Environmental Sustainability


A look at the clean construction program in Manhattanville (4:56)

Environmental stewardship is a cornerstone of Columbia University’s commitment to being a responsible member of the community. A longtime practitioner of environmental sustainability, the University works actively to maintain a safe environment for staff, students, and neighbors. In 2006, the University established the Office of Environmental Stewardship to initiate, coordinate and implement programs to reduce the University’s environmental footprint. The academic expansion in the old manufacturing zone of Manhattanville in West Harlem will provide an excellent opportunity for Columbia to utilize best practices in environmentally sustainable construction and design to help revitalize this area.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Columbia also reduces its environmental impact through recycling, proper disposal of waste and reduced consumption:

  • The University has a comprehensive recycling program. The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus placed first in the paper recycling and per capita categories and third overall in the 2007 nationwide Recyclemania competition.
  • Through Give + Go Green and Clean + Go Green, students, staff and faculty collect books, clothing and furniture that might otherwise be discarded and distribute them to local nonprofits.
  • Surplus food from residence dining halls is donated to City Harvest.
  • Columbia is establishing a Surplus Reuse Program to keep furniture and equipment out of the landfill.

Green Construction and Design
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) selected the University’s Manhattanville plan for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Neighborhood Design pilot program. The plan commits to incorporating smart growth, new urbanism and “green” building design principles. On existing campuses, several buildings under construction are registered as LEED buildings, and work on the University’s first green dorm is under way.

The Manhattanville Development has a comprehensive clean construction program. Mitigation measures focus on protecting historically significant structures within 90 feet of construction; minimizing noise and dust; and using an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management. Angled noise barriers and blankets minimize sound from the construction site while construction equipment is outfitted with air pollution control devices. Equipment is also designed to use electricity or ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which offers a significant reduction in particulates and other pollutants. Truck undercarriages and wheels are washed twice as they leave the site to limit dust in the air. Read more here.

Climate Commitment
Earlier this year, the University became a charter member of the Challenge Partner Program initiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Columbia and several other universities agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent over the next 10 years—roughly twice the reduction called for by the Kyoto Protocol. The University is also conducting a study to develop targets to meet the commitment.

Columbia has already begun reducing its greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Buildings at the Morningside and two satellite campuses have been separately metered to track energy consumption.
  • Columbia participates in a “demand-response” program, taking energy off the grid during peak demand periods.
  • As older vehicles in the University’s patrol fleet are retired, they are replaced with hybrid vehicles, which burn significantly less fuel per gallon.
  • Columbia uses Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent bulbs, timed lighting controls and energy-efficient windows.

Green Environment

  • The University works with local parks on planting and joint projects.
  • Last fall, the University installed the first of its "green roofs" on campus, reducing heat island effect and storm water runoff.
  • Columbia’s grounds program uses no chemical pesticides.
  • The University uses “green-seal certified” cleaning supplies and environmentally friendly paint.

Health and Safety
The Office of Environmental Health and Safety utilizes safety training, laboratory and chemical safety, hazardous waste management, industrial hygiene, occupational safety, asbestos and lead management, biological safety, fire safety, chemical tracking and radiation protection. In addition, regular third-party inspections assure compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations.