Campus as a living laboratory

Cornell’s campus is where our core education mission and sustainability values intersect. We employ the campus as a living laboratory where faculty, researchers, students, and staff can create, test, and implement a variety of sustainability solutions. These serve as opportunities for education and engagement at a scale that demonstrates if and how research innovations can be deployed for regional, national, or global benefit.

Earth Source heat provides an ideal opportunity to conduct research and serve as a demonstration project, at an interesting scale, for other institutions or communities seeking approaches to sustainable energy.
If we are successful, we will all but eliminate fossil fuel use on our campus. And, we can share a new energy solution with partners across the globe.

Cornell’s commitment to sustainability

As early as the 1880s, with the development of its hydro-electric plant, Cornell has made substantial and sustained investments in clean energy technologies in Ithaca. We are continuing that ethic on the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City with the first net zero academic building.

Cornell’s annual 3.14 trillion BTU heating and electric consumption is equivalent to about 0.1 percent of New York State’s consumption and one-third of Tompkins County’s. Cornell’s energy conservation programs have allowed our energy usage to stay flat since 2000, despite a 15 percent growth in campus building square footage.

Earth Source Heat is an ideal next step in continuing our commitment to sustainability and the creation of knowledge that can lead to scalable solutions to some of the world’s most difficult challenges.

In addition, Cornell University is a committed steward of the Earth and its people. From innovation to public engagement, Cornellians are balancing today’s economic, environmental, and social issues with related needs of the future. Explore our ten focus areas to learn how Cornell’s students, staff and faculty are cultivating collaboration, and acting as a premier hub for sustainability in operations, research, education, and engagement.

For information on education, research, and public engagement for sustainability visit the Sustainability at Cornell portal. (

Progress in the arena of campus sustainability requires participation and innovation from every corner of campus. From the links below you can learn about the diverse efforts of student organizations, staff green teams, and the Cornell Assemblies’ three sustainability committees. In particular, the Presidents Sustainable Campus Committee and the Campus Sustainability Office, along with the 10 President’s Sustainable Campus Committee Focus Teams, play important roles in the coordination and support of these efforts.

Cornell’s mission, role, and very identity are linked to leadership in education and research, developing technologies that will impact the world and providing students with knowledge they will carry into their adult lives as tomorrow’s leaders. Cornell must be prepared for life on a “small” planet, including: allocating diminishing resources while maintaining social stability; promoting innovation that will lead to productive careers and job growth; and promoting behavior that supports sustainability at individual, as well as societal, levels.

For more on Cornell’s Sustainable Campus click here: