Creating a sustainable campus requires a community-wide effort to integrate sustainability into all aspects of campus life and a continued effort to adhere to the commitments American University has joined.
American University has achieved many milestones since embarking on a path towards sustainability.
Under the leadership of former President Kerwin, American University signed onto the Climate Commitment, the American Campuses Act on Climate pledge, and District of Columbia Mayor's College and University Sustainability Pledge. Through these agreements, American University is committed to creating a climate neutral campus by 2020.
American University's commitment to sustainability is reflected in the university's strategic goals. The sustainability office was founded to help the campus adhere to its commitment to "an active pursuit of sustainability." The sustainability office along with the sustainability working group created the university's first carbon action plan and the 2014 sustainability plan to guide action.
Measuring progress is a key part of reaching climate neutrality. American University uses the sustainability tracking, assessments, and reporting system (STARS) to monitor progress in environmental, social, and economic categories. The sustainability office also completes an annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory
Each year American University conducts a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory of campus operations. The inventory accounts for emissions from on-campus natural gas use, the campus fleet, electricity use, commuting, study abroad travel, travel to conferences and sporting events, waste that goes to landfill, and landscaping activities. AU's goal is to eliminate or offset all GHG emissions by 2020. As of 2015, American University has reduced emissions by more than 52 percent from 2005.
Greenhouse gas emissions reductions are only part of the sustainability efforts at AU. To measure progress in the environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability work, AU uses the sustainability tracking, assessment, and reporting system (STARS) which was created by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) to help colleges and universities track progress and set goals. AU completed its third STARS submission in spring of 2016 and earned a gold rating. American University was a charter participant in STARS and has completed three assessments since 2010.