With a seemingly abundant supply of energy and enthusiasm, Mary Whitney leads the charge for sustainability initiatives at Chatham University! Chatham is recognized as one of the top five universities in the world for sustainability as measured by The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS), due in part to Mary’s leadership. As this week’s Insider, Mary shares her perspective on important sustainability trends and how Chatham is responding.
– What is a macro trend driving Chatham University’s uptake of sustainability that all organizations should be watching for their own interests?
The biggest macro trend that is influencing us is the upward trend in CO2 in the atmosphere, triggering a world-wide problem, and requiring immediate response. The second biggest trend is that institutions, businesses and cities are continuing to take the leadership role in taking action to eliminate C02 from their operations and processes as much as humanly possible. Using the power of formal commitment, over 800 universities are working steadily on this transformation, and we’re proud to be a leader in this.
– Please share an example of how Chatham has integrated sustainable practices in its operations that would be relevant to other organizations or businesses relative to resource conservation, employee care, or operational efficiencies and savings? (If you have more than one example, please do share, with three examples being the max.)
Chatham has integrated sustainability into our day-to-day operations and policies, and it is infused throughout our curriculum. We are coming into the final decade of our Climate Action Plan, with a carbon neutrality date of 2025. We are also seeking to be as close to zero carbon emissions as we can by the same date. We’re working to combine these goals by building net-zero buildings that generate more power than they use, and through a massive energy efficiency program and LED lighting retrofit program. To focus our efforts, we do annual greenhouse gas audits and track our progress across projects. We track electricity, natural gas, gas, water, waste, commuting-related emissions, even emissions from paper use. What Scope 1 and 2 we can’t eliminate entirely we balance with RECs. We are also working on ways to offset our Scope 3 emissions, particularly for travel.
The campuses are our sustainability lab, with students doing independent research or working with my office or other departments on a very broad range of projects. We’ve had everything from business classes developing self-funding mechanisms for our student Green Fund to making sustainability teaching games for incoming students.
– What would leaders be surprised to know about Chatham’s own sustainability challenges and opportunities?
Something people may not know about us is that we have a lower carbon footprint now than we did when we began even though we have had a 50% increase in building square footage and a 25% increase in students.
2007: net emissions 7245 metric tonnes CO2 | 2015 5751 metric tonnes CO2