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Ecological Stewardship at Goshen College

Goshen College committed to creating a ‘climate neutral’ campus

Goshen College plans to sharply reduce and eventually eliminate all of the college’s global warming emissions and is supporting more research and educational efforts to help stabilize the earth’s climate.

President James E. Brenneman made that pledge on behalf of Goshen College in the spring of 2007 by becoming a charter signatory to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. In doing so, Brenneman joined with leaders of 175 other higher education institutions that also had agreed at that time to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions — the point at which carbon-dioxide emissions are offset by the use of renewable sources of energy and the carbon dioxide that is absorbed and stored as carbon in trees and other plants on campus.

“We are very concerned about life on this planet,” Brenneman said. “This is one more way we can heal and care for the world.”

Goshen College became the second higher education institution in Indiana and the first Mennonite college or university to sign the landmark climate commitment, which is aimed at reducing emissions that scientists say are changing climates, threatening the planet’s ecosystems and its economy and threatening many lives.

Brenneman said Goshen College has a history of taking environmental concerns seriously and acting to increase the campus’ ecological consciousness and responsibility. “We’re calling it in a broader way our ecological stewardship commitment. Goshen College, like the Mennonite Church, has always been committed to being global citizens,” he said. “I see this as just another step in becoming more public about who we are and articulating more broadly what our core values have always been.”

In addition to many other efforts to conserve resources and reduce pollution, Goshen College established an Ecological Stewardship Committee to ensure the college meets the goals of the climate commitment.

The Presidents Climate Commitment is the first such effort by any major sector of society to set climate neutrality — not just a reduction — as its target. This undertaking by America’s colleges and universities is inspired by efforts like the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and other collective efforts by states and businesses.

“Colleges and universities must lead the effort to reverse global warming for the health and well-being of current and future generations,” said Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and a founding member of the ACUPCC Leadership Circle.

Presidents who have signed the commitment promise to eliminate their campus’ greenhouse emissions. This involves completing an emissions inventory, taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, setting a target date within two years of becoming climate neutral and integrating sustainability into the curriculum.

Under the guidance and direction of the Leadership Circle of presidents, the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is being supported and implemented by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Second Nature and ecoAmerica.

Brenneman said his decision to sign the climate commitment stemmed from Goshen College’s Mennonite Church belief system, its core values and its strategic plan, which calls for campus purchasing, maintenance and construction that reflect sustainable and environmental practices. He said the signing of the commitment also is consistent with the college’s extensive efforts to work toward climate neutrality by such actions as saving on electrical energy and reducing natural gas consumption.

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