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MIT signs international charter, deepening commitment to campus sustainability

E62, the MIT Sloan School of Management's new building.
E62, the MIT Sloan School of Management's new building.

In January 2011, MIT submitted its first annual report to the secretariat of the Sustainable Campus Charter, an agreement signed by MIT President Susan Hockfield and leaders of 25 other internationally known universities during the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

By signing the inaugural charter, Hockfield pledged to deepen the Institute's long-standing commitment to improve sustainability, foster energy efficiency and reduce waste in all campus activities. She further pledged to cooperate with her fellow charter members in sharing new information and experiences that emerge through their local sustainability efforts.

To those ends, the first annual report presents an overview of MIT and then highlights programs that demonstrate the Institute's commitment to the principles of the charter, including setting goals, taking action and reporting progress each year.

Hockfield noted that signing the charter reaffirms MIT's commitment to sustainable development and to guiding campus operations toward a more sustainable, energy-efficient future. "The charter provides a platform for sharing ideas and experiences with many international peer institutions," she says. "We all want to harness the intellectual power of our faculty, capitalize on the enthusiasm of our campus community, and seek innovative ways to speed our campuses toward true sustainability."

The Sustainable Campus Charter was initiated by the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF), a community of leading university presidents — including Hockfield — that was convened in 2006 by the World Economic Forum to help address the world's pressing problems, among them, sustainability. The International Sustainable Campus Network, a nonprofit organization, partnered with GULF to develop, implement, and manage the new charter.

Universities that signed the charter also include Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, Oxford University, Cambridge University, Harvard University, and others in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

As members of the charter, the university presidents pledge to continue their sustainability efforts locally and to share information globally, with an emphasis on three core sustainability goals:
  • Improve the design and functioning of campus facilities, especially buildings;
  • Integrate the issue of sustainability into institution-wide planning;
  • Work toward developing the university as a living laboratory, with students and faculty using their home institutions as research platforms to explore energy conservation, efficient materials use, improved transportation and related issues.
"For MIT, this commitment will serve as a guiding feature in many aspects of our campus development, and we look forward to engaging the broad MIT community in shaping our progress," said Steven M. Lanou, deputy director for sustainability in the MIT Environment, Health, and Safety Headquarters Office, who took the lead in preparing MIT's report to the secretariat.

The report provides an overview of MIT's mission, history, and organization. It then addresses all three of the charter's goals, citing specific commitments, achievements and investments in energy and resource conservation and efficiency, both during the past two decades and within the last few years. Included are examples of methods used to involve the campus community as well as to integrate energy and sustainability into classwork and other learning opportunities, including testing innovative ideas on the campus itself.

A key component of the charter is energy-efficient buildings. Buildings account for major expenditures of energy, so how they are designed and operated is critical. At MIT, two new buildings have been designed to minimize energy use without compromising livability, convenience and quality. Those buildings — the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the MIT Sloan School of Management — use 30 percent and 43 percent less energy, respectively, than typical buildings of comparable size and use. Members of the charter will work together to learn from their experiences as they build and operate major facilities on their campuses.

According to Lanou, the coming year's focus will be on additional goal setting and progress measurements to support the charter as well as MIT's own sustainability objectives.

This expanding effort to enhance sustainability at MIT is being supported in part by generous grants from alumni, including a gift of $1 million from Jeffrey Silverman '68, which created the Jeffrey Silverman Evergreen Energy Fund, and a $500,000 donation from David desJardins '83. Both donors are deeply committed to enhancing energy efficiency on the MIT campus.

For a copy of the annual report, go to

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