On Feb. 22, Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner renewed the college’s commitment to sustainability by signing Second Nature’s Climate Commitment. With the signing, Colby-Sawyer becomes the 100th college to integrate a goal of carbon neutrality with climate resilience to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.
Second Nature is a nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to building a sustainable and positive global future through initiating bold commitments, scaling successful actions, and accelerating innovative solutions among leadership networks in higher education.
The commitment initiates a multi-year process that includes the completion of a baseline resilience assessment, the development of a college-community Task Force to evaluate those results, and the selection of metrics and benchmarks. The college will also update its Climate Action Plan to incorporate themes that emerge from the college’s strategic planning process, as well as the outcomes of the collaborative resilience work completed by students and local stakeholders this spring.
“Signing the Climate Commitment was the next logical step in Colby-Sawyer’s decade-long effort to pursue sustainable practices,” said President Stuebner. “I especially appreciate the resiliency approach that allows the institution to partner with local organizations to be as thoughtful as we can about the changing landscape of environmental, fiscal, health and other factors we will face. The trustees and I were impressed by the students’ careful analysis, and I look forward to learning more about their preliminary recommendations.”
Steps toward fulfilling the initiatives began this fall with environmental studies and environmental science majors in the Community-Based Research Project class. With guidance from Professor of Environmental Studies Leon-C Malan and Director of Sustainability Jennifer White ’90, 14 students conducted a resilience assessment that focused on Colby-Sawyer, the town of New London and the regional food shed.
Theresa Edick ’18, Emily Lopez ’17 and Jessie Murch ’17 presented the class’s work to the Colby-Sawyer Board of Trustees earlier this month for approval of the signing. In a shared statement outlining their process, they said, “It was exciting to have the opportunity to work as a team with fellow students in the major to focus on real-world issues and see how they correlate to us on different scales. The greatest feeling for us all was hearing that the hard work we put into this project was met by our end goal.”
Students have long been the driving force behind Colby-Sawyer’s sustainability initiatives. In 2007, nine students in the Community-Based Research Project class encouraged then-President Thomas C. Galligan Jr. to become a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. That pledge (now signed by nearly 600 institutions), as well as the 2010 GreenROUTES Climate Action Plan, set the college on its path to carbon neutrality. In 2015, Colby-Sawyer reached its first goal by achieving a 50 percent decrease in emissions; it also achieved all 43 goals identified for that timeframe related to energy, food, waste, transportation, water, curriculum and more.
Read more about Colby-Sawyer’s sustainability efforts.