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SU Climate Action Plan work starting with College of Visual and Performing Arts

May 24, 2010

Will Wallak

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) is at the head of the class that will help boost campus sustainability at Syracuse University. VPA is the first SU academic unit selected to begin implementing the University's Climate Action Plan (CAP), the blueprint released in September 2009 that is designed to make SU climate neutral by 2040. 

SU's Sustainability Division is driving the University's CAP implementation. After discovering VPA's strong commitment to sustainability last year, the Sustainability Division chose VPA to lead this first CAP venture. 

"I am pleased that Syracuse University and the Sustainability Division are aggressively moving forward with this initiative and that they recognize the essential role artists, designers, performers and communicators play in provoking and inspiring new ways of thinking and behaving that are sustainable," says VPA Dean Ann Clarke. "Our students are tremendously engaged and independently driven to address environmental issues. They compel us to act, and our faculty has responded. I am struck by the prevalence of ‘green' topic exploration in every facet of the college's curriculum, whether in terms of provocative subject matter or materials utilization." 

Because buildings and their occupants directly impact the campus' carbon footprint, they are the primary focus of SU's CAP activities. 

Smith Hall is the first of VPA's buildings that will soon undergo CAP-related work. An audit of Smith will review everything from energy systems and use to space planning and occupant activities. Once the audit is completed this summer, work will start on upgrading and enhancing the 40,000-square-foot building. In addition, a process is currently under way to decide which VPA buildings will be audited next.

The goals for Smith-and all future projects-are reduced greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide or CO2) through energy conservation, improved learning space utilization, and enhanced sustainability practices among students, faculty and staff. 

A schedule for other SU schools/colleges and departments to start implementing the CAP is still on the drawing board. Some factors in deciding when others will come onboard include energy use, annual CAP budget, potential return on investment, school/department future plans and needs, and student educational/research opportunities. 

"Working in partnership with the College of Visual and Performing Arts as we begin to develop specific actions for reducing the University's carbon emissions is a very exciting opportunity," says Timothy Sweet, director of SU's Energy and Computing Management Department. "The unique perspective and creativity that the faculty and students of VPA will bring to bear will help form the foundation for how we will engage the campus going forward." 

In February 2007, SU pledged to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

SU's CAP will drive reductions in campus greenhouse gas emissions by taking action in the following areas:

  • energy conservation through existing technologies;
  • energy efficiency through emerging technologies;
  • creation of energy from renewable sources;
  • enhancement of sustainability practices among students, faculty and staff; and
  • limited use of energy offsets as needed. 

For additional information about the ACUPCC and SU's Climate Action Plan, and to learn more about campus sustainability efforts and activities, visit the University's Sustainability website at To discuss a green idea to implement on campus, contact SU's Sustainability Division at

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