Barnard College announced new developments in its climate action plans earlier this afternoon, building on its 2019 Climate Action goals for 360-degree climate action.

Barnard College announced several new updates to its 2019 Climate Action plan, according to an email sent earlier this afternoon to all Barnard students. The update from the Director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action elaborated upon its progress in reducing carbon emissions, expanding Barnard’s education programs, and planning for the future. The full text of the email can be found below.

In December 2019, Barnard identified 3 “scopes” to improve emissions reductions and eventually achieve carbon neutrality. Scopes 1 and 2 entail reducing emissions from electricity, heating, and cooling, and Scope 3 includes reductions in emissions from food, waste, air travel, and material goods. In 2016, Barnard found that Scope 3 emissions make up 59% of the college’s total emissions, which caused the college to launch the Circular Campus Initiative to attempt to reduce them. This initiative won the Build Back Circular competition, enabling Barnard to receive outside technical expertise on sustainable urbanization to develop this regenerative model. The Circular Campus Initiative’s first action is the launch of Rheaply, a platform to exchange materials and supplies to reduce waste on campus.

The email also announced an increased focus on the topic of climate change in academic settings. The college has added numerous academic tracks that students can pursue to study climate change, including the minor in Environmental Humanities and the political ecology track in Anthropology. Additionally, the college will consider adding climate to the college’s required curriculum and is hosting workshops, working groups, and roundtable discussions to encourage students to join the conversation. 

Lastly, Director of Campus Sustainability & Climate Action Sandra Goldmark called for the Barnard community to pledge to combat these climate issues stating “the next few years are make or break on climate change—for the planet and so also for our campus.” Director Goldmark expressed the hope that committing to taking action through the new climate developments will enable Barnard to meet these challenges.

Announcement from the Director of Campus Sustainability & Climate Action, 2:05 pm:

Dear Barnard Community,

With gratitude, we greet a new year. With joy, we see students slowly begin to populate the campus again. And with resolution, we face the accelerating pace of climate change and the shared work that lies before us.

In 2019, Barnard came together to publish our goals for 360-degree climate action in academics, finance and governance, and campus culture and operations. To date, we have met the first stage of the Mayor’s Carbon Challenge; transitioned to 100% wind RECs (renewable energy credits); achieved a Silver rating on the AASHE STARS report; created a climate science list to guide our investments; introduced organics collection on campus; opened two student-led community gardens; and launched a student climate action grant. We offer 65 courses related to climate and sustainability in 56% of departments and have created pedagogy workshops for faculty to help grow our climate-related curricula.

Today, I write to applaud the leaders from every part of our community who have contributed to these accomplishments. I also ask that every member of our community re-commit, now, to building a more sustainable and equitable Barnard.

Emissions Reductions Across All Three Scopes

In December 2019, Barnard committed to defining a timeline for carbon neutrality. This fall, we began working with consultants from Energy Strategies to lay out potential pathways, timelines, and order-of-magnitude costs for achieving net-zero emissions. This road map will focus on emissions reductions in Scopes 1 and 2 (largely electricity, heating, and cooling) and will also support our aggressive and innovative approach to Scope 3 emissions.

One key pillar of our strategy for Scope 3 emissions — which include food, waste, material goods, and air travel — is our “Circular Campus” framework. Barnard faculty, students, and staff have begun developing this systems-based approach to tackle emissions and waste while supporting student access to affordable supplies. Barnard was selected as the winner of the Build Back Circular competition and will receive ideation support and technical expertise from Bloxhub, a Danish hub for sustainable urbanization, in developing this regenerative model.

Our first Circular Campus initiative is the launch of Rheaply, an internal reuse and exchange platform for the Barnard community. Starting with arts departments and Access Barnard, students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to post and exchange materials and supplies. Eventually, with full campus integration, Rheaply can save thousands of pounds of carbon emissions and thousands of dollars and will facilitate access to affordable and sustainable materials for our entire campus.

On the Academic Track

In our operational decisions and in our teaching, we have made a strong commitment to highlighting the intersection of climate change and issues of race, gender, and class. The new Environmental Humanities minor at CCIS and the new political ecology track in Anthropology — along with courses like Workshop in Sustainable Development in Environmental Science, and Climate Justice Observatory in Architecture — offer students a chance to explore the role of race and gender in understanding climate change and in developing responses. An overview of environmental justice resources, events, and curricular opportunities can be found on the Sustainability website.

This spring, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy, in partnership with the Sustainable Practices Committee, invites you to four virtual workshops. These sessions are designed not only to support faculty in their efforts to integrate environment, sustainability, and climate change into curricula but also to think about interdisciplinary ways to structure collaboration across departments — for example, funded, team-taught courses. These virtual sessions are open to faculty and students and will explore:

  • Environmental Justice
  • Theorizing the Environment
  • Design Decarbonization
  • Climate Change and the Anthropocene

Barnard faculty and students are also participating in the design process for the new Columbia Climate School. Members of our community are joining working groups and roundtable discussions to help develop a “school like no other” that will tackle the transdisciplinary challenge of climate change. Members of the Barnard community who are interested in joining this conversation are invited to participate in this digital Engagement Circle (password: engagement21) or attend a Friday morning Climate Café.

A Call to Commit

This fall, over 100 students, faculty, and staff came together for a second “Campus Conversation” series, to refine and advance specific climate targets in the areas of sustainability and access, air travel, and climate in the curriculum. A dedicated Citizens’ Assembly distilled these conversations into 20 specific recommendations, which build on our 2019 Climate Action goals. Ninety-one percent of Campus Conversation participants recommended including climate in Barnard’s required curriculum, a possibility the College is committed to discussing during the Foundations requirements review, following the Middle States review. In addition, the Assembly included a call for a community pledge for each department or office to commit to specific, measurable, mission-based targets.  

The next few years are make or break on climate change — for the planet and so also for our campus. This spring, we invite every office, every department, to review our shared science-based goals and to take ownership of 1-3 measurable targets. Barnard Sustainability will provide guidance and support throughout the process. The Provost’s Office, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy, and the Digital Humanities Center are the first to commit, and every office and department will have the opportunity to join this spring.

As we look with hope towards the end of the pandemic, we recognize our interdependence and our fragility. It is a time to re-commit to our shared mission: to equip our graduates  “to meet the challenges they will encounter throughout their lives.” As we look ahead to the next decade, it is clear that climate change will be one of the most significant challenges Barnard women will face. This daunting fact is mitigated by the hope that in sharing the commitment, the purpose, and the work, we can meet this challenge — together.

Sandra Goldmark

Director of Campus Sustainability & Climate Action

Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre

Barnard College via Bwog Archives