by Rachael Moreland, Second Nature Intern

This is an exciting time of the year for Second Nature, as our American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) signatories report on all of their efforts and achievements towards attaining their Climate Action Plan goals. Higher education institutions have the power to inspire people and lead communities into a sustainable future. Here are a few noteworthy accomplishments from recent Progress Report submissions that I believe to be extremely inspiring and progressive in our shared goal of attaining sustainability.

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In 2012, Salisbury University signed an agreement with Blue Hen Organics. This recycling center process-cleans non-toxic, non-hazardous, biodegradable materials such as yard waste, land clearing debris, construction wood, poultry manure, and food waste. These materials are professionally recycled into compost, topsoil, and specialty compost-based soil blends. Since signing with Blue Hen Organics, Salisbury University has had 100 percent of food waste (including paper products) from the dining hall composted into a soil enhancement product used by surrounding farmers and the University’s Horticulture Department. In 2013,this initiative helped keep 276 tons of waste out of local landfills.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has taken community engagement to an entirely new level. In addition to striving to become the first research university to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, UCLA has launched the UCLA Grand Challenge in Sustainability– a major university wide initiative focused on “getting Los Angeles to 100 percent sustainability in energy, water, and biodiversity by 2050”. With the understanding that energy consumption is on the rise, UCLA researchers are initiating this project by creating and improving technologies that will transition the region to 100% renewable energy.

In 2013, Creighton University employees and students joined together to participate in the Heartland Commuter Challenge. This month-long program encourages employees and students in the Omaha area to utilize alternative modes of transportation such as biking, walking, and taking the bus. The mission of the program is to improve air quality, save commuters their cash, and boost overall physical health. In 2013, more than 25 businesses and more than 100 area employees and students signed up for the challenge. Creighton Universitycame out on top, logging over 8,400 miles of alternative modes of transportation to the university.

Congratulations to Salisbury University, University of California Los Angeles, and Creighton University on these outstanding accomplishments! For more examples of great initiatives and stories of success, read our signatories’ progress reports in our Reporting System.