Timeline of Institutional Commitment
|1990s||Founding of Earthlust|
|1992||Environmental Studies program established|
|1999||First purchase of renewable energy credits (RECS)|
|2007||Sustainable Planning Sub Committee forms|
|2008||Ad Hoc Committee on Sustainability forms|
|Composting food waste from dining halls begins|
|2010||President Chopp signs the American College and University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC)|
|College signs on to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in HIgher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (AASHE) program|
|Climate Action Planning Committee is formed|
|2012||Sustainability Committee made a standing committee|
|Climate Action Plan is released|
|2013||Climate Action Plan progress report completed|
|2014||Sustainability director hired|
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 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. Outside of the climate commitment, the College has not yet set formal, measurable goals and targets for the conservation of natural resources.