New Data Quantifies Environmental Impact of Colleges & Universities

Feb. 16, 2012 - The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), an agreement between nearly 700 colleges and universities to promote sustainability through teaching and action, today released new data on the positive environmental impact of colleges and universities across the country in reducing their carbon footprints.


ACUPCC reports emissions levels of nearly 700 colleges and universities

More than 300 colleges pledge climate neutrality before 2050

Collective now represents third-largest purchaser of RECs


Among the findings:

  • The 599 colleges that submitted greenhouse gas inventories reported CO2 emissions of 28m metric tons, roughly as much as 2.58m homes or 5.2m passenger vehicles emit annually
  • 306 institutions set a target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 or before; 93 pledged neutrality by 2030
  • Collectively, the ACUPCC network has purchased more than 1.28 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy credits (RECs), making it the third-largest buyer in the country


Avoiding catastrophic climate change will require transforming our economy, our institutions, our daily lives within a generation.  Only higher education has the influence, the critical mass and the diversity of skills needed to do this.


John Olson, associate professor at Villanova University, an ACUPCC signatory, explained the value it derives from the network.


"The fact that Villanova is a signatory of the ACUPCC has helped focus our efforts in many ways. It has prompted us to collect data that are crucial to monitoring our progress. It has also forced us to set milestones for achieving specific and concrete goals and serves as a touchstone for developing academic programs on campus. Finally, the pledge we made when signing the Commitment has allowed us to join the broader coalition of institutions that have similarly committed to climate neutrality and sustainability; such collaboration is energizing."


The ACUPCC has fundamentally shifted higher education's attention on sustainability from a series of excellent but distinct programs to a strategic imperative of presidents, academic officers, business officers and trustees - becoming a key lens for measuring success. It represents a cultural shift to focus on all aspects of social, economic and ecological sustainability.


"This wealth of data speaks to the enormous commitment and impact our member colleges have made," said Dr. Anthony D. Cortese, president of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC.  "The ACUPCC truly is an example of courageous leadership by college and university leaders. This is the first major U.S. Sector to commit to climate neutrality and the first time since WWII that higher education in the US has collectively stepped forward to take on a major societal challenge without waiting for some external entity to request it or fund them."


ACUPCC data shows that signatory schools have secured on average $2,343,787 from outside sources to support efforts related to the Climate Action Plan.


The data is publicly available on the ACUPCC's online reporting system - - a platform that enables schools to quantify the sustainability activity that is taking place on their campuses, and hold themselves accountable by sharing their progress in a transparent way.


The full data set addresses current emissions levels, target dates for emissions reductions and climate neutrality, sustainability-related courses, degrees, and research initiatives, sources of funding, projects recently completed, and a wealth of other newsworthy information. The data is available in a variety of formats; contact Ulli Klein for more information. 




About the ACUPCC 

The ACUPCC is a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments from college and universities to accelerate the education, research and community engagement to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate, and eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations.


Learn more at:


About Second Nature

Second Nature works to create a healthy, just, and sustainable society by transforming higher education. Second Nature is the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, a growing network of over 675 signatory higher education institutions in all fifty states that have made a public commitment to transform the educational experience for all students so they are prepared to solve the climate crisis.


Learn more at: