Second Nature, in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), announced that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Delta College are the recipients of the 2018 Climate Leadership Awards. Now in its ninth year, the awards recognize exceptional efforts across the areas of student preparedness, cross-sector collaboration, and climate innovation from colleges and universities actively participating in Second Nature’s climate commitments

“For the past nine years the Climate Leadership Awards have elevated colleges and universities making meaningful progress toward mitigating the effects of climate change. This year, we recognized campuses whose sustainability commitments are not only holistic and collaborative in scope, but also quantifiable in terms of the benefits provided to their students and community,” said Jaime Van Mourik, vice president of Education Solutions at USGBC. “This year’s winners and honorable mentions have hit several key milestones in their continued dedication to teaching and supporting the next generation of 21st century leaders.” 

This year’s winners exemplify leadership through practices, partnerships and initiatives designed to tackle the most complex climatic challenges of the twenty-first century. Both institutions implemented a campus as a living lab approach for sustainability practices, which includes applying energy efficiency practices in campus infrastructure and advancing research in renewable energy models. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s use of power purchase agreements reduces more than 17,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, while Delta College’s implementation of an Energy Optimization Incentive Program in collaboration with its utility provider maximizes conservation and savings. 

Both winners also excelled at forging innovative partnerships by engaging with their local businesses, governments and communities to drive climate action. Delta College’s “Common Good” community partnership hosts climate-adaptation and resilience learning sessions, and last year launched a sustainability-immersive study abroad program through international partnerships with programs in Ireland, Costa Rica and France. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign convened local government leaders to set up a task force that will address climate resilience concerns, and enhances classroom learning through a sustainability mentorship program that connects students with projects that enhance resilience and reduce environmental impacts. 

“The Climate Leadership Awards provide a meaningful opportunity to celebrate the progress happening through innovative climate action in higher education,” said Tim Carter, president of Second Nature. “Highlighting the exceptional successes of these universities and colleges inspires us all to do more, and gives us glimpses into what climate solutions are possible in and through our sector.” 

Second Nature is a national nonprofit that works with hundreds of institutions across the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet necessary goals to avert the worst impacts of climate change. 

To further recognize signatory campuses at different stages of their climate commitment trajectory, Second Nature and USGBC awarded honorable mentions to six institutions this year, based on demonstrated excellence and progress within the individual focus areas of climate innovation, cross-sector collaboration, and student preparedness. 

Honorable mentions include: Ohio University and Alamo Colleges District for climate innovation; Millersville University and Colorado Mountain College for cross-sector collaboration; and California State University Long Beach and Truckee Meadows Community College for student preparedness.

Award winners will be recognized at the 2019 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in Tempe, Arizona, Feb. 10-12.