April 23, 2019
I hope you had a wonderful Easter break with family and friends. As our weather warms and our campus foliage begins to bloom, I would like to take a moment to address and acknowledge our myriad efforts regarding sustainability and concern for the environment.
Indeed, I am encouraged by and grateful for the many ways our campus community lives out our Jesuit, Catholic mission of “caring for our common home” through education, advocacy, and the implementation of sustainable practices.
With Earth Day yesterday, we continue to celebrate Earth Month throughout April with events, seminars, and activities. I invite you to take advantage of this special programming, the details of which can be found online.
We have made significant progress on our campus goal of achieving a 40% reduction in emissions by 2028, with climate neutrality by 2050, and continue to look for strategic opportunities to advance that timeline. From 2010 to 2018, we reduced our electricity consumption by 23%. We continue to make annual investments targeting energy reduction, including replacing antiquated lighting, heating and air conditioning, roofing, and windows with energy-efficient systems.
Purchased electricity and steam/chilled water, used to light, heat, and cool our buildings, are primary contributors to our University’s carbon footprint. In removing the Burt Street energy plant from operation and contracting with district energy provider Clearway Energy for steam and chilled water, we will increase our energy efficiency. Through a partnership with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and Optimized Systems, a dashboard was created to allow for more effective monitoring of energy consumption, utility meters were replaced with more efficient “smart” meters, and existing buildings were retro-commissioned to ensure they operate more efficiently.
Guidelines instituted by Facilities Management call for all new construction to meet or exceed a silver rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, the most widely used green-building rating system in the world and an international symbol of excellence in green building.
Facilities is also continually updating energy management controls; implementing efficiency initiatives, such as adjusting building temperatures at night, on weekends, and over holidays, and maximizing outside cooling during moderate-temperature days; auditing buildings for space utilization; managing and reusing furnishings; and operating many electric vehicles.
Through a partnership with Metro Transit, Creighton is providing space on campus for a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station for Metro’s new energy-efficient CNG buses. Creighton also partners with Zipcar to offer students, faculty, and staff eco-friendly transportation, and plans for our forthcoming 24th Street project call for new bus shelters and bicycle rental stations around campus.
Our 2013 Climate Action Plan and our annual greenhouse gas inventories are publicly available online. In June 2018, I joined other Catholic leaders in signing the Catholic Climate Declaration, which affirmed the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Too, sustainability is interwoven in our strategic planning efforts, figuring prominently in the Global Partnerships and Living Our Mission themes. In June, Creighton and Catholic Climate Covenant will host the inaugural gathering of “Laudato Si’ and the U.S. Catholic Church: A Conference Series on Our Common Home” in Omaha, with the Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, giving the opening keynote address. Creighton also received a bronze-star rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and other strategic planning efforts are being assessed.
Grants from the Creighton Global Initiative (CGI) have helped fund projects related to sustainability. CGI funding assisted with the installation of solar panels at the ILAC Center in the Dominican Republic, reducing the center’s electricity costs to zero; travel, curricular development, and scholarships for faculty exchanges abroad, a summit on Jesuit pedagogy and environmental studies, and scholarships for students to study environmental studies at partnership institutions; and support for the Planetary Emergency Lecture Series. Hardy Merriman, president of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, was the featured speaker at this year’s second annual Planetary Emergency Lecture Series in April, with his talk “We’re the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: Power, Social Movements, and Lessons Learned for Climate Organizing.”
Sustainability is also notable in our undergraduate academic offerings, as we prepare future leaders in this critical arena. Our Bachelor of Science in environmental science (BSEVS) and Bachelor of Arts in sustainability both emphasize a multidisciplinary approach. The BSEVS is designed for students interested in careers within environmental education, environmental law, or environmental monitoring and regulation, while our BA program prepares graduates to advise on sustainable business practices, sustainable development, and environmentally and socially conscious public policy. In addition to these academic programs, nearly 20 faculty and staff in nine departments are engaged in sustainability research, and our students have the opportunity to present their research on campus and at regional, national, and international conferences.
I encourage you to attended annual and ongoing events, forums, and lectures hosted by the Office of Sustainability Programs. The office also is available to present to departments and divisions, publishes helpful informational guides, and hosts a community orientation program in conjunction with the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice titled “Climate Change: Faith, Hope, and Action.”
As Pope Francis stated in his groundbreaking 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, we have a moral responsibility to transform our lifestyles and our societies to better care for the earth and people living on the margins. Indeed, much difficult work needs to be done, but I am hopeful that we can serve as a leading institution in moving our campus, our community, and our world forward to a better tomorrow.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD