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.

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

  • Updating the Climate Action Plan - the campus climate action plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2035 requires an update every five years. The latest update will ensure greater engagement potential for the campus community.

  • Exploring Supplemental District Energy Technologies

  • Green Hydrogen Working Group

  • Land-Based Carbon Sinks Working Group

  • Supported & Living Laboratory Projects:

    • Earth Source Heat - Ensure senior administrative support for the ongoing success of Earth Source Heat

    • Parking Solar PV Canopy - Exploring potential for solar covers in new and existing parking lots on campus

    • Campus Metabolism Study / GHG Scope 3 Accounting for Campus Purchasing - research to advance a deeper look at the campus purchasing trends, assign a greenhouse gas emissions impact, and identify the leading scientific methodologies for ongoing measurement


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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.

  • Living Laboratory Projects

    • Purchasing LifeCycle Analysis - Scope 3 carbon impact analysis of Cornell purchasing and identification of high-impact areas for sustainability improvement across the operational landscape

    • Sustainability Dashboard - Creation of a campus sustainability metrics-dashboard to improve business-level decision making and allow the campus community to see sustainability results and changes over time


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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 and sustainability knowledge and skillsets for all students, beginning with the creation of a "To-Do List Module" focusing on climate change in Fall 2020.

    • Fall 2021 Update: Mission Sustainability To-Do List module improved and revised to ensure greater climate and sustainability literacy assessment components, in order to study student knowledge and behaviors over time

    • Fall 2020 Update: This working group successfully launched a To-Do List module for all incoming students which included a climate and sustainability literacy assessment to aid administrators and faculty in assessing the efficacy of educational opportunities at Cornell, and a sustainability & climate change culture and sense of belonging video featuring students, faculty, and staff exploring avenues for involvement in key issues at Cornell.  This module will be required for all incoming students in all semesters. 

  • Behavior Change & Choice Architecture
    Assess high-impact opportunities to optimize sustainable behaviors in areas such as food, recycling, and energy management in coordination with SCC Campus Operations.

  • Living Laboratory Program Assessment 
    Establish a definition of living laboratory research & create a roadmap for program impact & alignment with key academic objectives and operational goal advancement.

  • Low Carbon Business Travel & Air Travel Carbon Offsets
    Develop a plan for piloting 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.

2019-2020 SCC Priorities

  • Protocol for Upstream Methane Leakage (Carbon Neutral Campus)
    Recommend a protocol for Cornell to assess and report the upstream methane emissions associated with natural gas use at the Central Energy Plant.  

  • Make or Buy Summer Electricity (Carbon Neutral Campus)
    Analyze the carbon impact of making power at the Central Energy Plant when waste heat cannot be utilized, vs. buying power from the grid.  

  • Transportation Impact Prioritization (Campus Operations)On hold / postponed due to COVID19
    Evaluate and create a prioritization matrix for Cornell’s investment across four sustainable transportation areas: Transportation Demand Management (TDM), updating fleet vehicles, improving access to public transit, and electrification solutions to improve adoption of sustainable commuting & business travel.