Duke University works inside and outside of the classroom towards solutions that integrate social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability. In 2015, Duke launched an experiential certificate in sustainability program, which institutionalizes sustainability in the student experience. This certificate program emphasizes a holistic approach to sustainability through coursework, group projects, and real-world application of knowledge. Bass Connections is a Duke-specific interdisciplinary year-long project for students, staff, and faculty to collaborate together outside of the classroom. Bass Connections has an energy-specific theme that has projects related to renewable energy policy, carbon markets, and energy efficiency. Duke hosts the Trillium Workshop annually, which educates faculty members on how to incorporate sustainability into their courses and educational activities.
Outside of the classroom, Duke offers engagement opportunities, sustainability competitions, and campus leadership positions. Through Sustainable Duke, students have many opportunities from researching carbon offsets to educating tailgaters about composting and recycling, which led Duke to having the first ACC waste-free football game with 94% waste diverted from landfills. To engage the broader student body, sustainability competitions such as the Green Devil Smackdown and the Unpark Yourself Challenge are held annually, where thousands of students and employees compete in various sustainability challenges. To make wider impact on campus, students are members of the Campus Sustainability Committee where they work with senior-level administrators and faculty from different departments to develop recommendations for on-campus sustainability. Duke Engage provides 600 students annually with summer-long service opportunities around the world in community outreach, environmental advocacy, and global health.
To meet climate neutrality by 2024, Duke needs the participation of the entire Duke community. To educate individuals on how their activities impact Duke’s emissions, Duke created a carbon footprint calculator. Duke also provides resources to help students and employees adopt sustainable behaviors. In 2011, Duke upgraded on-campus transportation with two electric hybrid and six low-emission buses that transport people around the University. For off campus transportation, Duke partnered with the City of Durham and Triangle Transit to provide alternative transportation options for the Duke community such as the fare-free Bull City Connector and a free or low-cost Go Pass that allows the Duke community to use any Triangle Transit bus all around Durham and surrounding cities.
Reaching climate neutrality by 2024 would not be possible without investments in carbon offsets. As part of the Duke Climate Action Plan, the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) was developed in 2009. The DCOI was the first university based organization solely focused on carbon offsets. It has developed a swine waste-to-energy project, residential energy efficiency and solar programs for Duke employees, and an urban forestry program.
Duke has channeled it’s world-renowned research prowess towards the growing challenges of climate change and adaptation. This include examples such as the Duke Forest, a 7,000 acre living laboratory with more than 50 projects including the Duke Campus Farm, a working farm grown to catalyze positive change in the food system. Duke is also home to the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, focusing on environmental policymaking worldwide.
Duke’s investment in emission reduction projects have led to significant progress in achieving climate neutrality goals. In 2011, Duke discontinued the use of coal in on-campus steam plants, which reduced emissions by 40,000 metric tons annually. Through energy efficiency upgrades, Duke has reduced the energy use per square foot by over 10% in on-campus buildings. Since the 2007 baseline, Duke has reduced potable water use on-campus by 40% through the creation of water cisterns, efficiency upgrades and a first-of-its-kind water reclamation pond that reduces potable water use by the chiller plant by 100 million gallons per year. For all new construction, Duke designs with LEED standards, which has led to 30 buildings becoming LEED certified and 9 more registered for future certification.
Sustainable Duke has developed sustainability certification programs on campus that reach to all corners of campus. To date, 70 workplaces, 63 labs, 185 classrooms, 47 events, and 950 dorms have become certified.
Realizing that employees sustainability habits do not have to stop at campus boundaries, Duke has developed two employee programs in residential solar and energy efficiency. These program would not have been possible without collaboration with countless students, the UNC Environmental Finance Center, local solar and energy efficiency contractors, Duke Energy, the Duke Federal Credit Union, and funding from the Duke Endowment Foundation.
With all of this work combined, Duke has reduced total emissions by 20% even though campus has grown by more than two million square feet. This is how Duke “Bleeds Blue and Lives Green.”