Emory University in Atlanta has long been internationally renowned for its liberal arts, graduate and professional academic programs. More recently, the university has received acclaim for its green initiatives. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) named Emory University the nation’s top higher education institution in its annual “Best of Green Schools 2013” report.

Yet Emory didn’t set out to win awards when it made sustainability a core commitment a decade ago. In 2004, the university’s President James Wagner, Provost Earl Lewis and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl simply set a vision “to help restore the global ecosystem, foster healthy living and reduce the university’s impact on the local environment,” according to Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives.

The school’s sustainability achievements include:

  • The Piedmont Project, an annual workshop that teaches faculty and graduate students how to incorporate sustainability into classroom curriculums.
  • Sustainability-related courses offered in 47 departments across campus.
  • A bus fleet powered entirely by a biodiesel blend made with used cooking oil from campus cafeterias.
  • Reduced petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by offering local and sustainable food in its facilities. By 2015, Emory will be serving 75 percent local or sustainable ingredients in campus and hospital cafeterias.
  • Roughly half of the University’s 700 acres of land remains undeveloped, supporting the protection of the Wesley Woods, Baker, and Lullwater forests.
  • Reduced water and energy use, and waste reduction. For instance, Emory’s water management plan encourages incorporating water-saving technology into green buildings, cisterns to collect grey water and rainwater for use in irrigation and toilet flushing. In some buildings, large heat wheels pull moisture from the air while efficiently ventilating buildings.
  • Since 2001, all new construction on campus has been required to seek at least LEED silver certification [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.].

USGBC has recognized Emory for having among the highest number of square feet of LEED-certified space of any campus in America, with 11 buildings having achieved LEED gold status and six projects pending that, once certified, will total 3 million gross square feet of LEED-certified space.

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