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Key Milestones of AU’s Sustainability Journey



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New Sustainability Plan

AU released a new five-year sustainability plan, AU’s third campus sustainability action plan.


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AU Divests From Fossil Fuels

AU eliminated all public fossil fuel investments from its endowment.


DC Sustainability Pledge Renewed

Eight local university presidents, including AU President Sylvia Burwell, renewed the College and University Sustainability Pledge with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.



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Carbon Neutrality Achieved

AU became the first US university, the first urban campus, and the first research university in the US to reach carbon neutrality. This goal was achieved two years ahead schedule by using innovative strategies to reduce our overall emissions, use renewable energy, and offset the small remainder.


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"We Are Still In"

AU joined more than 1,200 colleges, universities, elected officials, and businesses to declare our ongoing commitment to reducing carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement through the “We Are Still In” declaration.



Charter Signatory of Climate Commitment

AU became a charter signatory to the Climate Commitment through Second Nature, a nonprofit organization that helps colleges and universities expand their sustainability efforts.


District Sustainability Award

American University won the 2016 District Sustainability Award in the People's Choice category. The award recognizes outstanding achievements and leadership in areas such as energy and water conservation, renewable energy production, stormwater management, and sustainable waste management.


First Sustainability Plan

AU released its first comprehensive sustainability plan.



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50% of Campus Power from Solar Energy

AU entered a 20-year solar agreement with partners George Washington University and GWU Hospital. Solar panels at three sites in North Carolina supply the partners with emissions-free electricity. At the time, it was the largest non-utility solar PV power purchase agreement in the US and the largest solar PV project east of the Mississippi River.


Creation of Fossil Free Fund

The AU Board of Trustees, based on a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, created a Fossil Free Investment Fund within the university’s endowment.



First LEED-Certified Building

The School of International Service was the first building on campus to earn the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, awarded to green buildings for meeting sustainability standards.


Solar Hot Water System Installed

A solar hot water system with 134 racks of thermal energy panels was installed on the roofs of the Mary Graydon Center and Letts, Anderson and Centennial Halls. At the time, this was the largest solar hot water system on the East Coast.


Carbon Neutrality Goal Established

AU released a comprehensive plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020.



Zero Waste Policy

AU adopted a Zero Waste Policy for diverting campus waste from landfill.


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Office of Sustainability Created

AU’s Office of Sustainability was founded to help meet the university's goal of "acting on our values of social responsibility, service, and an active pursuit of sustainability."



First Climate Commitment

American University joined more than 500 other US universities in signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to address the threat of climate change.