A Look Back: Columbia's Commitment to the Environment




  • Lamont-Doherty scientists develop the first model to accurately predict the extreme weather associated with an El Niño event


  • Dr. James Hansen testifies to Congress about the nature of climate change and the need to address it


  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is drafted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro



  • The Earth Institute is established to address complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, with particular focus on sustainable development and the needs of the world's poor
  • Columbia is recognized with an EPA University Partner of the Year Award


  • Styrofoam and polystyrene are eliminated from undergraduate dining halls on Morningside campus



  • Columbia becomes a member of the U.S. Green Building Council


  • Columbia becomes an Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) member
  • Columbia University establishes the  Environmental Stewardship office to work across Columbia— including individual schools, student groups, and offices—to spearhead campus programs and initiatives in the field
  • The Eco-Reps Program, a joint initiative developed by the students of GEO (a student green group) and Housing and Dining Services administrators, is started to encourage green living in the residence halls


  • Columbia University President Bollinger signs the New York City Mayoral Carbon Challenge by committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2017
  • Columbia commits to a minimum LEED® Silver certification for all new buildings and reconstruction projects
  • Memorandum of Understanding is signed between Columbia University and the Environmental Defense Fund in an environmental stewardship cooperative effort
  • Electric and natural gas energy procurement: Competitive bid from independent energy providers reduces energy cost


  • Columbia’s Morningside campus submits its first Climate Action Plan as a participant in the New York City’s Mayoral Challenge.


  • The Campbell Sports Center and the Allan Rosenfield Building, Floors 11–13 (Medical Center), receive LEED® Gold certification
  • Knox Hall receives LEED® Gold certification for its geothermal wells that supply the building with 100 percent of its energy needs, even during summer peak energy loads for cooling
  • University Facilities and Operations introduces Master Planning Elements for Central Utilities & Central Plants


  • The Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building becomes the first LEED® Silver certified building at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus and wins the 2009 Lab of the Year Award 
  • Faculty House receives LEED® Gold certification
  • Master of Science in Sustainability Management degree program is established to address the growing demand for sustainability professionals, including lawyers, engineers, marketers, communications professionals, policymakers, and scientists
  • The Studebaker Building (2nd Floor) and the Core Lab (Lamont) achieves LEED® Gold; Studebaker project is certified LEED® Silver
  • The first microturbines are installed as a new energy-efficient technology on Columbia’s Morningside campus
  • All Dining locations offer organic, fair-trade certified, and locally roasted coffee from the Brooklyn Roasting Company


  • First phase of Central Chilled Water Plant Renewal & Optimization is completed
  • Alumni Center Building Restoration achieves LEED® Gold certification


  • Columbia receives AASHE STARS Gold recognition
  • Northwest Corner Building achieves LEED® Gold certification
  • Columbia’s Manhattanville campus achieves LEED® Platinum certification under the LEED® for Neighborhood Development (ND) rating system, making it the first LEED-ND Platinum certification for New York City


  • Environmental Stewardship office comes under new leadership and expands staff
  • Electric charging stations are installed in the Morningside campus parking garages in order to promote the use of electric vehicles


  • Sustainability Strategic Process begins at Columbia
  • Columbia receives AASHE STARS Gold recognition for the second time
  • Residential Boiler Fuel Oil to Natural Gas Conversion is completed
  • International District Energy Association (IDEA) cover article featuring Columbia University’s campus Energy Renewal Project—Central Chilled Water Plant Improvement
  • The Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Columbia School of Journalism receives a LEED® Gold certification.


  • Columbia formally adopts the University Sustainability Principles
  • Columbia is registered as a participant at the “Leader” level in the State of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Initiative
  • Columbia is recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers with a Corporate Energy Management of the Year Award
  • Columbia recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers with an Association of Energy Engineers—Young Energy Professional of the Year Award
  • Central Chilled Water Plant: Installation of second high-efficiency steam chiller completed; $1 million+ in Con Edison incentives awarded
  • Environmental Stewardship office is recognized with a City and State Corporate Social Responsibility Award in Sustainability


  • Columbia launches its first Sustainability Plan
  • Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus opens to the public
  • Columbia’s central steam plant boiler renewal and optimization project is completed