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Report Card 2011

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Cornell University
College Sustainability Report Card 2011

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Cornell University

School details:

  Grade higher than last year


Endowment: $4,570 million as of March 31, 2010

Location: Ithaca, New York


Campus Survey: Yes (see response)

Dining Survey: Yes (see response)

Endowment Survey: Yes (see response)

Student Survey: Yes (see response)


Please note: Data was collected in summer 2010 and may no longer be current.


Data compiled from survey responses, when available, and from independent research, when needed. For more information on data collection and evaluation, please see the  Methodology section.

Overall grade  
A -
Cornell includes sustainability components in its master plan and ten-year strategic plan. The President's Sustainable Campus Committee has completed a climate action plan, and the university's Department of Energy and Sustainability employs a full-time sustainability coordinator.
Cornell has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent since 2008 and aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. Two solar hot water systems generate an estimated 100 million BTUs annually, and the campus features a 1-megawatt hydroplant and 17 kilowatts of photovoltaic arrays. A renewable cooling system saves 25 million kilowatt-hours per year and provides 95 percent of cooling energy for the campus.
Cornell spends 11 percent of its food budget on local products and follows sustainable fisheries guidelines for seafood purchases. Ten percent of beef and 85 percent of dairy products are hormone free. Fair trade coffee is available, and discounts are offered for using reusable bags and mugs. Preconsumer food scraps are composted at all meals. Electronics are collected for recycling, and all landscaping waste is composted or mulched.
All new buildings must be at least LEED Silver certified and minimally 30 percent more energy efficient than established standards. The campus includes three LEED-certified buildings, and eight others are awaiting certification. To reduce water use, all buildings are metered for water use; most buildings feature low-flow plumbing fixtures; and xeriscaping technology is utilized.
Students living in the Ecology House organize educational outreach programs for the school community. Six student interns work on environmental initiatives, and more than twenty student groups focus on sustainability issues such as reducing bottled water use, encouraging the university to move toward climate neutrality, bringing sustainable food to dining halls, establishing a bike-share program, and running an organic farm.
All employees and first-year students receive free bus passes, and returning students receive discounted passes. Staff and faculty are offered discounted and preferred parking for carpooling. Forty-five percent of employees and 91 percent of students commute to campus via environmentally preferable methods.
The university makes a list of all holdings available to trustees and senior administrators. A list of votes cast on proxy resolutions on a company-specific level, including the number of shares, is made available to all members of the school community at the investment office.
The university aims to optimize investment returns, and the endowment is currently invested in renewable energy funds. The university also uses investment managers who consider environmental and sustainability factors.
The university asks that its investment managers handle the details of proxy voting. The university reviews its voting records annually to ensure that they are in keeping with its proxy voting policy related to corporate governance and sustainability issues.
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