategic changes to how soil systems are used could play a major role in combating climate change.  With that in mind, two Cornell soil scientists have helped develop a powerful new tool that will help researchers and policymakers map the global potential for carbon sequestration. Soils Revealed is an open-access, interactive platform that uses cutting-edge technology to model how soil organic carbon has fluctuated over the last 11,000 years and to project soil’s future carbon-storing capacity.

Students relax in the clearing by Sage Hall after class in October.

Sarah Brylinsky, who works in the Campus Sustainability Office, said she sees the current pandemic as a time where innovation for sustainability can thrive and make Cornell a model for other universities. “[I am] confident that Cornellians … are destined to help us create a future in which our choices as a society are overall better across each of sustainability’s areas of focus — including learning from the current global challenges to help inform a new future,” Brylinsky said.

Bob Bushey from PFG and Eric Moyer from Cornell Dining unload a food delivery for North Star Dining Room at the Appel Commons loading dock.

When three of the region's higher education institutions discovered they shared a sudden need to find a new primary food distributor, Cornell University, Ithaca College, and SUNY Cortland realized they had an opportunity to gain some efficiencies while continuing to influence collegiate dining trends. All three schools prepared requests for proposals to food distributors that could operate in Central New York, and all three were able to compare notes on the candidates. 

Soybeans grow through a layer of crimped rye, a cover crop that facilitates weed suppression and is a sustainable alternative to tilling. CREDIT: Sarah Pethybridge/Provided

Organic field crop farmers in the Northeast and Upper Midwest are facing an increasing number of challenges related to more extreme weather events and pest and disease outbreaks. Now, a Cornell-led team of experts will support organic agriculture by developing more sustainable practices that balance the tradeoffs between productivity, environmental impact and growers’ quality of life. The project, “Taking Tillage Out Of Organic Grain Crop Production With Ecology, Tools, And Technology,” launched this fall, thanks to a four-year, $2 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.

Drew Harvell, far right, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and former Cornell Atkinson faculty director, examines starfish with students at Friday Harbor Labs on the coast of Washington state in 2014.

As it turns 10, Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability is celebrating its accomplishments while focusing with renewed urgency on creating more powerful ways to translate knowledge into action.  The stakes have never been higher. 

Cornell rankings

The University swept top spots in national sustainability rankings for the 2020 year after being recognized as one of the most sustainable higher education institutions by the Sierra Club, Princeton Review, AASHE's Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, and the Carbon Commitment run by Second Nature.

Solar panels

Max Zhang, a professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has been awarded a 2 ½-year, approximately $200,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for work aimed at determining efficient solar farm array configurations to avoid land-use conflicts or spoiling precious agricultural space.

The Bioswale Garden at Cornell Botanic Gardens cleanses stormwater runoff from the adjacent parking lot, before it flows into Beebe Lake.

Cornell’s Sustainable Landscapes Trail now can be explored virtually, in a new narrated video tour from Cornell Botanic Gardens.
The 16 sites on the trail promote open spaces, natural areas and landscapes with unique sustainability features that enhance and promote healthy ecosystems. Most of these features were designed with staff, student, faculty and research collaboration.

CALS Dean Benjamin Z. Houlton

An accomplished environmental scientist, new CALS Dean Benjamin Z.  Houlton has published more than 130 academic papers. He is internationally recognized for his research on ecosystem processes and for creating collaborations that drive sustainable agriculture and energy production.