History of Sustainability at Ithaca

The embrace of sustainability at Ithaca College as a formal initiative may be relatively recent, but the move towards sustainability as a central principle in the life of the College is hardly novel.

In April 2001, President Peggy R. Williams approved the Comprehensive Environmental Policy, which was developed as a guiding framework by the Resource and Environmental Management Program (REMP). REMP, a coalition of students, faculty and staff collaborates to meet a number of broad-ranging campus environmental objectives, including integrating environmental education, increasing environmentally preferable purchasing, and improving waste management and resource reduction systems.

The underlying framework of sustainability emerged organically from the grassroots conversations among all constituencies of the College that led to the creation of the Ithaca College Institutional Plan, completed in the spring of 2001.

Some elements at the heart of the plan are:

  • Fiscal stability and stewardship
  • The continuing importance and role of four-year residential colleges that focus on the development of intellect and character
  • Full recognition of the changing world of higher education
  • Sense of community
  • An appreciation for and investment in our learning environment, both our physical plant and our natural surroundings

As we began to adopt the plan, we created initiatives, developed curricula, formed partnerships, and conceived improvements to our physical space.

In 2002, an interdisciplinary team of faculty and educators from EcoVillage at Ithaca were awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop sustainability themed courses and undertake related faculty curriculum development efforts.

In Spring 2005, the Sustainability subcommittee of the Planning and Priorities Committee completed an assessment of the strong interlinks between tenets of sustainability and our institutional plan; this report is entitled "The Institutional Plan and Sustainability."

In February 2006, President Peggy Williams, flanked by all members of the President’s Cabinet and other campus representatives, signed the Talloires Declaration, an internationally recognized pledge of commitment developed by University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. The 10-point action plan called for in the Talloires Declaration further commits Ithaca College and our campus community to a path toward campus sustainability. In May 2006, a progress report was prepared by the Office of Academic Affairs which detailed the campus’ achievement of goals called for in the Talloires Declaration during 2005.

In May 2007, President Williams signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging the Ithaca College community to develop a comprehensive plan and timeline to mitigate our negative impact on climate change. 

In 2008, a Bridge Plan update to the Institutional Plan more clearly spelled out support for sustainability efforts.

In late summer 2008, the department of Environmental Studies and Sciences was awarded a $500,000 grant from the HSBC in the Community Foundation to undertake the "Commit to Change" program, further expanding our sustainability educational efforts.

In Fall 2008, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), recognized Ithaca College with its Sustainability Leadership Award. It also recognized Sarah Brylinsky '09, student sustainability intern, with its Student Leadership Award for that year.

In Fall 2009, the Ithaca College Board of Trustees approved the Ithaca College Climate Action Plan, thus beginning our 40-year program to become 100% carbon-neutral by 2050.

In August 2011, Ithaca College completed its first comprehensive campus sustainability inventory, using the AASHE STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System). Ithaca College achieved a GOLD rating for its efforts. In Fall 2013, IC completed its second STARS assessment and again achieved a GOLD rating, but more importantly, made significant progress in a number of key areas, including a nice bump up in the number of courses offered with sustainability focus or significant content.