Top Ten Sustainable Initiatives of Emory University


Emory University is a private research university located in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. It is one of the top 20 universities in the United States, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, and Newsweek named it one of the 25 “New Ivies” in the year 2006. Emory University is also extremely well known for it’s numerous sustainability initiatives. The university currently has one of the biggest inventories in regards to square footage for LEED Certified building space among all universities in the United States. The university also holds a policy that for every tree that is removed for a new construction project, another one needs to be planted. The university also received top ratings in the University Sustainability Report Card. Here are just a few of the sustainable initiatives taken on by Emory University.

1 ) Emory University Office of Sustainability. The Emory University Office of Sustainability is the primary body that assists with maintaining the sustainability initiatives throughout Emory’s campus. The Office of Sustainability at Emory remains committed to helping the university undergo a positive transformation on campus and with the Emory community, who will then take these ideas home and spread it further. The sustainability vision created by the Office of Sustainability at Emory University “Is to help restore the global ecosystem, foster healthy living, and reduce the University’s impact on the local environment.”

2 ) Administration. The administration at Emory University remains wholeheartedly committed to increasing sustainability efforts through the creation of a formal policy as well as three separate sustainability committees working on a number of initiatives, such as installing green roofs and solar panels.

3 ) Climate Change and Energy. Emory University has made the goal to reduce their total energy consumption by 25 percent per square foot below the 2005 levels by the year 2015. Currently, the university has always achieved a reduction of 13.7 percent. There are numerous energy conservation measures throughout the campus, including energy management systems, temperature setbacks, LED lighting, heat recovery systems, vending machine sensors, and temperature control timers.

4 ) Food and Recycling. Emory University remains committed to having a minimum of three-quarters of all food served in dining facilities throughout the campus from a sustainable or local source by the year 2015. Dining Services spends 51 percent of their annual food budget on locally grown and processed products, including meat, produce, baked goods, and dairy products. The university also uses fresh produce from the small educational gardens located around campus that are meant to raise awareness about local food and how to decrease fossil fuel use via local foods. All pre-consumer and postconsumer food scraps are composted at the meals and all used cooking oil is recycled for the production of biodiesel. Students, faculty, staff, and administration that use reusable mugs get discounts.

5 ) Green Building. As previously mentioned, Emory University has one of the largest inventories of LEED square footage. Currently, there are 14 LEED Certified buildings as determined by the United States Green Building Council, and five more buildings that meet LEED Certification criteria. There is also the very first LEED-EB Gold Certified building in the United States. All new buildings as well as major renovations need to meet LEED Certification standards. A large number of spaces around the campus have been repurposed for alternative uses. Emory University has also implemented a number of items to increase water conservation, including waterless urinals, low-flow showerheads and faucets, drip irrigation, greywater reuse, condensate recovery, as well as rainwater harvesting.

6 ) Student Involvement. Students who would like to are able to live in the Living Green community. All new students during orientation are introduced to the sustainability and zero-waste initiatives on campus. There are a number of student-led groups on Emory’s campus that are committed to addressing a number of sustainability issues. There is also an active eco-reps program on campus.

7 ) Transportation. Emory University heavily subsidizes local public transportation to make it a more feasible and more affordable option for students, faculty, administration, and staff. There is an alternatively fueled shuttle service that runs throughout campus. Employees that carpool to the university are provided with discounted parking as well as designated spots. All employees also have access to a board for ride matching. There is also a free bike repair service and free bike sharing program on campus. Lastly, Emory University has partnered with a car sharing program.

8 ) Office Supplies. Emory University believes that everything needs to be looked into in order to decrease the carbon footprint the university leaves, and this includes office products. Emory knows that carbon footprints are generated every time a vendor comes with a delivery truck to drop off more supplies. The senior director of the procurement and contract administration within the financial division said, “One of the ways to directly impact this is to consolidate office supply orders to include a minimum of $50 per order. Additionally, planning supply orders to be delivered less often and only placing ‘emergency’ orders when necessary will also minimize the University’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

9 ) Contest for Energy Savings. Every year, Emory University holds an annual contest to see how students, faculty, administration, and staff can modify daily behaviors and assist the university in reaching its sustainability objectives via simple actions, like unplugging not-in-use phone chargers or turning off lights when leaving a room. The Office of Sustainability sponsors the contest and provides cash incentives for buildings that do the best job. In 2010, 414,000 kilowatt hours of energy was saved, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 317 tons.

10 ) Holiday Building Turndown. Emory University has made a commitment to reduce their energy use any way they can…including during the winter vacation. During the holiday season, the university created a program to maintain the heating systems in selected buildings to 50°F minimum to reduce energy costs but still protecting the contents in the building. Other things included turning off all interior lights and all office equipment.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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