Swarthmore College has a long history of action on environmental sustainability. From the College’s oldest environmental student group Earthlust—founded in the 1990s and responsible, in part, for the College’s purchase of RECs—to recent efforts in energy conservation, composting, and political action, it is clear that stewardship of the Earth’s resources is an important part of the College’s legacy and identity.
Institutionally, Swarthmore College recognizes the importance of addressing climate change, using natural resources in a sustainable manner, and educating its community to be responsible stewards of the environment. It has captured this commitment to operational sustainability in the Strategic Directions for Swarthmore College document by stating simply: “Invest in sustainable environmental practices, including minimizing greenhouse-gas emissions from the College’s own operation and preserving the Crum Woods.” Regarding education and a curricular commitment, students and faculty established an Environmental Studies Program in 1992 that supports an interdisciplinary minor and offers courses to students at large.
In 2010, the College’s institutional commitment to environmental sustainability intensified with President Rebecca Chopp's signing of the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This commitment propelled the formation of the Climate Action Planning Committee and the development of a Climate Action Plan [pdf] for the College, which set the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2035. As part of its commitment through the ACUPCC, the College also set the interim target of a 50 percent reduction in net emissions by 2015.
In June of 2015, the College launched its Environmental Sustainability Framework, a set of guidelines for capital projects and facilities operations anchored in the previous climate commitments. It includes analyses of stormwater management, carbon, and energy - as well as sustainable building guidelines and a project checklist. This framework has already been key in current building design and has helped the Office of Sustainability and the Sustainability Committee set more data-driven targets for carbon reduction strategies. See the Sustainability Framework page for more details.