Pacific Joins Universities in Climate Commitment

Pacific University President Lesley M. Hallick has joined the ranks of signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

The signing is a reaffirmation of Pacific University’s commitment to sustainability, one of the five themes of the university’s mission and strategic plan. It comes on the heels of the opening, this summer, of Pacific’s Center for a Sustainable Society, which is working to help Pacific, and its surrounding community, become a leader in sustainability.

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment promotes climate neutrality and sustainability through two avenues. Members lead by example, committing to eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions from specific campus operations. They also leverage the power of education, integrating sustainability into their curricula and inspiring a new generation to create solutions to climate change issues.

John Hayes, director of Pacific’s Center for a Sustainable Society, said that several tenets of the commitment are already part of Pacific University operations. The commitment, for example, suggests that universities seek at least the silver standard of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification on new buildings. Pacific’s six new buildings since 2005 have met LEED standards, the most recent five at the gold level.

Pacific also offers discounted mass transit passes to students and employees to encourage use of public transportation, as well as electric vehicle charging stations in Forest Grove and Hillsboro, a bike-share program in Forest Grove and, starting in 2013, fuel-efficient Zipcars for students to borrow in place of bringing their own cars to school.

Sustainability also is built into many aspects of Pacific’s curriculum — most recently the addition of new undergraduate environmental studies majors — and staff and faculty implemented office-greening measures several years ago, reducing paper use, using recycled-content paper and printing double-sided.

Still, Hayes said, participating in the Climate Commitment provides resources and impetus to do more. As an example, the university is in the process of completing an inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions and, after completing that inventory, will set a date for achieving net carbon neutrality for Pacific’s campus operations. Hayes said Pacific aspires to be among the first universities to become carbon neutral.

Pacific University also is one of 168 U.S. universities that have signed the international Talloires Declaration. Composed in 1990 at an international conference in Talloires, France, it is the first official statement made by university presidents, chancellors and rectors of a commitment to environmental sustainability in higher education, signed by more than 400 university leaders in over 50 countries. The Declaration is a 10-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities.

Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012