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Swarthmore Receives Sustainable Campus Excellence Award

Aurora Winslade holding the Sustainability Award

Director of Sustainability Aurora Winslade with the the “Best Innovative Collaboration” plaque awarded to the College.

The International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) recently named Swarthmore a winner of its 2017 Sustainable Campus Excellence Awards, in recognition of the College’s leadership among other college and universities on the issue of carbon pricing.

The College’s carbon charge effort took first place in the Innovative Collaboration category, which highlights excellent sustainability-focused projects that align with the institution’s core education and research mission. If you are interested in receiving a presentation on Swarthmore's carbon charge efforts, please contact the Sustainability Office.

President Valerie Smith announced the honor at the final presentations for the inaugural year of the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship Program (PSRF) in April.

“It’s wonderful to be able to see this project, which was generated locally by a working group of faculty and staff, and supported so remarkably by students, receive international recognition,” Smith said. “I am so proud of the work that you’re all doing.”

Last semester, Aaron Metheny ’18, an economics major from Thurmont, Md., and PSRF fellow, asked Smith to pledge Swarthmore’s support to the Put a Price On It campaign to put a price on carbon. Smith agreed without hesitation, following the Board’s approval last year of a $300,000 carbon charge proposed by a faculty-led working group.

A plaque awarded to Swarthmore CollegeThe plaque presented to the College at the award ceremony on June 29 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Smith went beyond that initial action by co-signing a letter alongside four other college presidents and sending it to more than 100 university and college presidents earlier this year, asking them to join the campaign by the end of April. Thus far, 33 schools have signed, in hopes of making an impact on state and national policy.

"This has been one of the most inspiring projects I've been a part of in my career," says Director of Sustainability Aurora Winslade, who has been overseeing the implementation of the College's carbon charge program. "Carbon pricing is one of the most powerful tools available to society to address climate change, so it is heartening to see college and university leaders working collaboratively with students to build political will for a livable future."

​Swarthmore officially received its award at the 2017 ISCN conference in Vancouver in late June. Awards were also bestowed in the categories of building and innovative infrastructure, campus planning and management systems, and student leadership. 

Since the award program began in 2009, ISCN has received over 180 nominations from schools representing Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.

“Through the global presence of the ISCN, the visibility of the awards will not only fertilize the improvement of campus development internationally, but will also help continue the momentum for the awardees on their own campuses,” the organization says.

The announcement of the award during PSRF presentations was particularly appropriate, Smith says. Co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program, the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, the Office of Sustainability, and the Office of the President, the program empowers students to take leadership roles on sustainability challenges.

The PSRF presenters:

  • Metheny, on the carbon charge initiative
  • James Chen '17, a psychology major from Fremont, Calif., on food waste at Swarthmore
  • Adina Spertus Melhus ’17, an environmental theory & action special major from Evanston, Ill., and Vanessa Meng ’19, a philosophy and peace & conflict studies special major from Beijing, China, on waste management
  • Chase Williamson ’19, an Honors economics and mathematics major from Jonesboro, Ark., on reducing energy waste in offices
  • Brittni Teresi '19, a psychology and environmental studies major from Las Vegas, Nev., on citizen science and engagement
  • Bridgett Scott '18, a biology and educational studies special major from Media, Pa., and Patrick Houston '17, a political science and environmental policy special major from Philadelphia, Pa., on PSRF planning and assessment
  • Gavi Mallory ’17, a biology and studio art major from Brookline, Mass., on stewardship of the Crum Woods 

Smith lauds the PSRF program partners and fellows for inspiring the College and local community, as well as the colleagues, parents, and alumni around the world with whom she has spoken about it in the past year.

“This program is a remarkable experiment that embodies the highest aspirations of a liberal arts education,” she says.

Swarthmore will continue to push for carbon pricing this fall, helping to organize the SafeClimatePA event on October 7 in Harrisburg, Pa. The event will encourage students across the state of Pennsylvania to learn about carbon pricing, says Winslade, and to inspire them to engage with elected officials, college and university leaders, and the media on carbon pricing as an important part of the solution to climate change. 

Watch Swarthmore students, staff, and President Smith explain the College's support of the Put a Price On It campaign.

Learn about Swarthmore’s impact on the local and global community at

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