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In its first report since adopting a Sustainability Plan in February 2008, Princeton University describes significant progress toward ambitious goals in the areas of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, resource conservation, and research, education and civic engagement.

Princeton's plan is distinctive due to the University's commitment to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 through direct local reductions rather than the purchase of "offsets." Other defining features of Princeton's approach are the plan's comprehensiveness and its integration with the University's commitments to teaching, research and civic engagement.

This Report on Sustainability, compiled over the summer and fall of 2009, provides not only an update on progress toward goals — including metrics — but also a look forward at future initiatives.

Report Highlights

  • The University is investing more than $40 million in the next 10 years to reduce overall utility usage on campus by at least 25 percent, in part by improving the efficiency of the high-performance central cogeneration plant and the buildings it serves. These initiatives will be coordinated through the development of an Energy Master Plan.

  • For the first time since the cogeneration plant began operating in 1996, on-campus emissions have decreased.
  • The new Chemistry Building meets the equivalent of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver certification in its design, with strong energy efficiency performance.
  • Some 300 campus community members have participated in Transportation Demand Management incentive programs since they began in fall 2008.
  • Princeton continues its commitment to reach goals though local activities such as innovative heat recovery efforts at the central power plant and the expansion of plans to use geothermal technology.

  • 45 percent of Dining Services' food purchases are local (within 200 miles)
  • Princeton annually saves 118 tons of wood products and the emission of 79 metric tons of CO2 through its 100 percent recycled paper policy.
  • 100 percent of campus landscape trimmings are composted and reused on site.
  • 100 percent of residence halls have been retrofitted with low-flow water fixtures with an estimated water use decrease of 25 percent.

  • Faculty members continue to conduct groundbreaking research in fields connected with sustainability, including devising a "Princeton Plan" for allocating responsibility for carbon emissions among countries, engaging in a joint research partnership with energy company BP to identify ways of tackling the world's climate problem, and finding methods to produce biofuels that address many problems related to fossil fuels.
  • Alumnus and international business executive Gerhard R. Andlinger donated $100 million to create the Gerhard R. Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment within the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

  • A unique partnership between the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of Facilities produced the Butler College green roof research project.
  • Princeton hosted a sustainability open house on Sept. 17, 2008, in the Frist Campus Center. The five-hour event, titled "Sustainability: Introducing Princeton's Green Initiatives," engaged the crowd of about 900 in wide-ranging discussions, informative how-tos and participatory next steps.

  • There has been more than a 150 percent increase in students receiving environmental studies certificates since 2002. Among a broad pool of environmental course offerings, more than 50 address sustainability by exploring some aspect of the intersection between the environment, economics and society.
  • 40-plus summer sustainability internships were offered locally and internationally in 2009.


In 2007, the Princeton Sustainability Committee working groups began benchmarking sustainability performance across University operations, teaching, research and student activities. The committee proposed a Princeton Sustainability Plan that was adopted by the University in February 2008. This is the first report since the enactment of the plan.

Report Objectives

  • To report on progress toward sustainability goals.
  • To describe the evolving nature of the goals.
  • To illustrate the comprehensive nature of the Princeton University approach.

"As one of the world's foremost centers of climate science and as an institution committed to serving all nations, Princeton has a critical role to play in exploring the causes of climate change, evaluating its effects and developing solutions to the environmental, technological and socioeconomic challenges it represents. At the same time we also have an obligation to put our own environmental house in order — to practice what we preach. We can ourselves become a laboratory in sustainability, implementing best practices, testing new technologies and strategies, and reducing our environmental footprint in a way that complements — and furthers — our academic efforts in the environmental arena."
President Shirley M. Tilghman

ABOVE: Tilghman (center) and Princeton Trustee and High Meadows Foundation Co-Founder Carl Ferenbach take a tour of the University's Sept. 17, 2008, sustainability open house with Shana Weber, manager of the Office of Sustainability. Tilghman greeted Andrea DeRose, who had just joined the staff as Transportation Demand Management (TDM) manager in Transportation and Parking Services.


Watch a video on Princeton's sustainability program, including work by students, faculty and staff.