Columbia is a pioneer in the study of the environment and climate change. In the last several years, environmental sustainability has also become an increasingly important focus of the University’s operations. In 2006, the University established its Department of Environmental Stewardship, directed by former Clinton Administration official Nilda Mesa. This office works with faculty, staff, and students to lessen the environmental footprint of the University through a wide array of initiatives:
Green Building and Green Roofs
Columbia joined the U.S. Green Building Council three years ago. The new Gary Comer Geochemistry Building at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is the University’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building. Several other buildings, both new and renovated, will also be LEED certified. The new Manhattanville campus was selected for the LEED Neighborhood Development pilot program based on the smart-planning principles in its master plan, such as mixed uses and neighborhood access, and incorporating smart growth, new urbanism, and green building design. The University has also installed its first green roofs and has plans to institute the first-ever green roof research station in the New York metropolitan area.
Columbia has a comprehensive recycling program. In 2007, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, acting as a flagship for the University, garnered three trophies including two first places in the Environmental Protection Agency’s national Recyclemania competition, achieving the highest ranking in the Ivy League and besting more than 200 other colleges and universities. Columbia’s waste cooking oil is collected by a local nonprofit and sent to refineries to be converted into biofuel.
When students move in, they are given a “Green Guide” and a choice of sustainable living items with their orientation materials. Student EcoReps train all resident assistants in the contents of the guide, which offers practical tips on green computing, saving energy, recycling opportunities, and reducing waste. EcoReps run the annual Clean + Go Green program, which sends clothing and other items to local organizations such as the Salvation Army.
The University is located near major subway and bus stations, which encourages the use of public transit. Most students use public transportation. The University provides a shuttle service between its campuses. Shuttle buses use low-sulfur diesel fuel.
Sustainable Neighborhood Program
The U.S. Green Building Council has chosen Columbia University’s proposed Manhattanville expansion plan for a new “smart growth” pilot program. The plan was selected by USGBC because it commits to incorporating smart growth, new urbanism, and green building design principles. The planning design represents the best of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, the nationally accepted benchmark for green construction and design.