April 21, 2017

April 21, 2017: earth day and sustainability

Creighton University President, the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, SJ

Earth Day is this Saturday, April 22. I would like to take this opportunity to share and celebrate the good work that is being done by many on campus in the area of sustainability. I also would like to invite you to participate in a tree-planting event Creighton is participating in on Saturday with HDR and the Arbor Day Foundation. We will be planting about 18 trees from 9 a.m. to noon; interested volunteers should meet outside the Harper Center at 9 a.m.

Creighton University has been consistently recognized by the Princeton Review in its annual guide to the most environmentally responsible colleges across the United States and Canada, and received recognition again in 2016.

With a 140-acre urban campus that features more than 1,000 trees and 100 different species, Creighton received its ninth straight Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation in February. The award recognizes colleges and universities that produce healthy trees and engage students in the process. Creighton has been honored every year since the designation began in 2008. In addition, through an affiliation with the Nebraska statewide arboretum, Creighton serves as a demonstration site for working with native plants.

In 2010, Creighton conducted its first campus greenhouse gas inventory. In the seven years since this survey, Creighton’s greenhouse gas emissions have stayed relatively stable, even though we have added two new buildings and the move to the BIG EAST has significantly increased our air travel footprint.

Our Facilities Management Department reports that over the last three years, we realized the following utility savings: steam usage is down 27.7 percent, for a cost savings of $809,237; chilled water usage is down 8.1 percent, for a savings of $236,636; and electrical usage has been reduced by 21 percent, for a savings of $537,626.

We have integrated sustainability into our curriculum, with growing interest among students. We were one of the first Catholic universities to begin offering a degree program in environmental science more than 25 years ago. In 2011, we launched our Energy Technology Program, and, more recently, we began offering a major and minor in Sustainability Studies. Additionally, sustainability-themed or focused classes can be found in a variety of disciplines that are open to all undergraduate students, regardless of major. Our scope reaches beyond campus as well, as we are fostering partnerships with other Jesuit institutions and investigating opportunities through the Creighton Global Initiative. Outside the classroom, our spring and fall Service & Justice Trips now include sustainability options, and a Sustainability Alliance is being formed to gather all student groups together and coordinate efforts. Notably, we have more than 300 alumni working in fields such as environmental education, earth system science, conservation ecology, and climate change research.

Distinctively, on the northern edge of campus, stands a double row of massive solar panels at the Burt Street parking lot that, when completed in 2010, formed the largest solar array in the state of Nebraska. More recently, an EnergiPlant, constructed by our energy technology students in partnership with Omaha Public Power District, is harnessing wind and solar energy and serves as a charging station for students to power electronic devices. We have increased the number of electric vehicles in our facilities fleet, and have two electric vehicle charging stations available in our parking structures.

We have made significant strides in our campus printing, too, some coming from seemingly minor changes in our printing habits. For instance, 70 percent of our printing impressions have been completed in the duplex mode in the 2016-2017 academic year. That represents an estimated savings of 5.3 million sheets of paper, $46,600, 635 trees, 540,425 gallons of water, and a 58,281-pound reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, our single-stream recycling effort in all buildings has resulted in more than 1.5 million pounds of recycled material since 2010.

As the above sampling shows, we have made great strides in terms of campus sustainability, but as Pope Francis challenged us in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, we are called to do more.

With Pope Francis’ moral charge, as well as in discussion with you during campus listening sessions the first semester of my presidency, I announced in early 2016 the formation of the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (PACS). This committee, which includes representation from faculty, staff, and students, seeks to identify new initiatives and collaborations to achieve bold and significant cultural change toward more ecologically sustainable conditions. Mary Ann Vinton, PhD, associate professor of biology and environmental science, and Jay Leighter, PhD, associate professor of communication studies and sustainability studies, serve as co-chairs. 

I look forward to the recommendations from this committee, and continue to be encouraged by our collective efforts to model on our campus an appropriate Jesuit, Catholic response to our global environmental realities.  


Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ

Text only version: Earth Day Infographic

  • 1,000 trees, 100 different species on campus
  • Tree Campus USA for 9 straight years
  • 300+ alumni working in sustainability fields   
  • More than 1.5 million pounds of material recycled since 2010
  • Multiple degree programs: Energy Technology Program, major and minor in Sustainability Studies, major and minor in Environmental Science
  • New printing model resulted in savings of 5.3 million sheets of paper, $46,600, 635 trees, 540,425 gallons of water, and a 58,281-pound reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. 
  • 2 electric vehicle charging stations