Charge & Priorities

Sustainable Cornell Council

Committee Charges & Priorities

The Steering Committees of the Sustainable Cornell Council are charged with identifying, prioritizing, and advancing sustainability goals specific to their topic area, and task working groups to advance priorities each year.  Find out more about current priorities & work here.

General Committee Charges

Each Steering Committee sets priorities, then stands up working groups or solicits research and inquiry, for the academic year in order to meet overarching goals and principles outlined by the Sustainable Cornell Council charge. SCC Committees also help to support existing institutional sustainability efforts through administrative support and relationship building, and help facilitate living laboratory projects & culture change initiatives.

Sustainable Cornell Council Guidance Document: Committee Charges 

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Carbon Neutral Campus Committee

Advance campus carbon neutrality through implementation of the Climate Action Plan.

Working Priorities 

(Chairs) Lynden Archer, dean of engineering and Bert Bland, associate vice president for energy and sustainability

  • Green Hydrogen Working Group
    Evaluate the economic and environmental implications of green hydrogen for inclusion in the Cornell campus energy plan. Conduct an objective review and analysis of the current science around the viability of green hydrogen, produced from excess carbon free electricity, to be used as a backup or peaking fuel for the campus energy plant. 

  • Land-Based Carbon Sinks Working Group
    Identify and evaluate carbon sequestration and carbon sinks approaches, investments, and projects which have the potential to advance Cornell’s operations, climate action plan, and academic mission at scale. The group will select an appropriate GHG accounting methodology for this work, identify areas of potential impact, and create a prioritization matrix evaluating carbon reduction potential, cost to administer projects, and living laboratory research, teaching, and public engagement potential

  • Low Carbon Business Travel & Air Travel Carbon Offsets
    Pilot voluntary carbon offsets for air travel in order to reduce the carbon footprint associated with business travel.  Additionally, study the benefits of reduced business travel and remote business participation during COVID-19 to identify areas for long-term adoption which benefit the academic mission and wellbeing of the Cornell community.

  • Supported & Living Laboratory Projects:

    • Earth Source Heat
      Evaluate and, if viable, develop deep, direct-use geothermal to warm the Ithaca campus without the use of fossil fuels or refrigerants, and only minimal electricity. Learn more at

    • 100% Renewable Electricity
      Procure power and renewable energy credits from new-build renewable energy projects in NY state equivalent to the annual usage of the Ithaca campus

    • The BIG RED Energy Transition
      Build an Integrated Grid for Reliability, Efficiency, and Decarbonization by performing a comprehensive master planning of the energy transition away from fossil fuels for the Ithaca campus utility system. Campus-wide integrated planning includes 1) distribution system steam to hot water conversion 2) building-specific energy retrofits 3) benefits and costs of additional thermal energy storage 4) Central Energy Plant equipment physical needs assessment and renewal recommendations.

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Campus Operations Committee

Advance initiatives for a model sustainable campus that support climate resilience and human and planetary health

Working Priorities

(Chairs) Rick Burgess, vice president for facilities and campus services and Pat Wynn, assistant vice president for student and campus life

  • Purchasing and Inventory Optimization
    Improve procurement of building outfitting and systems maintenance inventory to reduce redundancy and waste in these systems, and improve the sustainability of core products such as building cleaning, lighting, etc.

  • Dining Operations Food Waste Reduction
    Evaluate opportunities for food and other waste-minimization in both process and products in Dining Services back-of-house operations.

  • EV transition and infrastructure Determine the appropriate charging infrastructure to accommodate on campus demand. 

  • Reduce Impacts from Deliveries & Packaging to Campus Residents Partner with Housing, Residential Life, and Student Service Centers to educate residential community about recycling opportunities, use of better signage, local offerings, and better shipping methods.

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Education & Engagement Committee

Cultivate literacy and a culture of sustainability responsibility that catalyzes participation across the campus community.

Working Priorities

(Chairs) Katherine McComas, vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs and Kathryn Boor, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education

  • Incoming Student Climate Literacy
    Advance climate change & sustainability knowledge and skillsets for all students through implementation and review of the Mission Sustainability To-Do List module & assessments, and facilitate programs to increase student knowledge and engagement throughout the year.

  • Campus as a Living Laboratory
    Develop plan to empower, connect, and build capacity among Cornell students, faculty, and staff to advance sustainability priorities on campus through curricular and extracurricular projects

  • Campus Events
    Facilitate adoption of sustainable practices across all campus events through student & employee training, resource development, data analysis, and program evaluation

  • Employee Education & Engagement
    Assess employee knowledge and attitudes on sustainability & climate change, and develop employee onboarding and professional development programs to emphasize the university's core values

  • Curriculum
    Advance climate change and sustainability literacy in the curriculum by developing enhanced experiential opportunities for students, and creating learning opportunities for faculty