Dickinson College
Description/achievement of initiative

Dickinson College is committed to educating for and promoting sustainable development. Consistent with our mission to provide a useful education in the liberal arts, and a strong history of civic engagement, environmental education and environmental stewardship, we are weaving sustainability into our curriculum, global education programs, research, co-curricular activities, student life, campus operations, and community service.

Over the past decade, sustainability goals have been incorporated in our Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan. We signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and the Talloires Declaration. We have invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and grown a student garden into a 50-acre organic farm. Most recently, we launched a sustainability education initiative in 2008 to make sustainability a defining characteristic of our education. These and other efforts have been publicly reported through the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Reporting System (STARS) of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), earning Dickinson a Gold Star.

Implementation methodologies

For the 2012-2015 period, we commit to actions now and in the future to build on our efforts in each of the areas outlined in the Rio+20 Declaration of Higher Education Institutions as summarized below. Our commitments include time-bound goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions and climate neutrality under our Climate Action Plan. We publicly report progress to the ACUPCC and to AASHE. Partners and resources dedicated to carrying out our commitments include the divisions of Academic Affairs, Campus Operations, Student Development, and Advancement, the President?s Commission on Environmental Sustainability (composed of senior officers of the college, faculty, staff and students), the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE), the Dickinson College Organic Farm, the Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM), engaged faculty from all academic divisions, the Sustainability Education Fund, student organizations, more than 40 student intern positions to work on sustainability projects, an Eco-Reps program, and recent grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Luce Foundation, and NASA's Global Climate Change Education program.

1. Teach sustainability concepts

Dickinson College will continue to expand and enrich course offerings that include sustainability content, supported by our Center for Sustainability Education. Tools available to the Center for promoting innovative teaching about sustainability include incentives and small grants from the Sustainability Education Fund, an annual faculty study group and other faculty development programs.

Efforts to date have yielded courses with sustainability content offered by 30 different departments that span the arts and humanities, social sciences and physical sciences. Future efforts will give particular attention to sustainability education in Dickinson's self-run study abroad programs, with the goal of providing improved opportunities for students to explore and compare how different societies address problems of sustainability. We also commit to continuing and enriching opportunities for experiential learning about sustainability, using resources and activities such as the Dickinson College Organic Farm, campus greening initiatives, and climate action plan.

2. Encourage research on sustainability

We will encourage student-faculty research and faculty scholarship that advances knowledge about sustainability, supporting these activities through grants from our Sustainability Education Fund. We also commit to developing our campus as a living laboratory for experiential learning about sustainability. The Center for Sustainability Education will work with a variety of partners to expand opportunities for students to use the campus as a context in which to experiment with sustainable solutions for growing food, powering the campus, saving energy, and reducing waste.

3. Green our campus

Dickinson College will lessen its environmental footprint between 2012 and 2015. We already have programs to reduce energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and waste. Oure Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2009, sets a goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases 25% below our 2008 level by 2020, and offsetting the remainder of our emissions. In the next year we will set a 2015 interim goal for GHG reductions.

We adopted in 2007 a policy to construct all new buildings and major renovations to a minimum LEED Silver standard. All buildings constructed since that policy went into affect have earned LEED Gold, and one building planned for construction in two years is being designed to meet the standard for LEED Platinum certification. We have installed, with student participation, over 100 kw of solar pv on our campus and farm, we have a student run biodiesel shop that produces fuel from waste vegetable oil, we are experimenting with burning waste vegetable oil in our central energy plant, and we purchase Renewable Energy Credits in a quantity equal to 100% of our annual electricity consumption.

4. Support sustainability in the community

Dickinson College is committed to work with community partners to promote a more livable, healthy, sustainable, and socially inclusive community in and around Carlisle, Pennsylvania and in other communities where are students, faculty and staff live, work and study. For more than 25 years Dickinson's Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM) has worked with community watershed associations to help protect water in our region. Originally focusing on acid rain, ALLARM now works with groups across the state to train volunteers to monitor the effects of natural gas development from the Marcellus Shale formation. Working with a variety of partners, the College promoted a Carlisle “Road Diet” that was funded by the state department of transportation and is helping to make Carlisle a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly city. We work with the Clean Air Board to improve air quality in our region. We have active service learning and community based research programs at our home campus and our study abroad sites, and will provide support for faculty to expand these opportunities.

We also work with, and will continue to work with, the higher education community to promote sustainability education through our memberships and active participation in AASHE, ACUPCC, the National Council for Science and the Environment, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Resources Consortium. With support of a grant from NASA, Dickinson is leading a project to integrate interdisciplinary teaching about climate change in the liberal arts curriculum. Under that program we have offered workshops that have been attended by 80 faculty members from 20 colleges and universities. We have hosted conferences on sustainable foods and campus sustainability that have been attended by 50+ colleges and universities.

5. Engage with international frameworks

Dickinson College faculty and students attended the 15th and 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where they exchanged information about our climate action plan and other sustainability efforts. The students also interviewed conference delegates to research the positions of parties to the Convention. Dickinson will create an online, searchable video archive of the interviews and will share this work by making the archive known to UNESCO's Education for Sustainable Development program and other international networks.


Dickinson College
Deliverable Date
Climate Action Plan 2015
Center for Sustainability Education 2015
Dickinson College Organic Farm 2015
Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM) 2015
Resources devoted to implementation
Type Details
Staff / Technical expertise Expertise of student and staff dedicated to sustainable practices

Action Network
  • Higher Education Sustainability Initiative
Nancy A. Roseman, President, roseman@dickinson.edu

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Nancy A. Roseman, President
Copyright United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Part of the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform - sustainabledevelopment.un.org