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American University Achieves Carbon Neutrality

Solar panels on roof

On April 25, President Sylvia M. Burwell announced that American University has achieved carbon neutrality. In other words, the university has net zero carbon emissions by managing its carbon footprint through reduction and carbon offsets. In 2010, AU pledged publicly to become carbon neutral by 2020. Now, as a result of the commitment, leadership, and innovative strategic planning of the university's staff, faculty, and students, AU has reached its goal two years early.

AU becomes not only the first carbon-neutral university in the nation, but it also is the first urban campus and first research university to achieve this important milestone. To reach this goal, AU met the guidelines set by Second Nature - a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating climate action in and through higher education - to become a carbon neutral university.

"Our community joined together to accomplish this important goal," said President Burwell. "We wanted to demonstrate leadership and innovation in addressing the serious social, economic, and environmental issues associated with global warming. Having a net zero carbon footprint reflects our commitment to acting on our values and leading into the future."

Concerns about the increasing pace and intensity of global climate change and the potential for unprecedented harmful effects on the world are important to the AU community and have led to the university's continued action and leadership in this effort. President Burwell further solidified that commitment when she signed the "We Are Still In" pledge to work towards the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

"Climate change is one of the most urgent issues of our time," said Megan Litke, AU director of sustainability programs. "Each organization and individual has a responsibility to act to reduce their environmental impact. I'm proud to be a part of a university that takes this responsibility seriously and has acted to achieve carbon neutrality."

AU's innovative approach to reducing emissions using green power and purchasing strategic offsets helped it meet its commitment to neutrality. The university concentrated on measures that have direct impact on its footprint. AU works to reduce energy use per square foot and produce renewable energy on campus and within its electricity grid. The university purchases renewable energy and offsets to balance the greenhouse gas emissions it produces. Fifty percent of AU's electricity comes from solar power sources.

The university hopes to be a model for other institutions looking to drive down their carbon footprints and become carbon neutral.