UH pledges carbon neutrality by 2050 in new sustainability plan

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The University of Hawaii (UH) has adopted an executive policy on sustainability that sets a number of significant goals, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and provides a framework for the university to achieve more sustainable operations with reduced negative environmental impact.

The new policy was approved electronically by UH President David Lassner at the kickoff of the 3rd Annual Hawaii Sustainability in Higher Education Summit, a gathering at UH Manoa of students, faculty, staff and administrators from throughout the state.

The policy sets specific targets for reducing energy consumption and increasing utilization of renewable energy in five-year increments. Other highlights of more sustainable operations include striving for LEED Gold in new construction projects, developing energy management systems, tracking water conservation, reducing transportation impact, increasing utilization of local food products, and establishing a Green Purchasing Policy.

Lassner said, “I want to thank the many students, faculty, and staff from across the UH System who have contributed to creating our university’s sustainability policy. We have set bold goals for ourselves, and we are committed to putting in place the framework to achieve success as we become a model for global sustainability and help the State of Hawaii meet its energy independence goals.”

In January 2014, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents incorporated sustainability explicitly within the university’s mission by stating: “Within its unique geographical location, the university will serve as a leader in how it stewards the resources of the islands and the world for the benefit of all. The university shall be a global leader and model for the integration of sustainability throughout its teaching, research, operations, and public service.”

The regents then tasked the UH administration with advancing implementation. The new executive policy was developed by a diverse group of students, faculty and staff from across the system and will serve as a guiding framework for the university’s 10 campuses to implement sustainability plans moving forward.

The policy calls for curriculum development across the UH system that will help to equip UH graduates with the skills to thrive in and contribute to the growing global green economy, identifies the importance of supporting sustainability research and scholarship with appropriate integration into UH teaching and learning, and calls for sustainability initiatives and partnerships to embrace Hawaii’s indigenous wisdom and host culture.

It also calls for a new Office of Sustainability, Sustainability Council and Sustainability Curriculum Council to lead and coordinate systemwide efforts across the 10 campuses of the University of Hawaii.

The Sustainability Summit continues at UH Manoa through Friday, concluding with an awards ceremony.

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