Sustainability at Miami: Annual Report FY 2021

Submitted to Miami University President Gregory Crawford by the Sustainability Committee July 1, 2021

For a copy of the full 21-page document, contact Adam Sizemore, director of Sustainability, at sizemod3@miamioh.edu  or Susan Meikle, News and Communications, at meiklesb@miamioh.edu.

Executive Summary

Miami University is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic that caused a significant impact on University operations, including vacating residence halls in March 2020 and transitioning most of campus to online teaching and work.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, campus life looked different with many classes taught as hybrid or online and most campus activities and meetings held remotely. Nevertheless, throughout this time efforts to set and accomplish sustainability goals continued. As such, the University was able to continue to make progress on the University’s Sustainability Commitments and Goals (SCAG) that had been established in 2016.

This report by the Miami University Sustainability Committee provides evidence that the University has met or made significant progress toward the 2016 SCAG, and requests that the University retire the 2016 SCAG and establish broader, institutionalized sustainability pillars to guide Miami’s sustainability progress.

During Fiscal Year 2021 (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021) the Sustainability Committee examined the 2016 SCAG and found the following: 

  • Carbon emissions from purchased electricity, natural gas, and coal were reduced from 2008- 2019 by 52% per gross square foot (meeting the 2030 goal), and 41% independent of gross square feet (meeting the 2025 goal).
  • 29 buildings had been certified LEED Silver or Gold since the University’s first SCAG (2010). 
  • Miami’s forthcoming Climate Action Plan (CAP) will consider social, health, and racial justice issues when developing plans for climate resilience and carbon neutrality.
  • An online student sustainability education module is slated to be implemented in late fall 2021. 
  • Numerous best management practices for grounds maintenance have been implemented, including water conservation using smart technology; and carbon sequestration will be considered when developing the University’s CAP.
  • A commitment to transparency is evidenced through reporting to several external platforms, a more robust sustainability webpage, and the development of a carbon footprint dashboard.

Considering these successes, the Sustainability Committee recommends that the University retire the 2016 SCAG and establish three Miami University Sustainability Pillars - institutional-level commitments which originate from the President’s Office and are passed to campus divisional leaders who are responsible for establishing goals and metrics in collaboration with the Director of Sustainability.

The three pillars are:

Sustainability Pillar 1: Commitment to an Equitable and Sustainable Campus Infrastructure

Sustainability Pillar 2: Commitment to Enhancing Campus Culture

Sustainability Pillar 3: Commitment to Responsible Resource Management

These Sustainability Pillars will provide a consistent foundation under which each division can establish goals and metrics that can be dynamic, agile, and responsive to constraints and innovations.

 INTRODUCTION

This report from Miami University’s Sustainability Committee (SC) summarizes and highlights the University’s sustainability efforts during Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021).

During this year, the COVID-19 global pandemic continued to affect higher education institutions all over the world, including Miami. Summer 2020 programs were cancelled and a partial return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester occurred with students returning to residence halls in stages mid-September. During this time, the SC continued to meet monthly to discuss the 2016 Sustainability Commitments and Goals (SCAG), current COVID-related challenges, and plans for future bold climate action initiatives.

Throughout this unprecedented period, the University’s commitment to sustainability did not waiver. This was especially evident when President Crawford formalized the University’s commitment to carbon neutrality by signing the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments (PCLC) Climate Commitment on September 22, 2020.

To support this commitment, President Crawford accepted the SC’s recommendation to form a Climate Action Task Force (CATF), appointing Drs. Jonathan Levy and Adam Sizemore as co-chairs. The CATF is tasked with drafting a Climate Action Plan (CAP) by spring 2024 which will outline the University’s plan for achieving carbon neutrality and increasing climate resilience.

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the CATF along with Miami’s SC, Sustainability Office, Student Sustainability Council (SSC), and Associated Student Government (ASG), as well as faculty, staff, students, and various departments across campus, have continued to maintain a focus on the University’s commitment to sustainability.

This report provides evidence that the University has met or made significant progress toward the 2016 SCAG, puts forth a new framework for establishing future commitments and goals, and summarizes FY 2021 sustainability efforts. 

Section 1: Demonstrates that Miami has surpassed or made significant progress toward the 2016 SCAG, providing evidence that the University can retire these SCAG. 

Section 2: Proposes the 2016 SCAG be replaced with three comprehensive sustainability principles originating from the President’s Office. These three “Sustainability Pillars” will provide all division leaders with guidance for setting new goals and metrics within their division. 

Section 3: Summarizes actions by students, faculty, and staff which took place during FY 2021 demonstrating the University community’s widespread commitment to sustainability.